“Recognise this as your own nature, abandon the fear, abandon the terror you project. Let your mind rest beyond flesh and bone, look from a place of understanding. Your mind is a conduit; your mind is as vast as the universe. Rest in this, in the clear light of existence. This light is divine.”
What more can be said about Neurosis that hasn’t been said before?
In their 25 years of existence they have constantly ripped up the rule book and surpassed anyone’s expectations. The recent reissue series gives those who are new to the band to get their hands on newly repackaged and readily available copies of releases that have challenged the boundaries of the genres of metal, hardcore, art rock, folk…. well the list goes on.
The ‘Sovereign’ EP first breathed life back in 2000 as a segue between the (relatively for them) straight forward, but no less impressive ‘Times Of Grace’ album and the folk tinged, more experimental ‘A Sun That Never Sets’ and is an intriguing insight into the direction that the band were heading at the time, not to mention a mixed media CD Rom with images and music that those familiar with their live show or their Tribes Of Neurot releases would find comparable.
Reimagined with artwork by Aaron Turner of Isis and featuring previously unreleased track ‘Misgiven’ this release focuses a mix of science and tribal spiritualism in both the imagery and the sonic delivery that reflects the mutation the band where going through. The new packaging is striking in its stark beauty lifting the original drawings and yet finding a commonality with the other releases in this series.
As for the music itself the suggestive title of the EP is subjective – even in it’s original form – the tracks clock in longer than ‘Reign In Blood’, but where as that album leaves you breathless and punch drunk, this release (like previous Neurosis albums) leaves you dizzy, shell shocked and no less battered, Albini’s raw production is as visceral as the music.
Opening track ‘Prayer’ coils and tightens like some nightmare snake, uncompromising and hypnotic like a tribal lament or ritual. Subtle and yet somehow not in the least bit comforting. This is catharsis as the multi layered vocals wash over the simplistic rhythms like tortured souls. An offering is filled with electronics as the band explored the studio possibilities, not just what was possible to recreate live and is a cacophony of samples, brutal hardcore and guttural howls building towards a huge crescendo.
‘Flood’ marks an interlude despite the unsettling, urgent clatter of sticks in the opening, the swirling feedback and building drum tattoo before the draining title track ‘Sovereign’ itself and at over the thirteen minute mark, it initially masks the emotional rage that unleashes but is the closest thing to containing all of the bands trademarks, battling vocals, art rock noise, tense atmospherics and above all challenging and great music. This is not for the faint hearted by any stretch – constantly shifting and intense. It remains as disturbing and as devastating today as it did back when Linkin Park cried about being One Step Closer.
And so to one of the hooks, the bonus track Misgiving… Neurosis blew my mind when I heard them and as such they have earned the right to not have to care about peers or opinions, but this is a bit of a none track in my book… this 6 minute plus track of mangled noise and squealing electronics can at times feel like an aural lobotomy without sedatives. It is all pulsing, teasing art rock that fails to add to the four tracks that precede it and it is not hard to see why it was left off the original release and for those buying it solely for this track, be warned it’s not quite the treat you might have imagined.
Ultimately though Sovereign remains a great release by the modern masters of the macabre, if you don’t have it then you are missing out; if you do have it, this reissue is a great completist piece.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden