Sep 122016

Neurosis-Fires Within Fires


(Wil Cifer reviews the new album by Neurosis.)

The pioneers of sludge metal are back, and ironically by some of today’s standards Neurosis are no longer a metal band. This is not to say the album is not heavy. Heavy just comes in different colors.

It doesn’t take long for the band to make use of this dynamic, as it happens midway into the first song “Bending Light” when the gruff vocals kick in. They spend the first half of the song wandering around a dark and trippy landscape. This is fine with me. Neurosis had gone too far in Pink Floyd’s direction back on Honor Found in Decay, almost to the point that I thought certain portions sounded like they were from Obscured By Clouds. I am glad to hear more sonic menace infiltrated back into their sound.

I can accept that this is not going to be Souls at Zero or Through Sliver and Blood. If that is what you are looking for going into this, it’s time to face the fact they have moved on from there. The direction this album finds them on is darker and feels to me more true to who they are as a band. Continue reading »

Aug 012016

Neurosis-Fires Within Fires


On Friday I mentioned that I would be out in the woods over the weekend and unable to post a Shades of Black installment on Sunday. I said I would get it ready for Saturday instead. That obviously didn’t happen. Rather than wait until next Sunday, I’ve decided to do it now — and to double-down by making this a multi-part post. I’m not saying how many other parts there will be or when the rest of them will appear this week — because I’m desperately trying to remember the lesson that part-time, half-witted metal bloggers should never reveal plans that may fall apart immediately.

In this first part, I’m focusing on six individual songs and videos that have appeared recently. I’ll get to some EPs and full album releases in the next part. But first, a trailer for a highly anticipated new album…


This first item is kind of outside the bounds of what Shades of Black usually focuses on, but I got so excited about it that I didn’t want to delay spreading the word until our next Seen and Heard round-up. It’s a video trailer for the new eleventh album by the mighty Neurosis. It’s name is Fires Within Fires and it will be released on September 23 by Neurot Recordings. Continue reading »

May 052016



The 2016 edition of the Roadburn festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands, is now in the history books. It was the first edition of the festival to be presented at the newly renovated 013 venue, and it boasted a typically impressive and diverse line-up of bands. While none of the NCS scribes was on hand for this year’s event, we do have beautiful photos of many of the performances, thanks to Kris T. Therrian of 17 seconds photography.

We’ve divided these photo collections into four parts, one for each day of the festival, and we’re been rolling them out on successive days here at our site. You can see photos from Day One here, Day Two here, and Day Three here. Once again, many thanks to Kris for letting us share these memories with you. For more info about her artistically impressive work, visit these links: Continue reading »

Aug 052015

Neurosis 2015 tour


(Guest writer Ben Manzella interviewed Scott Kelly for a feature posted earlier today, and now we bring you his review of the show that followed the interview — performed in Madison, Wisconsin, this past weekend by Neurosis, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, and The Body.)

On this past Sunday, Neurosis played in Madison, Wisconsin, for the first time in about 19 years (from what I could find, at least). The last time they were here was as the opener for Pantera, and now on the cusp of their 30th anniversary as band, they headlined a theater in downtown Madison. This was my third time seeing Neurosis in as many years, but the excitement is always the same; if anything it was more exciting, as I had the opportunity to interview Scott Kelly before the show [published here]. But obviously, a show review is about the music, so let’s get to it. Continue reading »

Aug 052015

Scott Kelly and Ben Manzella


(Ben Manzella had the chance to talk with Scott Kelly of Neurosis before the band’s show on August 2, 2015, in Madison, Wisconsin. Ben’s thoughts about the show will follow in a separate post later today.)


With this show being the third date, how has the start of the tour been?

They both went pretty good; we played Lawrence and Minneapolis. Crowds were good at both shows, people were attentive and into the music; really into it emotionally as well, which is really all we can hope for. The club last night wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for, just not the right vibe; but the people who ran the venue were nice to us.


I know it’s been about 10 years since doing a run like this. Is it similar to how you remember or different in any ways?

Well we’ve done a few runs in Europe, with the locations being closer together. You don’t have to get on a bus and drive 10 hours overnight, unlike you do in the states. We’ve been doing about 30 to 45 shows a year for a while now, so it’s not totally out of our realm; but give it another 10 days or so and we may be pretty pooped considering we’re not taking any days off. Hopefully we’ll survive relatively unscathed physically; mentally it’s always somewhat of a grind, but you know, tour is always easier than real life when you have responsibilities every day. Other than the show and sound check, you really don’t have much on your plate; so, for me, tour is much simpler than everyday life. Continue reading »

May 262015

None of these people is me.

I’m seriously considering a legal change of my name to include the words “Ass Backwards” in it. I mean, I’m not fooling anyone anyway, so I might as well be up-front about it.

Case-in-point: Instead of writing a chronologically oriented and comprehensive review of the recently concluded Maryland Deathfest XIII, I just started tossing out random collections of photos over the last three days, mainly as a way of explaining why I wasn’t doing much of anything else for the site. And now, rather than starting over with something that actually looks like a thoughtful report on an amazing event, I’m going to continue with what I started and fill in the gaps I left, working my way backward to the pre-fest show last Wednesday.

Once again, there will be more of my photos in the continuation of this series than my words, which may come as a continuing relief to many. Continue reading »

Jan 062014

(Guest writer Ben, who last appeared on our site here, now returns with a year-end concert review from Orange County, CA, plus his own photos of the show.)

As I walked into the Observatory in Santa Ana on Saturday night, December 28, I didn’t really know what to expect. What do you get when a band like Neurosis decides to play an end-of-the year gig with openers like reunited punk band Bl’ast, Oregon men of doom YOB, and Los Angeles-based cellist Helen Money? Well, one thing is for sure, you get a diverse crowd. I was almost as excited to see the audience’s response to the artists as I was to see some of the artists playing, just to find out what kind of “vibe” would be produced in the venue. Anyways, enough muttering, on to the music.


If you haven’t heard of Helen Money, I truly recommend you take a listen. Alison Chesley, or Helen Money as she is known via her stage name, is a classically trained cellist, but don’t think she came out and played Beethoven for the crowd on Saturday evening (even though I wouldn’t have been upset if she had). Here are some press quotes found on her official website to give you an idea of the experience, since I’m still at a bit of a loss for words to describe what I encountered: Continue reading »

Sep 212012

Sifting through what the interhole brung me this morning, here are things I saw and heard that I thought were worth sharing with you. Fair warning: musically, this shit is all over the place, including places outside of metal (gasp!).


This band have a new album set for release in Germany on October 26, in the rest of Europe on October 29, and in North America on October 30, just in time to scare the shit out of small and adult-sized children on Halloween. The album is named Honor Found In Decay. The band themselves are calling it “their pinnacle studio effort”, which scares me. I witnessed a live Neurosis performance last year for the first time, and for the first time in my life I wanted to kill myself by the end of it. Do I want that feeling again?

That was a rhetorical question. Though I’d rather not have that feeling again, I can’t help but be drawn to this new album, especially after hearing the track that NPR premiered this morning. Its name is “At the Well” and it’s mesmerizing. It falls down on your head with cataclysmic impact and it shimmers with ethereal light and it rumbles and rolls like an avalanche. It’s agonizing and it grooves and it’s loaded with interesting synthesized sounds. It did not make me feel suicidal.

It’s very much worth hearing. Go to THIS PLACE to do that. Continue reading »

Jan 082011

One thing I like about writing this blog is I can use the word “motherfucker” whenever I want.  I can’t use that word in the writing I do for my day job, much as I’d like to, but I know none of you will take offense. After all, metalheads get called “motherfuckers” all the time — most often by bands they’re paying good money to see at shows.

Pause and reflect for a moment on that phenomenon: There really aren’t many forms of entertainment where the performers routinely call paying members of the audience “motherfuckers”. Maybe that happens at rap concerts, though I wouldn’t know. I do know it happens routinely at metal shows. If I had $100 for every time a frontman for a metal band has called me a motherfucker, I could fucking retire.

I’ll grant you, motherfucker is a great word. Sometimes, no other word will do, like when some motherfucker unexpectedly swerves his car into my lane in heavy traffic. But still, isn’t it a little bit odd to hear a band’s vocalist call all his adoring fans motherfuckers at the top of his lungs?

Last time I got called a motherfucker was at a show I saw in Seattle on the night of December 30. Neurosis was at the top of the bill, with support from Wolves in the Throne Room and a Seattle band called Black Breath. I’d heard a lot about Black Breath but hadn’t yet checked out their 2010 Southern Lord debut, Heavy Breathing, much less seen them in the flesh. They put on a loud, raucous, energetic set of heavily thrash-influenced death metal, including a sweet cover of Sepultura’s “Desperate Cry”, which you can see right after the jump (along with more impressions of that concert). Continue reading »