dB HoF No. 140
Label: Alternative Tentacles
Release date: May 19, 1992
Upon forming in 1985, Neurosis were a punk rock band. Few would classify their output for the past 20 years as such—though the band probably wouldn’t flinch at the association—but in their early years as a pissed-off East Bay quartet, the Oakland, CA, band made their home at the punk-friendly 924 Gilman Street club, and they gathered a following that idealized the lean and the mean. Pain of Mind and Word as Law often read as hardcore records with one limb straining outward toward… something. By 1990, that limb began to grasp what it sought, and Neurosis became a sextet by adding keyboards, samplers and a spectacular visual presentation constructed out of harrowing film loops and psychedelic color wheels that elevated the visceral impact of the band’s expanding musical palette.
When this new Neurosis—brimming with youthful ambition and attitude—turned their attention to recording their vast, formidably dense new sound, it was tantamount to shoving a bull elephant through a keyhole. Keyboardist Simon McIlroy finds a literary analog: “People said that Watchmen was an un-filmable graphic novel. Neurosis was like that. We were an un-recordable band. There was no way to really capture what our shows were like because they were so immersive, so multimedia.” Not that it stopped them from trying. They just worked harder, forcing the available (and affordable) tools to work for them as they constructed Souls at Zero, a soaring statement that was at once heavier and more ornately arranged than anything they had accomplished before it. “To Crawl Under One’s Skin” and the title track immediately strike off into uncharted territory, and somewhere between the unchecked rage of “Flight” and the transcendental lashing of “Takeahnase,” Souls at Zero becomes a truly indispensable document of primal, human questing that pushes beyond any reasonable expectations of music.
Souls at Zero points the way toward a heightened form of expression in heavy music. For this fact, and for all the great feats that have since been built upon its foundations by Neurosis and their horde of admirers, we roll out the red carpet and line up the trumpets (and flutes and cellos) for the fanfare this album deserves. Welcome to the Hall. We’ve been waiting.
- Daniel Lake
Got to get more Neurosis? To read the entire seven-page story, with featurings interviews with all members on Souls at Zero, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.