In the heady mid-90s when Pantera had the #1 album in the US, Phil Anselmo did more than his fair share of spreading the wealth, taking his favorite underground metal bands out on tour and plugging them in interviews every chance he got. That’s how I first heard about Neurosis.
Long story short, I didn’t get it. They were too slow. They looked too normal. I remember seeing them on MTV when I was in high school, listening for a couple minutes, and changing the channel. Yawn.
Fast forward almost 10 years to when I found this video (see below) on YouTube.
"Oh, god! What’s wrong with dude’s eyes?! Is Satan making the keyboardist fist-bomb his bass pedals?!"
By this time, I’d heard a handful of Neurosis songs from every era, but nothing really clicked for me until the palpable mania of this clip. I finally got it. I dived back into their catalog, unearthing the treasures of a band that is a true primary source for the genre I’ll begrudgingly label “post-metal”.
I’d missed them a handful of times live, but I’d heard people go on breathlessly about what a profound and spiritual experience it was seeing them perform. I didn’t NOT believe this, but I approached my first Neurosis live experience with the healthy incredulity of someone who knows the sound of hype and who has a tougher time than most with live music. Perhaps it’s my control freak tendencies, but I have trouble “letting go” whilst at a concert in the way I see others do with ease. I was excited, but wasn’t expecting to see the face of Christ.
The ONLY thing that stood out for me this evening was Neurosis. This was perhaps the most deeply felt and spiritual musical experience I’ve ever had the privilege to witness. I can’t attribute this to anything other than witnessing what Kant describes as the “thing-in-itself”, a beast of selfless propagation without moral or value.
Ascribing any of this to surface qualities like set lists or instrumentation is as relevant as talking about the shirts each band member wore. It was a celebration of life without whitewash or feel-goodery akin to psychically downloading Joseph Campbell’s The Masks of God.
Neurosis do what they do and do it well, and what they do well IS quantifiable. They have a preternatural coherence as a group, every part working independently to define and color an ur-riff whose simplicity always belies its depth.
By fusing the leanness and immediacy of punk with the sprawl and ambition of prog, Neurosis make better on the promise of both, infusing animus into the latter and refinement into the former. “Through Silver in Blood” and “Locust Star” sound like the future in the same way that Blade Runner or Alien look less dated than The Phantom Menace. Vision gives rise to relevance.
The night ended with no encore nor a single word from band to audience. Perfect. Thank you, Neurosis, for a fantastic healing night – and probably the roughest moshing I’d done since I was in high school.
Out of Montreal Canada, and consisting of vocalist Lord Worm, guitarist Jon Levasseur, bassist Eric Langlois, and drummer Flo Mounier, this album was released on Sweden's Wrong Again Records in 1996.
This album is simply; "the fucking masterpiece" to say the least. What we have here is a near-perfect blend of brutality, technicality, song structure, and atmosphere. There are few albums as sickening, as vile, as hate-filled as Cryptopsy's sophomore effort.
"None So Vile" was the first Cryptopsy album to feature bassist Eric Langlois, and the last to feature lead vocalist Lord Worm until his return on the "Once Was Not" album, the fifth album by this Canadian technical death metal band.
"None So Vile" took the extreme and technical elements of speed and death metal and merged them and is now considered a benchmark of the "technical death" metal sub-genre.
The riffs vary from extremely technical ("Crown of Horns"), to more grind-core oriented ("Dead and Dripping"), to more standard death metal ("Graves of the Fathers"), to melodic and beautiful, ("Phobophile").
The lyrics reek of vehement hatred for Christianity, but never reach the point of insincerity like some hardcore band's lyrics do.
Here they could be best described as demented poetry due to the free-form style in which they are written and performed. Nonetheless, deliberately disturbing and violent in subject matter.
Here is a small section of the lyrics of "Crown of Horns", the opening track:
"Sire of sin, You embody me Undivine... To you we congregate; None so vile, Your magnificent Crown of horns Inspires deeds maleficent.
Destroy the parasite [x3], Destroy Jesus Christ.
They'll crawl in their perdition, The righteous will be lost Where gutted angels lie fucked... Beneath the funeral cross; We'll dig them a mass grave soon, And bring to their knees Those who would have rescinded The laws of disease."
I usually ignore the majority of speed and death metal lyrics, (Slayer/Metallica/Megadeth excepted), because I only need the syllabic content to power the musical experience and set the scene in my mind's imagination.
But disregarding these lyrics would count as a crime in my book.
I remember hearing a rumor that Lord Worm was drunk when they recorded the vocals and he growled and screamed improvising lyrics along to the music, completely forgetting the original lyrics.
Well it worked out either way, and they still provide for a good read.
The vocal performance on "None So Vile" truly is one of the most superb in hardcore metal. The syllabic grunts and passion could not be more accurate.
The description that suits Lord Worm the lead singer is "king of inhuman bellowing".
His screams, which are used sparingly, sound as if he is being butchered alive. Each Mastiff-like dog bark and guttural grunt fits extremely well with the rhythm and the hateful atmosphere of the music.
Speaking of the music, the musicianship is nothing short of stellar. Guitarist John Levasseur often alternates between pummeling grooves and frantic technical riffs, all of which are memorable.
The guitar solos are quite melodic, and contrasting to the stoic intensity of the riffs. This is thoughtfully constructed guitar work. Practically every riff and solo on this album sounds original.
The technicality of the bass matches the lead guitars. Bassist Éric Langlois is relentlessly plucking away in the background and thankfully, the bass is clearly audible in the mix.
In addition, the drummer is equally up to the task. Veteran drummer Flo Mounier delivers a crushing performance on "None So Vile", ridiculously fast yet meticulously precise.
The double bass drummer's "machine gun" blast beats are furious, yet kept to a minimum, with even more creative beats and fills being used instead.
Flo throws in short, quick rests in his drumming before going all out again, under scoring the jolting, arresting, and sporadic nature of the lyrics and vocal performance.
The musicianship and the vocals come together splendidly to produce one of the most demented-sounding, nefarious, sinister death metal albums ever.
"Technical death metal" is usually criticized for lacking "soul" or atmosphere, but this is not the case on "None So Vile".
This album radiates a shining glow of intense hatred and malice.
32 minutes of brutal pounding without mercy.
One of the greatest albums in the technical death sub-genre and anyone who considers themselves a fan of extreme, hardcore music will enjoy this disc forever.
“Blood Fire Death” is definitely my favorite Bathory LP and also one of my favorite metal albums of all time.
Lead vocalist Quorthon managed to compose and record several amazing LPs. But if one would ask me which LP of his I like most, then it would be “Blood Fire Death”.
An amazing originator of what we know nowadays as; "black metal", “Blood Fire Death” is one of the most influential and significant metal albums of all times.
Not only is that due to the music it contains, but also because this LP started something everybody knows today as “Viking metal”.
“Viking metal” is basically any sort of metal music with lyrics about Viking myths and other Nordic stuff.
Prior to this album Bathory was dealing with satanic and other typically dark matters, but with “Blood Fire Death” Quorthon changed some of his lyrics creating something totally new to the scene.
No other band had made an entire album exploring the Vikings theme so much.
And the future Bathory records continued in this vein and single-handedly created a new sub-genre of metal.
I can only honor and admire Quorthon’s impact on the evolution of the metal scene. His early works have been a great influence on Norwegian black metal and then he created and influenced another group of bands – mainly Scandinavian – with something different once more. What a creative person he was.
Amon Amarth, Unleashed, and all the prominent Viking Metal bands of today mention Bathory's "Blood Fire Death" as an important influence.
Anyway, “Blood Fire Death”, released back in 1988, is the fourth album of Quorthon and the boys, and if you listen to all three previous records it will be certain that none of them sounds like its predecessor.
Each album intentionally brings something different to the sound and style of the band.
Starting with their 'Venom-esque' self-titled debut, then going through the more darker and utterly evil; “The Return…” and finishing off with the wonderfully catchy, but epic, dark and evil and way better composed; “Under the Sign of the Black Mark” – each LP is different.
But “Blood Fire Death” is something uniquely daring. Once more Quorthon and his band turned in a different direction than anybody would expect.
On the one hand the album has a handful of savage and fast thrash metal songs, then on the other there are some monumental, more melodic and almost beautiful songs.
These latter songs take the epic side of the previous LP into another dimension.
I guess my - and everybody else’s – favorite songs from “Blood Fire Death” would be the title track and “A Fine Day to Die".
The latter song – opens with a three minute long introduction called “Odens Ride Over Nordland”. Then one of the finest nine minutes of music in all of metal, definitely the best nine minutes which Quorthon has ever composed, begins.
This song is just perfect, the riffs are just amazing, so are the vocals. I just love the way the whole song builds, and how it develops. It creates tension, keeping the listener with mouth open in amazement.
Would anyone expect Bathory to open the album with acoustic guitar and clean vocals, creating a rather peaceful aura? No, and maybe that's why they did.
“A Fine Way to Die” is both thrilling and memorable! With lyrics about the warriors going into battle it feels almost like a fantastic movie soundtrack…just close your eyes and you can see the men, standing in the battlefield, roaring and holding swords, axes or spears, ready to fight or die.
“Along the black mountainside, scattered
by the campfires awaiting the dawn. Two times a hundred men in battles. Tried by the steel in the arrow, axe and sword.”
Another epic and impressive song is the title track, coming in at over ten minutes, it finishes the album in a very similar vein to the way the album opens, and you get a strong feeling at the ending, of "completeness".
The riffs on this entire LP are just excellent. Short acoustic themes are quickly followed by thunderous drumming and heavy dark riffs. Some songs are accompanied by thematic keyboards, and there is plenty of variation going on during the songs.
The song structure is often simple, but effective and unique as hell. All the songs are written and composed by Quorthon (aka, Tomas Forsberg r.i.p.).
I always get shivers when I listen to this disc. The vocals of Quorthon are just excellent! They’re way cleaner and more melodic than his usual harsh, raw voice and more understandable. This became something he would continue to do on the future Bathory albums.
This is an album where you can just close your eyes and see all that Nordic stuff…so clearly, it is really awesome!
"For All Those Who Died", “The Golden Walls of Heaven”, "Pace 'Till Death" and “Holocaust” – if we speak of just side A of the vinyl - are all excellent songs.
“Holocaust” is just insane, barbaric and it definitely is the fastest song.
But of course most of the fans of hardcore metal remember Bathory mainly for the epic, visually stunning music that “Blood Fire Death” delivers.
You have to have this LP in your collection if you love hardcore, black metal or viking metal.
Hell, build an altar for it if you haven’t got a whole Bathory chapel in your basement already!
Standout tracks: “A Fine Day to Die”, “Blood Fire Death”, "For All Those Who Died", “Dies Irae”.
A masterpiece of the Black Metal, Viking Metal genre.