Sumac, YOB, & Neurosis at Neumos

The nice thing about living in New York City, for SGM’s purposes, is that we tend to get a lot of shows passing through.  One could argue that the tradeoff is, say, Chinatown in the dead of summer and the stench of fish and garbage, large rodents and indestructible insects, and subway cars ripe with all sorts of heavy air and unpleasant odors.  But let’s not think about summer in the city just yet.

There are also times, however, when a band or bands do a short run of dates in other parts of the country and the tour looks so tempting that you find yourself on travel websites at odd hours of the night looking for flights to places like Seattle, Washington so you can see the trifecta of Sumac, YOB, and Neurosis at Neumos.  

Is this scenario hypothetical?  In this case no, that is exactly what I did.  My only regret being that I inadvertently stumbled upon that gross gum wall while I was wandering around Seattle.  Note to self, enticing stairs descending to pretty cobblestone streets don’t always result in mysterious Diagon-like alleys.  Sometimes they lead to a lot of people, mostly tourists, chewing gum, blowing bubbles and taking selfies while you awkwardly twitch in revulsion and try to push through while inexplicably holding your breath for no reason.

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Sumac

 

So yeah, Sumac, YOB, and Neurosis at Neumos.  It was really something I wanted to experience, especially having heard so much about Neumos as a killer venue.  Sumac played first and compared to when I saw them at Saint Vitus, I felt like the energy at this show and for this particular set was on another level.  Maybe Seattle feels like home and the vibe is different, but it was palpable.  I always like watching the dynamic between bandmates and seeing these guys joking like brothers onstage and playing such intensely dynamic music together was really endearing.  The entire set had a very climactic feel to it, and when they struck their last chord it was like being snapped back to reality after a deep meditation.  Even the gentleman next to me couldn’t help but smile, look over at me and say “Man, that was transcendental!”  I could not have agreed more.

Up next was YOB, beautiful YOB.  One of the most zen metal bands ever to exist.  It’s so clear they love what they do and they love being on stage sharing their music with all of us.  Bathed in a warm kaleidoscope of light, guitarist Mike Scheidt removes you from the venue and the crowd and brings you into a rhythmic trance with him.  The unique mixture of worldly sounds, sludgy doom, and distorted vocals all creates the ethereal experience known as YOB.  It’s a feeling few bands are able to accomplish so sincerely.

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YOB

Last but certainly not least, as we all know, was Neurosis.  I’m still kind of amazed at what a difference the venue made.  I’d never been fortunate enough to see Neurosis in a venue this size and it was really refreshing.  I could tell the crowd felt very connected to the band and hopefully the band felt the same.  A low stage also meant they were basically standing right in front of me, so close it was almost difficult to shoot at some points, which I found comical.  As I’ve  come to expect from Neurosis, their set was well crafted, with a natural ebb and flow.  Their recent anniversary show in San Francisco is still in the forefront of my mind as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, but this show was a close second.

Check out the photo below!

-Skc Photo-

Sumac

 

YOB

 

Neurosis

The Power of the Riff

In six years, The Power of the Riff has earned some notoriety as a music festival full of raucous fun and more great bands than you can shake a stick at.  This year, POTR took place at The Regent Theatre in Los Angeles and as always was curated by Greg Anderson and Sam James Velde.  It usually spans two days, though I suppose this year it could’ve been called three days if you count the pre-show/party at The Complex with Deth Crux, Despise You, and Excel – a show which I still have a mural of bruises from attending.  

If you are unfamiliar with POTR but enjoy being exposed to a menagerie of punk, metal, and hardcore bands all at once, then this is definitely your scene.  While I was excited to see all the bands, there were most definitely some standout performances this year that I was grateful to catch – one of which was the band that kicked off the entire weekend, Crypt Rot.  

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Crypt Rot

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if you have not given Crypt Rot a listen, do yourself a favor.  They really got the ball rolling at POTR and to be honest I was bummed that more people hadn’t arrived yet to see them play.  Even leaving aside my long-standing affinity for corpse paint, these guys (& gal) packed a fast, gritty set that really left me anticipating their new album, which is set to drop sometime early this year on Southern Lord Records.

Gag was another band that slammed into the crowd.  In a flurry, singer Adam Barnes stomped across the stage like a feral animal, throwing his seemingly pent up rage at the crowd.  Although Gag had thirty minutes to play, they finished in just over ten, like a tornado that arrives without warning and destroys everything in it’s path.  

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Gag

Bloodclot had the room buzzing a bit.  This group, featuring members of Queens of the Stone Age, Agnostic Front, and Cro-Mags, played their first official show that night.  They packed in the old New York hardcore vibe and energy but kept it fresh with catchy and somewhat melodic lyrics.  They have their first album dropping this year on Metal Blade Records and based on how well they were received, I’m sure many people will be grabbing a copy.

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Bloodclot

The final two acts to close out Saturday were Incantation and Wolves in the Throne Room.  Incantation was a blast to see live and the energy in the room went up threefold.  Given their long history, albeit wracked with lineup changes, they continue to maintain their position as one of the most notorious death metal bands on the scene.

Wolves in the Throne Room continues to be one of my favorite live bands, not just because I deeply appreciate their music but because they provide a refreshing challenge to photograph.  Bathed in cool blue light with fog swirling across the stage and into the crowd, WITTR provide a rich ambience, cloaked in layers that are dizzying to get lost in should you wish to.  As particular about lighting and presentation as Neurosis, they delivered a carefully crafted set, starting off with “Queen of Borrowed Light” and taking the crowd on roughly an hour-long journey.

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Wolves in the Throne Room

Sunday’s schedule had one less performance on the lineup to give ample setup time for Neurosis to get prepped, but that didn’t mean it was any less heavy-hitting.  Sunday saw the triumphant return of Nails, which was definitely a crowd favorite, and nearly the whole room was engulfed in a circle pit.  Guitarist Todd Jones said after expressing immense thanks to the crowd and all involved,  “God never came into my life but Minor Threat & Slayer did.”  It stuck with me since I have always felt the same way about music.

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Nails

Closing out the weekend was Neurosis.  I’m not sure what I can say about Neurosis that hasn’t been said before, to be honest, and words just don’t seem to do them justice.  But I will say, their presence on stage is powerful.  It’s both weighty and intimidating,since they are incredibly stoic and approach their music with a silent resolve.  Even so, you can feel years of pain and anguish flooding through their music, and that’s what originally made me fall in love with their work.

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Neurosis

Check out the full gallery of all the bands below! (click on the thumbnails to open gallery)

And a huge thank you to Greg and James for putting together yet another incredible event!

-Skc Photo-

Pre-Party at The Complex w/ Excel

 

The Power of the Riff at The Regent

 

On the Turntable – Neurosis ‘Fires Within Fires’

Ayee, Neurosis fans — this one’s for you. Thirty years running, the post-metal pioneers have just released their 11th studio album, Fires Within Fires, on the band’s Neurot Recordings. Do not expect any crazy experimentation or deviation from their classic doom metal sound; this album, in a nutshell, is classic Neurosis.  The album is a true testament to the originality and skill of a band considered one of the first to ever combine hardcore/crust punk with atmospheric and psychedelic sounds, leading to the subgenre post-metal. While striking the band’s signature balance of light and dark, the album sounds completely relevant and up-to-date, despite their massive discography, and, dare I say, age? Fires Within Fires proves how experience and sheer talent can break down barriers of what could be exhausted sound and stretched-out creativity. These guys still have it — in fact, it seems as though they are only just beginning.

This forty-five minute LP is comprised of just five songs, each raining heavy with guitar, drums, and bass, creating a thick sound that carries effortlessly throughout the entire album. Pretty and mostly instrumental, the album relies greatly on chaotic guitar riffs to drive the sound forward. Mixed with the stomping beat of the drums, much of this record could be the soundtrack to some grand, mythological tale. The head-banging-fist-pumping guitars reflect back to the driving punk sound found in their earlier albums, especially in “Fire Is The End Lesson.” The pure, raw sound can be heavily attributed to the experienced and masterful ear of engineer Steve Albini. Nothing is overdone or overproduced on the album; you are in it with Neurosis from start to finish.

Speaking to Decibel magazine earlier this year, Neurosis vocalist/guitarist Steve Von Till describes his feelings about the band’s three-decade-long career: “We’re so fucking lucky, man. [We have] such gratitude for the brotherhood and the ability to be a part of this sound and this family.” Vocalist/guitarist Scott Kelly adds, in the same interview, “We approach everything as if it would be the last thing we do, and we’ve been very conscious of that, particularly over the last ten years. Because we realize that the longer you go, your odds decrease substantially.” Contrary to other of long-standing rock bands, which can sometimes sound outdated and irrelevant, Neurosis remains on top with this record. It is clear they will remain influential in the doom-metal scene, drawing in old and new fans alike.

-Tallulah-

The Power of the Riff 2016

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It’s no secret that The Power of the Riff is one of the most anticipated festivals for people to attend.  The lineups are always something to look forward to and you will most likely leave with a satisfying ring in your ears and perhaps a new favorite band.  Developed by Greg Anderson and Sam James Velde, this roaming festival has a little something for everyone.

This year the headlining bands will be none other than Neurosis and Wolves in the Throne Room.  Tickets are now on sale for the event and include day and weekend passes.  We will update as more bands are announced.  The headliners were enough for us to already be checking out flights.  Stay tuned for more!

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-Thalia Gore-

Neurosis 30th Anniversary Show

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I would be lying if I said writing about a show like this is easy.  I’m sure you’re thinking, it’s Neurosis, how can it not be easy, they are amazing.  And to some extent you are right. But I have been a huge fan of these guys for well over ten years, probably chasing down fifteen at this point.  I can remember the very first time I heard them, I can remember, almost painfully, the emotions that their music brought forth.  For that reason, this is difficult to write, because Neurosis is the type of band that I believe everyone has a very specific thought or story about.  Each fan holds them dearly and to write about them, in a way, you have to write about yourself.  So if you will be so kind to walk with me, I will take you down a little path to the night I almost died.

I have had many lengthy discussions with friends regarding Neurosis, and in my opinion they are a band you can only truly appreciate after going through your darkest times.  I was at this point the night I heard them for the first time.  I was driving through the night with my boyfriend on a weekend road trip.  We were, in essence, just kids.  I had dropped out of art school for the time being and spent my days working at a bar, listening to music, and doing drugs in a small, one stoplight town.  It was not uncommon for my roommate or boyfriend to come home and find me sprawled out on the floor having finished a bottle of Jim Beam and smoked myself into oblivion.  In my head, I never thought it was a problem.  In my head, I was learning about myself, expanding my mind and my creativity through the use of various drugs and alcohol.  I had already seen firsthand what alcohol could do to a person, so I always had that in the back of my mind.

It wasn’t an issue for me to just stop, to not take something anymore, to have limits.  For example, heroin, crack, no way.  Never ever.  Being young and not knowing much about the makeup of other people, it didn’t occur to me that not everyone could stop.  My boyfriend at the time was sadly one of those types that couldn’t stop, and by the time I realized that alcohol was more important to him than anything, it was too late.  My realization came as I sat on the side of the highway, my boyfriend passed out, drunkenly unaware that he had almost made me crash my car by grabbing me in his sleep and forcing me to take the car off the road.  I was shaking, scared, angry, and stunned.  Even as I recall this, my hands have begun to tremble.  He would have no recollection of it.  He would wake up when we were a couple hours from our destination, put on A Sun that Never Sets, and pass out again.

I sat in silence, watching the sky begin to lighten as I drove and I listened to this album for the first time.  I felt like a knife was being shoved into my chest.  I felt like every ugly thing in my life was being prodded and stirred.  As I listened to “The Tide,”  which to this day is my favorite song, I wanted to cry but I was in so much pain I actually couldn’t.  My demons were singing to me and telling me that life had gone sideways and it was time to pick up the pieces.  As painful as this album was for me to hear, it was what I needed.

It wasn’t until I had packed my car for the last time and drove away from everything in that small town, about six months later, that I was able to listen to Neurosis again.  I was finally away from the negative relationships, the drugs, the alcohol, and the parties.  Of course, there are moments when everything feels like it falls apart again, as life dictates, but now, Neurosis is something I hold dear for so many reasons.  Emotional dichotomy is an important component in the development of my work.  In order to create any work of art that is worth a damn, an artist must be able to balance the light and dark that resides within them.  Neurosis is a band that can take pure raw emotion and put it into the form of music, something I think many musicians are unable to do.

As I stood in the center of the sold out Regency Ballroom in San Francisco on a rainy March 5th, all of these memories came flooding forward.  I flew across the country to stand in that room on that given day and as fate would have it, Neurosis played “The Tide.”  My entire body froze when it happened and I immediately choked up.  I had never heard this song live and honestly never thought I would.  I put the thought out of my head that they could play this one particular song given that they have 30 years worth of songs to choose from.

I was unable to move the entire song, I could only close my eyes and be prepared for it.  Steve Von Till’s voice filled the hall, slowly, wrought with emotion.  The beginning tempo of this song is so heavy and deliberate it’s impossible not to become trapped.  It was the same thing that captured me the first time I heard it that fateful night driving east.

As Scott Kelly joined in on vocals, “The Tide” became a crushing tsunamic wave.  At this point I was literally fighting back tears.  There is so much power between Kelly and Von Till’s vocals it’s like trying to hold on in vain during a hurricane.  Pardon the weather metaphors, but my internal projection screen has me being flung to and fro on the bow of a ship trying not to go overboard.

Everyone at Regency Ballroom was part of something special to say the least.  Neurosis has been together for 30 years.  30 years, without compromising on their growth, their musical experimentation, or their vision.  They bravely forge ahead, never concerned with fitting into any mold.  Most importantly they are undeterred by anything outside of the five of them, brothers through and through.

Alaric and Shellac opened for Neurosis on the night we attended.  Shellac primed the crowd with songs like “Wingwalker” and one of the best performances of “Prayer to God” I have seen from them.  Steve Albini has a long history with Neurosis and is currently the producer on their latest album, which they just wrapped up recording about a month ago.  It is easy to see how much respect fellow musicians have for Neurosis when bands like Shellac, Sleep, and Converge join the stage to celebrate their anniversary and express how honored they are to be a part of it.

Neurosis will continue their thirty year anniversary shows next in the Netherlands with Roadburn Festival.  They will be playing on April 16th and 17th so if you have the chance, don’t miss this opportunity.  It really is a once in a lifetime event.

Check out the photos below!

-Written by Thalia Gore-

-Photos by Skc Photo-

 

Alaric

 

Shellac
Neurosis