Interview with Neurosis: To The Wind

Neurosis (Brandon Tobin)Three years after Neurosis released The Eye Of Every Storm, the album still leaves much to be digested. With its increase in atmospheric ambience over 2001’s A Sun That Never Sets, it was a nod toward the Bay Area band’s experimental side, a record that spread out wide as soon as you pressed play.

Given the band’s track record, then, it’s not surprising that in just a couple short weeks, they’ll release Given To The Rising, which moves in almost the exact opposite direction. Densely packed, intensely focused and crushingly heavy, it doesn’t just recall the darkened plod of influential classics like Enemy Of The Sun and Through Silver In Blood, it builds on that crunch in the band’s sound to make it more modern, mature, and anything but a rehash.

Though they most likely won’t tour for the album as they haven’t for the past several, Given To The Rising nonetheless presents a dramatic shift in the band’s seemingly endless progression, and is bound to show their ever-growing league of followers a thing or two about how to take the “Neurosis sound” and make it your own. All too fitting that they’re the ones doing it.

Guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till recently took some time out to answer questions about the record.

Tell me about the change in musical direction on the new album.

Well, like any of our records, it’s not preconceived. It comes from the gut, whatever we feel at the moment, taking where we’ve been as a natural jumping off point for going to the new place. It always involves challenging ourselves to break out of the box, but it’s an organic process. It’s not brain music, it’s not head music. It’s not premeditated, it’s just an organic evolution of the sound.

This one picks up from what we’ve been doing with texture and using things besides the obvious riff to create the mood. Eye Of Every Storm was an example of that, where we used texture and creation, giving every instrument a unique sound and feel and place within the sculpture those songs were based on. We took that same idea, but this time it just seemed to come out a lot more claustrophobic and a bit more aggressive. I don’t know if it’s darker, but it’s got more teeth.

Did that come from something around the writing process?

No, that’s just the way it came out. That’s just the vibe and the theme we were involved in at the time. Never give away our secrets, but it’s hard to say with a band like us.

It doesn’t feel like we’re creating it as much as it’s driving us to create it. It’s demanding to be made, and we’ve got to fall in line and surrender ourselves to the process and the spirit of the sound and what happens, happens.

Is that where the title of the record comes from?

I don’t know. (laughs) The title is one of the songs Scott [Kelly, vocals/guitar] wrote. I have my own interpretation of what it means to me and what it means to the record, but he should speak to the origin.

Was there a point when you were putting it all together and arranging the songs that you realized this is something really different?

You can’t really see it. We always assume that it has to be an evolutionary step, because the day we feel we’ve made the same record or a throwback, or it seems less then genuine or less than 100 percent, then nobody else is going to hear it, then it’s over.

We just go on that model that, okay, whatever’s going to happen has to outdo previous efforts. It has to move beyond. It has to go to a new place.

We did quite a lot of back and forth demoing for this one, because we all live pretty spread out, and a lot of the writing had to happen long distance, and we had to come together and make it whole and round it out. There’d be times sitting listening to what we created, and you sit back and go, ‘Ooh, that’s not nice. That’s pretty intense,’ or you start to laugh the way we do when it’s something that we want to hear.