So, here’s what happened: as soon as I pitched this story idea to my editor I thought to myself, “Wait a second. Ranking songs on a Neurosis album is absurd. Moreso than any other metal band, their albums are meant to be listened to start to finish, with every song being totally vital and important.” But this got me thinking: what happens when you take a Neurosis album and think of it in terms of songs instead of a whole, which is how I’ve been contemplating Neurosis albums since, well, always. No idea but holy shit have you listened to 1996’s Through Silver in Blood recently? When Neurosis laid down the tracks for their fifth album, there was absolutely no fucking around to be found anywhere. This thing still sounds as positively massive today as it did when it came out in 1996.
Decibel‘s Shane Mehling inducted the album into our Hall of Fame in our sold-out October 2016 issue (which you can purchase the digital version of here), so it makes sense to revisit this legendary album and dissect it track by track.
So, like I was saying: can’t really do this with a Neurosis album, but damned if I’m not going to try. Here’s the first obstacle: songs like “Rehumanize,” which work wonders in the context of the album (and I hate “thoughtful interlude” “pieces” on albums), but placed alone, is basically a minute and a half of disturbing samples (the opening “What’s it like out there?” will haunt us all forever; thanks, Neurosis) to screw up your day. Which is pretty cool.
8. Become the Ocean
Another non-song here, “Become the Ocean” serving as a good mid-album rest stop, and sounding pretty neat on its own, its jarring samples and sound effects creating an unsettling atmosphere. Really, when any other band tries this sort of interlude, they go nowhere and just have us all eyeing the clock; with Neurosis, they’re actually important pieces and almost sound rad on their own too, which says a lot. Depending on how depressed you are, “Rehumanize” could go here and “Become the Ocean” at number nine. Either way, really.
7. Enclosure in Flame
Listen, every song on this album rules. There were those two kinda non-songs, so that was easy, but from here on in, this is a very difficult task. Album closer “Enclosure in Flame” holds up the bottom end here only because it doesn’t work quite as well when listened to without the greater context of the album. It’s a huge, sprawling, 10-minute exorcism of a song that makes perfect sense after having endured the psychological brutality that is the rest of the album. Listened to by itself it’s more pain than gain; listened to at the end of the album, it’s more pain than… well, it’s a lot of pain either way, which is what Neurosis does best. Song’s awesome. Every song on this album is awesome. Final two and a half minutes of this will destroy you, as much of the rest of the album will.
6. Strength of Fates
On their next album, the soul-crushing Times of Grace, Neurosis would begin to explore a bit more of their delicate and thoughtful side, but never let it be said that they didn’t experiment with that here on Through Silver in Blood. This song takes over two minutes before it’s anything but piano, and the sounds of the samples playing over the somber music is as powerful as… look, Neurosis is the most powerful music ever, so I can’t keep coming up with things to end that sentence with. There is none more powerful than Neurosis; there are few songs more powerful than this incredible, 10-minute album centerpiece, which builds and builds and then, oh my god: 7:10.
This 12-minute song bruiser absolutely crushes, but its main opening riff does so in an almost uplifting and almost southern metal kinda way, which was refreshing when the album first came out, and still sounds totally incredible all these years later. The song’s second half will have you on the floor, wishing for the end of all things. If this album was peak Neurosis kill-crush-kill, this song is probably the peak of that peak. Three more to go, and it’s just going to get more intense. Us mere mortals were really not created to endure this sort of stuff.
A great song, “Aeon” is the album’s second-to-last track and is 11 minutes of everything this album proved Neurosis could not be beat at during this point in their career: solemn, thoughtful intro giving way to crushing repetition and annihilating emotional onslaughts. This song features some of the album’s most incredible changes and some of its purest human-to-human connection: at points it feels less like a song and more like the dudes in Neurosis are basically crawling down your throat, into your brain, and through your heart. Then the last four minutes come and it’s just Neurosis tearing your heart apart in front of you.
Oh, man: I like “Eye.” It’s more concise than many of Neurosis’ more powerful, sprawling moments, but manages to still pack just as much apocalyptic fun in what, if you really squint your eyes and scrunch up your nose, could be considered a rock-song format. And at 5:18, it’s basically a grindcore song for this band, even though they still throw in enough heft, and sonic variety, to make it feel like it’s twice that long. Some classic Neurosis moments in here with the vocal change-offs and that drum beat, too. A classic song on a classic album.
2. Locust Star
One of the most recognizable and memorable Neurosis songs ever, this is perhaps the closest the band ever came to an, uh, hit single. And, good grief, does it ever hit hard: this song has one of the band’s best-ever “Neurosis change-ups,” the switch at 4:30 totally devastating all who dare to listen to it, every single time. Every single time. All these years later, it still gives me goosebumps and sends parts of my body to other parts of my body where they shouldn’t be. Send help, but give me some time to listen to this incredible, incredible song just one more time: everything that happens after that 4:30 switch is about as good, as pure, and as moving as music can possibly get.
1. Through Silver in Blood
Neurosis opened this album with this incredible 12-minute title track, and it’s such a massive, crushing monolith of a song it’s an almost insurmountable task for the other tracks to follow it. The last five minutes alone are among the best in the band’s catalogue. This song shows off everything Neurosis is capable of, to the extreme: massive movements that go beyond metal and just end off at world-crushing, creating a tension, a build and release, and an atmosphere that is impossible to deny. Then, on this song, they do it twice as good as they had ever done it before.