dB HoF No. 142
Release date: May 4, 1999
I’m no expert on multiverse theory, but I’ve listened to enough stoned podcast ramblings to get the gist: Anything that can happen has already happened, and not only that, it’s happened an infinite number of times. By that logic, somewhere out there in the cold recesses of space, there’s a version of Neurosis that, while preparing to enter the new millennium, collapsed under the sheer weight of their artistic effort and never even made it to their highly influential sixth LP. Thankfully, we all exist in a reality where Times of Grace is alive, well and still pummeling faces and breaking hearts 17 years after the fact.
To talk about the album is to understand the landscape in which Neurosis found themselves in the late ’90s. Even though they had been a respected underground presence for nearly a decade, the 1996 release of Through Silver in Blood elevated them to a music industry tier that brought a new dynamic into their lives: dickloads and dickloads of touring. For the next two years, the band and the road were inexorably linked. And whether they were opening for Pantera or holding down the second stage at Ozzfest, they gave audiences throughout the land the same presentation: dense, punishing, emotionally charged songs that required the utmost effort from each man onstage.
By 1998, it was clear to everyone in the band—guitarists/vocalists Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till, bassist Dave Edwardson, keyboardist Noah Landis and drummer Jason Roeder—that something had to give. They couldn’t continue the bludgeoning path they were on and expect to walk away unscathed. They knew that to maintain control of the darkness, they had to make room for the light. It was out of this spiritually exhaustive atmosphere that Times of Grace was born.
Even though the record features many sonic trademarks that have been with Neurosis since the Souls at Zero days (massive sludge riffs, tribal drum patterns, fiercely shouted vocals), its masterful grasp of dynamics and imaginative approach to layering revealed a new side of the band: one that could crush and comfort with the same focused intensity. “The Doorway” and the title track are two of the heaviest songs in their 30-year catalog, “Away” and “Belief” feature some of the gentlest moments of their career and “Under the Surface” and “The Last You’ll Know” combine elements of both into a potent sound that would inform the styles of countless post-whatever bands in the aughts.
Times of Grace also marks the first time that Neurosis worked with renowned engineer Steve Albini, whose Electrical Audio in Chicago has been their headquarters for every record since. Albini’s organic production style is the perfect pairing for the album’s vibrant songs: alternately immense and spacious, it allows for, as Von Till puts it, “breathing, stargazing and pounding our blood and guts and bones into the ground.” Oh, and there’s also guest instrumentation by members of Amber Asylum, a linocut cover that features one of the band’s most iconic images and a companion album of ambient music (Tribes of Neurot’s Grace) that’s designed to be played simultaneously in order to create an “active listening experience.” Hall of Fame credentials, all. Quit standing in the doorway and come inside.
– Matt Solis
Got to get more Neurosis? To read the entire seven-page story, with featurings interviews with all members on Through Silver in Blood, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.