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4.48 | 22 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 1992


A1. To Crawl Under One's Skin (07:51)
A2. Souls At Zero (09:19)
A3. Zero (01:41)
A4. The Web (04:56)
B1. A Chronology For Survival (09:34)
B2. Stripped (08:01)
B3. Takeahnase (07:56)
B4. Empty (01:37)

Total Time 50:55

CD and cassette version:

1. To Crawl Under One's Skin (07:51)
2. Souls at Zero (09:18)
3. Zero (01:41)
4. Flight (04:07)
5. The Web (04:55)
6. Sterile Vision (06:20)
7. A Chronology for Survival (09:34)
8. Stripped (08:01)
9. Takeahnase (07:56)
10. Empty (01:36)

Total Time 61:24

2000 CD reissue:

11. Souls (Demo 1991) (08:28)
12. Zero (Demo 1991) (01:14)
13. Cleanse III (Live in London, May 1996) (05:38)

Total Time 76:44


- Scott Kelly / guitar, vocals
- Steve Von Till / guitar, vocals
- Dave Edwardson / bass guitar, vocals
- Simon McIlroy / keyboards, tapes, samples
- Jason Roeder / drums

Guest Musicians:
- Kris Force / violin, viola
- Sarah Augros / flute
- Walter P. Sunday / cello
- Siovhan King / trumpet

About this release

CD, and cassette released 19th May 19th, 1992 on Alternative Tentacle Records (VIRUS 109).

Tracks 1 - 10 recorded and mixed at Starlight Sound, Richmond CA, February - March 1992.

CD reissued 3rd May 2000 in Japan on Ritual Records (HWCY-1040).

CD reissued 2000 and February 2011 on Neurot Recordings with three bonus tracks.

Tracks 11-12 recorded in October, 1991.
Track 13 recorded live in London, England in May, 1996.

Remastered 2LP reissued 14th February 2012 on Relapse Records (RR 7179), limited to 2100 copies.

Thanks to NecronCommander, Bosh66 for the updates


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This was one of the biggest surprises in my course of listening to Metal evolve chronologically, for a few reasons. First of all, I hadn’t been a fan of Sludge Metal or Neurosis so far, so my expectations were something very different. Second of all wow, it’s breathtaking, especially considering absolutely nothing sounded like this in 1992, not even close. The layering, atmosphere, and building crescendos here are what would become the genre of Post-Metal, as well as Atmospheric Sludge.

Despite that terminology, this album has much more in common with Doom than any prior Sludge, and that’s why I love it! It’s all pessimistic melancholy and gloomy angst here, built on anxious, depressive but often melodic and sometimes beautiful melodies. The slow, plodding tempo is accented nicely by interesting rhythm work. The vocals are the only trait really reminiscent of Sludge, being a hardcore punk-esque strained yell that works wonders against the grim soundscapes. The desperation and angst in the vocals is ferociously convincing.

The core band creates some amazing instrumental soundscapes, the guitars especially doing some very interesting things I couldn’t begin to describe to add to the wall of punishment. It sounds dissonant, but never chaotic; very well constructed and orchestrated to add unique layers to the sound. However, possibly the most interesting factor to this album are the samples and other instruments/keys used quite liberally. The samples effectively convey some hopeless situation or another, and add to that overall anxiety purveying every moment. The other editions are endless… piano, violin, big band hits, horns, and more. Some are obviously synthed, so it might all be the work of keys, but it adds so much to the already very strong arrangements.

Something I noticed were a lot of moments that reminded me of one of my favorite bands, Mar de Grises (before now I hadn’t heard anything that really did). I think that shows the clear Doom sound here as well as the Post-Metal influence on the later band. Anyway, this thing is very nearly a masterpiece, huge variety and immense quality. A few fillers hold it down, but the heights are vast.
"Souls at Zero" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/post metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Alternative Tentacle Records in May 1992. It´s the successor to "The Word as Law" from 1990 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as Simon McIlroy (keyboards, tapes, samples) has joined Neurosis to make the band a five-piece on "Souls at Zero". Neurosis were formed in 1985 and initially played hardcore punk on their debut album "Pain of Mind (1988)". They continued playing hardcore punk on their sophomore album "The Word as Law (1990)", but on that album slower doomy elements began to appear, and it was obvious on that album that Neurosis were in a transitional process. No one at the time of course knew what they were transforming into, but that is revealed on "Souls at Zero".

Stylistically "Souls at Zero" still features hardcore punk elements, but it´s now only a part of the band´s sound and not the core of their music. The pace has been lowered considerably and while the music is often quite energetic and aggressive, the tempos are mostly slow-to mid-paced. One crushingly heavy riff after another, feed-back noises, samples and sound effect, and loads of adventurous rhythmic combinations are now some of the elements which make up the basis of the music. On top of that the shouting raw hardcore type vocals by Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till. The song structures are unconventional and occasionally even progressive in nature, and listening to the 10 track, 61:24 minutes long album is quite the musical journey.

For examples of the more experimental/progressive ideas found on the album take a listen to the subtle piano in the opening section of the title track, the violin and flute section on "Flight", the use of trumpet on "Sterile Vision", or "Stripped", which in addition to featuring crushingly heavy riffs and almost hypnotic tribal rhythms, also feature violin, orchestral keyboards, and a short medieval choir section. Interesting experimental/progressive features which ensure variation. The use of keyboards/sound effects/samples on many tracks also provide the material with a richer and more dynamic sound. The keyboards/sound effects/samples are not a dominant feature in the soundscape, but still an important part of creating the dark atmosphere of the music.

The album´s greatest strength, in addition to the strong musicianship and powerful and well sounding production, is how well Neurosis combine primal hardcore aggression with slow doomy riffs and rhythms, experimental/progressive ideas, and bleak atmospheric moments. It never sounds contrived. It just flows completely naturally and the many stylistic elements are used to great effect and they are used at the perfect moments throughout the album. Hour long album releases can sometimes be a bit of a chore to get through, and there are often filler material or tedious moments on releases that long, but "Souls at Zero" is one of the exceptions to that rule.

So upon conclusion "Souls at Zero" is a high quality release by Neurosis, which feels a bit like a new beginning for the band. It´s not like their first two releases aren´t worth listening to, but they pretty much sound like they were recorded by another band. "Souls at Zero" signals a new start and a new musical direction, but the journey had just begun, and Neurosis would evolve, and develop and add new ideas and elements to their heavy doomy core sound over the course of their subsequent releases. In that respect "Souls at Zero" is a relatively unique release in their discography. Not only because it´s the first release in their new heavy and experimental/progressive style, but also because it´s still immature and raw in many ways (or maybe stylistically "unfinished" is a better description), which is ultimately greatly charming. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.
Did you feel the shifts? The shift in the tempo, the shift in the style or the shift in the vision of the punk-turned-doom act Neurosis?

Was the eerie Wicker Man-inspired album art a strong enough indication of the change? Or did we have to wait until we heard the content within?

The content within, I must state, is terrifying. Sludge and hellish distortion crush the ears like a trash compactor; the songs are longer, the compositions more complex, and seemingly inching toward the progressive or avant-garde;

"To Crawl Under One's Skin" sets a grim tone, its creepy intro sample a sinister indicator of the following horrors; and what follows? A brilliant mixture of post-metal, doom metal, post-hardcore, and sludge metal with enough menace in its tone to make a seasoned metal fan buckle.

Did you feel the shifts? Did you experience the sea change? Listen to the way the acoustic and electric guitars of the title track bicker and contrast with one another; an cold, tenuous relationship forming a dreary masterpiece of atmosphere as the bizarrely paced piano chromatics seal the deal.

Once in a while, the speed picks up and yet the tension never truly dissipates. The two chords that encompass most of "Flight" rely on instrumental textures and tortured vocals until the acoustic guitar beckons us back to the void.

The content within, I must admit, never ceases to be draining. The further you delve into it, the more it takes from you. Some quiet moments occur, such as the acoustic intro to "Stripped," but it never feels like a respite. The heavy moments plow through like a sledgehammer to the skull and the reflective moments are woeful and depressing.

But that's also the beauty.

Souls at Zero is something of an entrancing horror; much like Requiem for a Dream or Eternal Darkness; the vivid hell it portrays is intoxicating. And just one listen to outro "Empty," with its uneasy acoustic melodies and melancholic electric leads, and you'll feel both gutted and wanting to brave the whole journey again.

Do you feel the shifts? Did you hear the rise of a remarkable force towering over you? Have you heard the utterly disgusting majesty of 90s metal in its prime?

With Souls at Zero, you'll feel it.
siLLy puPPy
This album starts out with a talking bowl accompanied by spoken words about starting out on a journey. Wow. They aren't kidding. This album is a sonic journey indeed.

I have not heard the first two albums by NEUROSIS so I can only speculate by reading reviews that they were fairly simple creatures that had not yet blossomed into what we hear on this masterpiece of metal music. I actually came across this album by listening to a college radio station that played “Stripped” and I was so extremely taken by the ingenuity of the track that I immediately went out and bought the album after learning who it was and by only recently being officially NEUROSIS-ized with the intoxicating THROUGH SILVER IN BLOOD.

NEUROSIS took a great leap of faith with this album. By incorporating the vocal influences of Swans, the industrial riffing of Godflesh and the progressive post-rock of Talk Talk with additional embellishments of progressive layerings including piano, violin, Gregorian chants and others into the mix, NEUROSIS simply created a well balanced musical masterpiece by putting all the pieces in the proper places. It is amazing how well this album flows from beginning to end and despite wanting to sample a little just to get a little more perspective before this review, so sucked in was I that I couldn't resist listening to the entire album again. It is so good that it has a gravitational pull that I cannot resist.

And now I must comment on the album cover. The band says that it was supposed to be a likeness from the movie “The Wicker Man” but since they couldn't get permission to use it they had to make a mysterious figure that evoked its image. For me this also reminds me of the Shrike's image from the cover of the fantastic sci-fi books from the Hyperion series but it also evokes a likeness to the Man himself at the Black Rock Desert, Nevada event Burning Man (which I have attended – Woohoo!)

Not only is this album a masterpiece but a full-fledged turning point in music that combined post rock and metal and added progressive elements. One of the best albums of all time.
Souls at Zero finds Neurosis exploring a dizzying variety of different directions to expand their sound in, with the end result being that it's a foundational album of not just sludge metal but also post-metal. The distorted, muzzy guitars and shouted hardcore-influenced vocals of sludge emerge here and there, whilst other musical passages manage to incorporate the classic post-rock sound before many of its proponents even managed to put out an album. I can well see why this album would be startling coming from a band who had previously played in a solidly thrash/hardcore melange up to this point - even after hearing albums like Through Silver In Blood, I find myself taken aback by how varied and how excellent the album is.
Phonebook Eater

"Souls At Zero" is a dark, mysterious piece of work, seminal for the forming of Sludge Metal and not only.

Neurosis nowadays is considered the perfect example of "post-metal",a genre not everybody accepts. But before their glorious days, in the 80's they released two Hardcore albums that were very much forgotten, especially when "Souls At Zero" came out. This album was a first approach to the sound that Neurosis still has today. In a way, "Souls At Zero" is the band's second debut.

On this album Neurosis maintained some Hardcore influences, especially in the vocals, which never loose their intensity. But mostly, the sound is very much different. The band now incorporates heavier riffs, even though not quite sludgy yet, a very strong progressive influence, especially concerning the structure of these songs, but also noticeable in the instrumentation, which some times includes violin, flute, or sax. There's also quite a lot of sampling, in almost every intro. I've heard a few people saying that Neurosis were influenced by King Crimson here, and you notice that at times, particularly when it comes to layer the sound in songs like the title track. But those experimental post-punk bands from the 80's are a much heavier influence, like Prong but especially Swans (I do think Neurosis are the official heirs of the latter band). Of course, there is some Black Sabbath in the mix, otherwise it wouldn't sound so dark and doomy at times.

Indeed, "Souls At Zero" is a pretty dark, claustrophobic album, with dark melodies and a gloomy sound. But that's the thing of this album, it never loses its intensity, even when the music quiets down and gets a little cleaner. Listening to this feels like being trapped in a sort of well, you're calling for help but an angel comes to you and says "you're on your own, it's up to you to live or die". The music is most of the time stretched out and repetitive, ironically, I do feel like maybe the shorter songs end unfinished, like if they were just too short. Neurosis is at it's best with long songs, its a fact (exceptions later in their career will be made, and plenty of them).

These ten tracks have all good moments, some of them are fantastic; the build up of the opener "To Crawl Under One's Skin" is just perfect, and a perfectly executed song as well, that incarnates the very essence of what this album is, along with the following track, "Souls At Zero", another flawless track, mysterious, tense, that eventually gets heavy and very dark. Highlights are also "Stripped", possibly the most progressive song here, or the hypnotic "Takeahnase". A mention should be given also for "A Chronology For Survival" and "Sterile Vision" two really good tracks that are essential for the structure of the album.

Overall "Souls At Zero" is a dark, mysterious piece of work, but it's also a seminal album for the forming of Sludge Metal and not only. If you are into that sort of experimental metal, this is a must, mostly because of its importance in creating the genre.

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