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Neurosis - Enemy of the Sun

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Artist: Neurosis

Album: Enemy of the Sun

Label: Neurot

Review date: Nov. 16, 2010

It’s difficult to understate the importance of Oakland’s Neurosis as the band has evolved from a crusty hardcore outfit to critical shorthand for the benchmark by which all post-metal must be judged. In a quarter century of music, Scott Kelly and Co. have released nine studio albums, a healthy helping of stray EPs, splits and singles, a DVD and some timely reissues, not to mention creating an alter-ego (Tribes of Neurot) and forming an independent label.

The dedication to tweaking this thundering template of psychedelic doom is well documented, but if you’re late to the game, Enemy of the Sun is an excellent place to start. What makes Neurosis so pivotal is their incorporation of non-metal elements, such as folk and shoegaze, which add to the atmosphere rather than detract from it. There wasn’t much of that going on in 1993. If anything, metal was trying to sort itself out from half-hearted grunge poseurs and the shredded tatters of hair-metal’s wretched excess. Enemy of the Sun plays to neither, instead forming its own doom-laden sound and, much more so than 1992’s Souls at Zero, flirting with experimentation. The ideas the band tried out here (vocal manipulations, pianos and strings drunken horns) would later be crystallized on Through Silver in Blood and everything after. Even so, Enemy of the Sun is formidable in its emphasis on the sludgier side of metal. You’d never know this was made 17 years ago if you played it for the first time yesterday.

The amalgamation of such different influences (Joy Division, Amebix, Celtic Frost and Hank Williams have all been cited as sources of inspiration) is arguably the group’s greatest skill. For the first time on Enemy of the Sun, they were maintaining a consistent level of scariness without getting hokey or taking cheap shots at the behest of their more ambitious impulses. It’s these kinds of performances that have allowed them to maintain such a strong fanbase without enormous amounts of self-promotion.

Which is all very well and good, except … you know this already. You know this if you have kept up with metal over the last decade. You know this if you have had even a glimmer of interest in heavy music for the last two. You know this if you have read The Wire, or Alternative Press, or Spin. You know this if you’ve trolled messageboards or participated in college radio. You certainly know if you’ve been reading Dusted for any length of time, not just from our reviews, but also because Mason Jones explicitly documented Neurosis and their influence eight years ago. A reissue of a seminal album in and of itself is not a bad thing, and though post-metal is a flogged horse at this point, its critical ubiquity isn’t anywhere near what it was in 2002-05. It’s not as if this is sonic opportunism.

This release, the one I hold in my hands for review, is a blatant cash-grab for a different kind of opportunism: Neurosis turned 25 this year. I don’t know why they decided to use Enemy of the Sun, but I do know this album has been reissued twice already (in 1997 and again in 2000) and that this adds nothing but new album art, which is inferior to the infernal backdrop of the original anyway. If you have the 2000 re-release or know the 1991 demo of “Takeahnase” and the Oberhausen live recording of “Cleanse II,” you have no reason to get this. I guess that’s not as pointless as the seven versions of Through Silver in Blood or, say, the headache of being a Björk completist.

Don’t buy this if you already have it, but do continue to re-listen to Neurosis and their wonderful back catalog. Consider this your yearly reminder on behalf of one humbly concerned Dusted writer.

By Patrick Masterson

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Honor Found in Decay

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