Neurosis burned bright when they smashed through The Croxton
California’s Neurosis have nurtured their ear-splitting noise for over 30 years, gradually transitioning from roots in hardcore punk to the complex post metal beast they’re now recognised as. They’ve crept along the murky outskirts of the heavy music spectrum with a sound too challenging for mainstream ears. 2016 birthed their eleventh studio album, Fires Within Fires, which saw the band continue to mould monolithic slabs of drone into beautiful slow burners. On record, Neurosis are imposing– but live, they completely engulf.
With an international act so high in calibre, it could be difficult to find an opener that carried the same weight. However, from the moment Dispossessed exploded upon the stage, it was clear the right choice had been made. The three-piece encompassed a sound that ascended beyond their members, with each hard hit driving home a snarl of discontent and a refusal to be silenced. It’s impossible to talk about Dispossessed without acknowledging the wider narrative that surrounds them, and all of us. As a stoic and unflinching indigenous collective, Disposssed are far from just a noisy punk band to idly enjoy. Vocalist and guitarist Birrugan Dunn-Velasco interrupted the thrashing set abruptly, and addressed the bloody means by which this land was stolen. With words that spat and bristled, he compelled the audience to shut the fuck up, relinquish their complacency and look inside their minds. The crowd was left to consider themselves in earnest, before Dispossessed tore through the remainder of their set and left the stage in silence.
Keeping the lineup short but sweet, Neurosis then stepped up to the plate. For two hours, they painted the belly of the Croxton with their signature post metal, smearing suffocating pitch-black doom against moments of shimmering ambience. Even with sound-cancelling earplugs in, they were simply overwhelming at times – not My Bloody Valentine Tinnitus-for-life loud, but getting close. Nevertheless, the deafening volume aided the emotional weight of the whole experience: tonight’s crowd wasn’t there for the usual metal bravado and tomfoolery – this was a show focused on shared cathartic release. Vocalists Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till’s harrowing screams and caustic riffs crashed like waves over the bodies of A Shadow Memory and Bending Light. During those fleeting moments of respite, keyboardist Noah Landis amplified the eeriness with textural overlays that served to complement the chaos.
The band’s set saw the bulk of Fires Within Fires covered, with a few older numbers sprinkled in between. Each passing track heightened the sonic inferno until the climatic closer of The Doorway emerged. Plucked from 1999’s Times of Grace, the track is as abrasive as they come: seven minutes of thunderous riffs and mesmerizing drone that slips between light and shade. It’s unmistakably Neurosis and an apt bookend to the evening.
Neurosis are masters of atmosphere, and like a fine wine, they’ve only got better with age. Their show at the Croxton saw them acknowledge the roads they’ve travelled across over the past three decades, but more importantly, hinted at the sonic ground they’re still yet to conquer.
By Jack Pilven & Bel Ryan
Highlight: Seeing new and old legends in action.
Lowlight: Ringing ears despite wearing earplugs.
Crowd Favourite: The Doorway.