Oakland based psychedelic stoner doom metal pioneers Neurosis played one of the final shows of 2013 on Saturday night to a packed house at the Observatory in Santa Ana. Hundreds of diehard followers of this cult band shared mysticism and rage with guitarists and vocalists Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till, drummer Jason Roeder, bassist Dave Edwardson, and Keyboardist/samples Noah Landis.
Frighteningly loud but full of noises and vibrant electrical buzzing sounds and textures, Neurosis initially formed in 1985, as a crust punk band, but evolved to their current genre defying music, which includes heavy doses of abstract noise, folk, experimental doom metal and progressive, boggling minds, exploding ear drums, and pleasing fans into extreme, loud dark, and powerful avant grade music.
The band came out at 11:00 p.m. sharp and played for well over 90 minutes, which filled the room with a dense musical fog of slow sludgy buzzing metal riffs, with very eerie and atmospheric samples and organs underneath enormous guitar riffs, heavy percussion, and layers of sound built by drum and bass and out of this world sounding noise.
Fans stood and rejoiced in the heavy, headbanging ritual that Neurosis brought to Santa Ana. For some of the heavier songs, in the pit, a few tried to slam dance with minimal success, but all in good spirit. The force of the band's energy was palpable in the air and each slow, painfully grinding, yet eloquently structured song was felt in the chest, literally and the very dense echoes left a lasting impression on the ears and psyche. Though they're known for using intense visuals in the past, for this tour, all of that was stripped away. The band's deep spatial and sonic sound spoke for itself and each song could have been a hallucination in itself. The band's set bled through for most of its epic songs with distortions, ambient sound waves and machine like patterns filled the air.
Most of the crowd stood stoically, looking confused, exhausted or stoned, or all possibly three. Neurosis is not just an average doom metal band. They are the quintessential band that not only reinvented traditional doom metal but also influenced tons of slower experimental punk, metal and even noise, industrial and electronic acts including.
They are considered to be at the forefront of all post metal doom bands, including sub genres of 'noise core' and are cited as influences to everyone ranging from Fear Factory to Introunat and tons more. This is such an epic band that when finished , it is done, there is no need for an encore.
The band's set list is as follows:
1. A Sun That Never Sets
2. A Locust Star
3.We All Rage In Gold
4.From the Hill
6.Water is Not Enough
7.My Heart For Deliverance
8.Bleeding the Pigs
5.Stones From the Sky
The review for Blast, YOB and Helen Money below
Blast provided a nice transition between Neurosis and YOB, with a faster sound that melded the aggression of bands like FEAR and Black Flag with Kyuss and the Melvins. Fast songs, with some parts played as stoner metal, the band got a small pit going. This band formed in the mid '80s in Santa Cruz and was raised on a culture of getting stoned, skating and hardcore punk. The band includes vocalist Cliff Dinsmore, bass player Nick Oliveri, guitarist Mike Neider and drummer Hoss Wright. The band's set was an energetic and upbeat, in contrast to the headlining band. Blast is back and about to re-release some classic material from their early career in 2014.
Eugene Oregon's Yob took the stage prior to Blast and took doom metal to other levels of loudness. The band was a loud and throbbing mix of Corrosion of Conformity, Sleep, High On Fire, Electric Wizard, early Mastodon and The Sword. Taking doom metal to other levels, the band pushed through with a half hour set of songs that fans head banged to and took in. The crowd was already full for Yob.
Opening the show just after 8:00 was solo artist, cellist Hellen Money. This LA based musician offers a new and intriguing cellist interpretation of the whole doom/ambient noise core metal with thought provoking results.
The crowd was barely arriving, so unfortunately the house was not full but half full for Money's set. Part classical and acoustic, part violent eruptions of distortion, amplification, noise and chainsaws of guitar riff like sounds, the waves of the instrument could be seen as played with precision and passion. This was definitely an opening act perfect for a band like Neurosis.
Critical Bias: Although no images or visuals were present in Santa Ana, over the years, Neurosis has been known to use visuals in the background during their live shows. The band has worked with and hired various conceptual artists to produce these trippy, often abstract sometimes-disturbing images.
Crowd: The house was full of various stoners, crust punks and long hairs all wearing black. Tons of people in Neurosis T-shirts and various old school punks were seen in the house for Blast.
Random Notebook Dump: Helen Money got her start in the music industry by playing the Cello in the 90s Alternative Rock duo Verbow, from Chicago. She currently has a solo career and is a composer and has worked with various film and dance companies, musicians and international rock bands including the metal bands Anthrax and Disturbed.
Overheard: “DAMN!!!!” on man yelled during a noisy interlude towards the end of Neurosis' 90-minute set. “It's never ending. Its just goes on and on!!!”
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.