By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, August 27th, 2012
We’ve only had the pleasure of hearing Neurosis’ forthcoming album, Honor Found in Decay, once. All the lights were out save for two candles and the peak meters on the mixing desk. And while the darkness made for a totally immersive listening experience, it reduced note-taking to scoring crude approximations of words onto the one-sheet, scrawling “bone-handled hunting knives” and “raw-hide” in aggresively serifed block capitals by means of description. Still, there are a number of things we can tell you about the Oakland post-metal frontiersmen’s eleventh album.
We can tell you that 2007’s Given to the Rising seems economical and pared down in comparison; Honor Found in Decay is huge in its scope. If you’ve caught Neurosis live over the past couple of years you’ll recognise “At The Well”, with its slo-mo abstract country-folk vibe, skirl of pipes and granite riffs. We can tell you that “My Heart for Deliverance” is one of the most riff-heavy songs Neurosis have put together, almost Melvins-esque but totally Neurosis—guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly describes the song as a “hammer blow”. Throughout, there’s a balance between the harsh and mellow and lengthy excursions into the gray unclaimed sonic territory between. Neurosis cover a tremendous amount of terrain: There are long, languid passages of restraint; there are, as always, profound lyrical allusions to the quasi-pagan energy between man, blood and the nature, snakes devouring themselves, that sort of thing … And keyboardist Noah Landis’ contribution has never been more spectacular; on album closer “Riase the Dawn” he twists familiar instrumentation such as the violin into weird, alien tones; on “Bleeding the Pigs” and “Casting of the Ages” he skews the whole thing with an astral vibe.
We could go on. But the one enduring impression of Honor… is that it is an album that demands more than one spin to fully digest. So we called up Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till to hear their take on it. Here’s Scott and Steve’s track-by-track preview.
We All Rage in Gold
Scott Kelly: We pretty much had that song together a while ago but there were parts of it that we needed to hammer out. There was kind of a strange rhythm with that first riff there. We had to fuck with that for a while until it had that give and take that we wanted, and then that sample on the last riff, with the violins and stuff that Noah came up with, really made that song amazing. Our basic thought was that “We All Rage in Gold” was an interesting thing to start things off with because the initial riffs to the song are kinda different to stuff we’ve done before; it brings people in, and then the end with the violins and that riff kind of sets the table.
Steve Von Till: That one was pretty much ready to go when we were playing it live. It probably took on a different finesse having got the opportunity to play it so much compared to some of the other songs. But arrangement-wise it was pretty much the same. A couple of vocal things might have happened differently.
We are firm believers in not messing around in the studio. We recorded and mixed this one in ten days. We basically just set up, play, and record it live. We overdub the vocals, mix it and then that’s it. There is no messing around. We might experiment with one or two guitar overdubs, or we’ll hear something on playback that’s a little funky that we’ll try to fix something that we couldn’t fix in the rehearsal room. But really, there’s no fixing, no tweaking, no perfecting; we just set up and then we play it. And that’s why we record with Steve Albini, because we know that the way his recording style is, he just captures exactly what we give him, and in the most pleasing and hi-fidelity manner that’s exactly what our amps sound like, that’s exactly what Jason’s drums sound like, that’s us playing in a room. Period. There’s no studio trickery, which people find strange because they think of us as being so layered and complex—but that’s just the way the music is, it flows, and that’s exactly how it is in the rehearsal rooms. That’s just two guitars, bass, a drum kit and the keys, all playing at the same time.
Scott Kelly: Yeah, we always do it like that because we’re on a really limited budget, and we always have been. We learned how to work fast a long time ago.
At the Well
Scott Kelly: It’s probably the song we’ve played the most and felt the most confident with. We thought that would move it forward and then we could really bring a hammer with “My Heart for Deliverance”, and once you’ve delivered the hammer blow everybody’s kinda wide open, so then you can bring in something like “Bleeding the Pigs” and people’s minds are ready to accept it. I think that me and Steve’s solo work shines through on the record. There are a couple of moments, like the really quiet moments of clean guitars and vocals are more confident and straight, and I think that that adds a different dynamic and is something that we’ve developed in our our alter-egos.
Steve Von Till: I think everything we do probably informs the other, but I don’t really pick up on any sort of specific musical vibe where I can say, ‘Yeah, that!’ Y’know. The Townes [Van Zandt] thing came long after doing this. Scott and I have both been playing Townes’ songs for a while; I recorded one years and years ago for a solo album. Everything we experience must inform our music some how, but hopefully just in a purely inspirational form and not in anything that anyone can hear.
My Heart for Deliverance
Scott Kelly: That was me and Noah working all night. We had the song but we just felt we needed something to bring it to that initial thrust, so I came up with that little guitar riff and then we just started working on building the atmosphere around it. We sampled a train. Noah lives out by some train tracks, so we went out and sampled a couple of freight trains coming by; we took those and some other sounds that I don’t quite remember where we got them from, but that was another, one of the many all-nighters. For writing, that’s the best time to write in my opinion, that’s when the veil is thin and there’s also not so many people awake so there’s a lot more space for creative thought. I’ve always done the majority of my writing after two in the morning.
Steve Von Till: Every time it’s different, things come about in different and unique ways, so it’s actually pretty chaotic. But then, whatever this force is that drives us it often feels it’s tapping into this infinite source of intense music, and it’s all about creating a space to allow that to happen. We can’t just turn it on but we are able to create a space where we’re truly free to just let it flow, wherever it’s coming from, and that is when things happen.
Bleeding the Pigs
Scott Kelly: We spend a lot of time thinking about the sequence of a record and how it should be. It’s the same way that we think about the sequence of a setlist when we are performing live. That’s basically the same sort of thought process that we use when we’re writing; we try to create an emotional flow. It’s like, what we are doing, I don’t even know what it is. It’s something that is so big, and it’s inside of us, and if it was gone I wouldn’t know what to do. There is just a lot of fire in us, and a lot of fuel for the fire to burn.
Steve Von Till: It’s all about letting go. As long as the mind is getting too involved, the mind throws up roadblocks to this kind of music. If you’re trying to chase a mental or cerebral musical idea we just end up beating our heads against the wall. Whereas, when something just comes, it comes, and it’s a beautiful thing, it’s natural, and it flows, it’s organic and way more powerful than any of our puny little brains could have thought up.
Casting of the Ages
Scott Kelly: That’s a weird song. It has that whole beginning, very quiet, piano, clean guitars and stuff, and then it goes into that riff sequence that’s kind of like Magma, but to me it’s almost like this element of Dio-era Sabbath to that song too, that kind of “Sign of the Southern Cross” vibe. There’s something a little more majestic about the riff.
Steve Von Till: One of the things we know we can do is bludgeon the hell out of a big riff. That’s our gift; that’s our strength. But if we were to rely on that we would stagnate. So we find new ways to be heavy, to integrate the darkness and light to contrast the harmony and disharmony, melody and noise, all of those things.
All Is Found… in Time
Scott Kelly: Well that is the one that pretty much killed Jason. It’s a very active song, drum-wise. I think that we placed it there very purposely, thinking that it would straighten people out and remind them that the album was still going, that there was still a lot to get through to get to the crescendo of it all. It is another hammer of a song. It’s really got a lot of heavy riffs. It’s got some subtlety at certain points but it’s not a particularly subtle song. We were able to achieve subtle moments on all the songs on this record, which was something that we wanted to do. We really wanted to expand on the dynamics of it in everything that we did. We wanted the heavy parts heavier, the soft parts softer, and everything inbetween everything more expansive.
Steve Von Till: Neurosis songs contain all of those elements to a certain extent, and it’s a wider, a deeper emotional experience, travelling new areas and not just the most beautiful and most ugly but all these landscapes inbetween. Part of the energy of the music on Given to the Rising was fairly focussed, that was just the way it came out. But the new one is a lot more heavily textured, a lot more diverse in its sound.
Raise the Dawn
Steve Von Till: That’s all Noah’s samples. That’s all Noah’s sounds. I think this is his best personal performance ever, on this record. There are no guest musicians, all of that was played live on the keys. We worked with that in the rehearsal room, he worked on it outside and brought it back in so when we are sitting jamming those songs he is playing those sounds—it’s crazy, because it sounds like there are all these other musicians.
Scott Kelly: I think that Noah’s contribution on this record is amazing. He came up with some of the most beautiful passages. I mean, he really spent hours and hours. For him to do what he does, you’re talking about lots and lots of late nights, putting these things together, making them fit right, and making them fit in a way that they can be loose. Because we don’t play like a super-tight machine, we’re more free with how we have things arranged, so everything has to be able to slip and slide a little bit. There is always a structure but it always has to be able to slip and slide.
Honor Found in Decay will be released through Neurot Recordings on October 26th in Germany, October 29th in the UK, and on October 30th in the US.
Scott Kelly – vocals/guitars
Steve Von Till – vocals/guitars
Dave Edwardson – bass
Jason Roeder – drums
Noah Landis – keyboards
Josh Graham – visual effects, art
**You can buy Neurosis paraphernalia HERE.**