Neurosis at Summit Music Hall, 2/16/13
Experiencing the rare and punishing set from Neurosis at the Summit Music Hall evoked the sensation of being in front of an oncoming freight train. But then the music itself was so powerful and felt like so many things that it was almost overwhelming. The imposing moments of ferocity were tempered by a transcendent like peace from Jason Roeder, whose drive behind the kit only suspended for a bit outside of atmospheric accents. Neurosis pushed itself and the crowd to the very edge, emotionally and musically, with its relentlessly raw and very tangible outpouring of energy.
From the very beginning of its set, Neurosis set the bar high for the rest of the show, as the vibrant and rich, distorted drones of "Eye" came crashing in. With buzz tones cutting through spirals of coruscating electronics and winding their way around riffs like a series of short, temporary shocks, Scott Kelly and Dave Edwardson traded animalistic vocals that distorted naturally, as though the two were giving a Viking war cry with every line.
The set consisted mostly of tracks from the band's two most recent albums, 2007's Given to the Rising and 2012's Honor Found in Decay. This may not necessarily be every fan's favorite era, but this show displayed the strength of that material in no uncertain terms. The pounding of Roeder's drum at the beginning of "At the End of the Road" felt like that interlude toward the end of "Raining Blood" by Slayer, but here it sounding more like stepping stones to a far darker, more vital place.
Even when the synth line zipped through that soundscape and the rippling, distorted guitar line sketched out spiky tendrils of melody, it did not fully prepare you for the colossus of instrumentation and hammer sways of force that made up the dynamics of the last part of the song. Neurosis has a real knack for making you anticipate what's coming next and then going beyond your expectations by coming up with something so powerful, so eruptive that even if you know it's coming from having listened to the records, it still takes you by surprise.
The flanger on the bass line at the beginning of "Times of Grace" got a lot of cheers from the crowd -- many of whom had already let out the primal side of their psyche without letting it get stupidly out of hand -- and when the song came down like a hail of fire it was a revelation. Although the song came out fourteen years ago, getting to be on hand to witness it in the flesh gave it a new level of meaning. It was a lot like hearing about an incredible place and then having the chance to visit and take it all in rather than reading about it in a book.
When Neurosis moved into the dark ambient intro to "The Tide," the outfit got an especially strong reaction from the crowd. Starting off with a somber, quiet riff with ghostly breezes of sound as accompaniment, the song drifted into an almost baroque melody and stepped decisively into a magnificent part of the song comprising an incandescent melody bookended by stabbing/slashing riffs.
"We All Rage in Gold," after one of the many evocative interstitial atmospheric pieces between songs, served as a nice counterpoint to "The Tide," with its folky yet spooky intro that plays out before engaging directly and showcasing some of Kelly's best lyrics to date. Between the driving dynamic that all but goes off the map, especially in the more recent era of Neurosis, and the mixture of the contemplative and the cathartic, everything just seemed to make sense, infusing the performance and the song with an unexpected depth.
"Bleeding the Pigs" seemed so despairing that it was unsettling, especially given Steve Von Till's vocal introduction. It was like reading the epitaph of a friend in public with a dramatic emotional weight that would be difficult not to convey. When guitars come in, it's like boiling electricity, which is quite fitting, all things considered.
The pace and the density of sound ramped up considerably for "Given to the Rising." That center section with the great minor key synth line from Noah Landis, Gary Numan-esque in its otherworldliness, took us out of the moment for a short while but then song rushed right back in like a tide.
The song most people shouted out came at the end of show. During "Locust Star," you could see arms going into the air more than at any other time of the show, and the members of Neurosis gave at least as good as they got. Dave Edwardson, having looked so intense and menacing throughout most of the show, wore a knowing smile because he knew the band had more than gone over with the crowd. Indeed, it wasn't just that it was a Neurosis show, but this is one where the band reminded us with its setlist why it was always one of the most compelling bands still around, and why it still very much is.
Keep reading for more on the show, including a setlist and a bit about openers Native Daughters and Munly & The Lupercalians.
Earlier in the evening, Native Daughters opened the show with a very low-end heavy set of music. This seemed the best way for a band like this to fly because between Justin Hackl and Eddie Maestas, there was plenty of wiry and cutting mid-range fret work with delicate melodies sometimes floating over the top.
While two drummers may seem like one too many, Colin Madden and Thomas Chagolla make the arrangement work; often Madden will take the direct rhythm while Chagolla hits the accents and textures a bit more while also keeping the kick beat. Gene Martinez, meanwhile, seemed to steer this ship in a way on bass by keeping the melody and the percussion going in the same direction. The whirlpool of sound had a subtle dynamism that hopefully wasn't lost on people.
Munly & The Lupercalians came on stage next, and except for Munly himself, the band looked like figures out of some kind of home grown ritualistic cult with two of the percussionists wearing stylized burlap masks, the drummer wearing a face mask made out of what looked like two fans of twigs/weeds glued together, and the two keyboard players wearing tall, black, pointed hats/face masks.
Munly & The Leperalinans on stage at the Summit Music Hall. Slide show: Neurosis and fans at the Summit
It was a bit gimmicky, yes, but in an original and theatrical way that suited this music that goes beyond what those of us who have seen Munly play with various groups over the years. It's doesn't really resemble Slim Cessna, nor is it akin to the dark, carnival rodeo music of the Lee Lewis Harlots or even the haunted folk music many of us got to see in the '90s. Rather, this was a strong set of songs that incorporated purely electronic sounds into a dark, organically atmospheric music that builds on what has always made Munly interesting performance-wise -- a stage persona that's part engaging, part comedic frontman, part forbidding caretaker and part preacher.
Munly & The Leperalinans
Personal Bias: During a time, I pretty much hated all metal. Neurosis was one of the few bands that I not only tolerated from that world but one that I even loved. Now as a musician that doesn't hate metal but also doesn't play it, Neurosis is a consistent source of inspiration for the way it continues to make creatively vibrant and powerful music not short on imagination.
Random Detail: Scott Kelly was wearing a Raiders-era Bill Romanowski jersey.
By the Way: I ran into Deirdre Sage from Kissing Party, Joe Myer from In the Company of Serpents, David Mead of Echo Beds, Scott Schulman and Jacob Archuleta of Skully Mammoth, Taylor Iversen of Black Sleep of Kali, Dan Barnett of Tamed Animals, Paul Alexander of Action Friend and many other people at this show. Someone remarked that it was like you walk in and run into someone in some band in Denver, regardless of what style of music they play.
Summit Music Hall - 2/16/13
01. Eye (Through Silver in Blood
02. My Heart For Deliverance (Honor Found in Decay
03. At the End of the Road (Given to the Rising)
04. Times of Grace (Times of Grace)
05. Distill (Given to the Rising)
06. At the Well (Honor Found in Decay)
07. The Tide (A Sun That Never Sets)
08. We All Rage in Gold (Honor Found in Decay)
09. Bleeding the Pigs (Honor Found in Decay)
10. Given to the Rising (Given to the Rising)
11. Locust Star (Through Silver in Blood)
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