"Times Of Grace" is the most spiritual, mystical, but also the most abrasive Neurosis album yet.
"Times Of Grace" is the fourth album of seminal Sludge Metal band Neurosis, the follow up to the masterpiece of theirs and even of the genre as a whole, "Through Silver In Blood". It is quite hard after such a release to keep the expectations as high. But "Times Of Grace", even though it is not as good, is a fantastically executed release, that many people controversially consider their ultimate masterpiece, but I do see why some would love this album as much as these fans do.
Abandoning the huge, smothered reverb of "Silver In Blood", ToG has a much more rough, distorted, sludgy sound, but also more straightforward and maybe not quite as ambitious. The result of this is a claustrophobic sound that is just as scary as the previous album. But the experimentation is very present, with again some unusual instruments for metal here and there, as well as some strange sound effects that accompany the songs, most of them unrecognizable samples. Guitar effects also abound quite a bit, but in a much different way from TSiB.
I've always noticed in Neurosis's music this distorted, almost spiritual feel that makes the band so special sounding; starting from "Souls At Zero", the band always were writing music as it seemed like it was intended to be the soundtrack of a shamanic ritual of native people from South America or something. A very primitive and visceral feel is always felt in their music, but I do think this album in particular is somewhat more spiritual and mystic."Times Of Grace", because of its sound, is an immensely proud album, that always keeps heads up. however, it has its humble moments,meaning moments of shattered beauty, that surprise the listener very much. But these calmer moments are really dreadful and dramatic sounding, in a good way; the vocals of Scott Kelly, are and have always been full of pain, and on this album he proves it like he never did before. The album is quite solid, the more straight-forward structure of the tracks make this characteristic very easy to detect; there are definitely less-build ups, thus most of the time they start fierce and go straight to the point, but of course exceptions are always made. This album remains quite atmospheric because of the experimentation surrounding it and the always used repetition, and so Atmospheric Sludge Metal once again is a great and accurate way to define Neurosis's music.
The songs for me are almost always great, starting from "The Doorway", probably the most intense and abrasive song here. "The Last You'll Know" might be my favorite of the album, its also the most epic track here, and quite possibly the most beautiful too, while "Belief" is the essence of Sludge Metal and the most atmospheric track, and "Away" is comparable to "Strength Of Fates" from their previous album, being a huge build up to a quite intense piece that takes place only in the last few minutes. The title track is also a powerful and crunchy song that is worth mentioning. Even the interludes are very well done, and should not be underrated; they're always somewhat hypnotic, and very interesting in their nature.
A splendid release, something that is essential to listen to if you're into Sludge Metal. One of Neurosis' most personal albums, full of character and spirit, and that sometimes all you need for an album to work.