Review : NEUROSIS – "Live At Roadburn 2007"

Neurosis“Live At Roadburn 2007”
Release date: 2010Aug30 (US)
Label: Neurot Recordings
Rating: 4.5/5

In 2003 Neurosis issued two live records they dubbed “official bootlegs”. They did this so that they could provide “quality recordings of Neurosis live performances” to the fans. With these records they hoped to put an end to all the low-quality and unauthorized material already available to the public.These records both capture the band on tour in Europe in the fall of 1999; the first in Lyon, France and the second in Stockholm, Sweden. The visual design of the records felt dark and minimalistic—perhaps an homage to bootleg designs—but lack the depth and visual craftmanship their other record covers have. It’s natural that the setlists were quite similar on these two sets since the concerts were set only a fortnight apart. It should come as no surprise that the band picked songs from their classic albums from the late nineties; such as Times Of Grace, Through Silver In Blood and Enemy Of The Sun. The sound was dark and the music fitted the reputation of Neurosis.

Now, in 2010, the third installment of this series finally sees the light of day. The record captures the band’s concert at the 2007 Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands. It has been eight years since the previous record in the series was released – what has changed since then? The first thing that strikes me is the improved visual designs of Josh Graham (A Storm Of Light). The cover designs of the first two installments of this series felt more “bootleg-ish” than this new design which instead feels like a natural successor to the Given To Rising cover. As with his previous designs for A Storm Of Light, Neurosis and Shrinebuilder, Graham fuses mythology with nature. On this record he uses both the Grim Reaper and Stonehenge in a rocky landscape fronted by an iron horse. It’s beautiful, ominous and awe-inspiring.

With the cover having set the mood, it’s time to check out the setlist and it’s no surprise that it’s changed quite a bit since the last time they released a live album. Live At Roadburn consists of 9 tracks, all but two of these have been picked from Given to the Rising and The Eye of Every Storm. The only surviving track from the first two live records is “The Doorway” from the Times Of Grace album. It feels like a natural choice – documenting a newer phase of the band’s history.

The album opens with the monumental “Given to the Rising” – a defining, incendiary, pitch-black piece of music which drives the listener into the ground with its apocalyptic riff. The second track is “Burn” from The Eye Of Every Storm and the band continues to crush its surroundings. But the real beauty in Neurosis is its multi-faceted approach; explosive riffs and roaring voices will in a matter of seconds be relieved by ambient soundscapes and guitars in a saddened mode. This is one of the most powerful aspects of this band – a point many of their followers seem to have overlooked.

Music is an important conveyor of feelings and heavy metal is no exception to this rule. However, metal bands often seems satisfied with rage and aggression, releasing lightning bolts of frustration and despair. And that’s all good – hell, I love to let off steam as much as the next guy. But I feel more at home when bands delve deeper, adding sadness, melancholy and psychedelia to the chaos. Neurosis does just that – the glacial guitars, industrial beats and blackened vocals seem to feed off the human psyche and the heart of darkness. Mesmerizing.

The live concert films are missed. Josh Graham’s apocalyptic visions of barren wastelands, crows and wolves on the prowl are an important part of the Neurosis concert experience. Perhaps they will include a DVD of this on their next concert album.  But Live At Roadburn 2007 is still a great snapshot of a solid night out with one of the legends of alternative metal.

01. Given to the Rising
02. Burn
03. A Season in the Sky
04. At the End of the Road
05. Crawl Back In
06. Distill
07. Water Is Not Enough
08. Left to Wander
09. The Doorway

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