Atmospheric Sludge Metal

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Atmospheric Sludge Metal or Post-Sludge Metal is style that mixes the hardcore doom of Sludge Metal with the atmospherics of Post Rock, often with progressive stylings. Atmospheric Sludge Metal was pioneered by US bands such as Neurosis, Isis and Pelican, building on earlier explorations by bands such as Melvins and Swans.

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NEUROSIS Souls at Zero Album Cover Souls at Zero
NEUROSIS
4.53 | 13 ratings
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ISIS Panopticon Album Cover Panopticon
ISIS
4.32 | 53 ratings
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NEUROSIS Times Of Grace Album Cover Times Of Grace
NEUROSIS
4.36 | 27 ratings
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NEUROSIS Through Silver In Blood Album Cover Through Silver In Blood
NEUROSIS
4.27 | 43 ratings
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ISIS Oceanic Album Cover Oceanic
ISIS
4.24 | 41 ratings
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INTRONAUT Prehistoricisms Album Cover Prehistoricisms
INTRONAUT
4.30 | 14 ratings
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CULT OF LUNA Vertikal Album Cover Vertikal
CULT OF LUNA
4.21 | 14 ratings
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THE OCEAN Precambrian Album Cover Precambrian
THE OCEAN
4.17 | 17 ratings
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NEUROSIS A Sun That Never Sets Album Cover A Sun That Never Sets
NEUROSIS
4.17 | 15 ratings
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ISIS Wavering Radiant Album Cover Wavering Radiant
ISIS
4.09 | 41 ratings
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THE OCEAN Anthropocentric Album Cover Anthropocentric
THE OCEAN
4.13 | 22 ratings
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THE OCEAN Pelagial Album Cover Pelagial
THE OCEAN
4.21 | 7 ratings
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atmospheric sludge metal Music Reviews

NEUROSIS Enemy Of The Sun

Album · 1993 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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UMUR
"Enemy Of The Sun" is the 4th full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/Post-metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Alternative Tentacles in August 1993. It´s the successor to "Souls at Zero" from 1992. "Souls at Zero (1992)" was the album where Neurosis changed their original hardcore sound towards an atmospheric, heavy and doomy (although still hardcore influenced) music style.

That development in sound is further continued on "Enemy Of The Sun", and Neurosis also continue to add new elements and refine their sound. "Enemy Of The Sun" is a cold, harsh, and angry album. It´s drenched in a bleak and melancholic atmosphere. The ingredients of the band´s sound are a heavy yet rhythmically adventurous rhythm section, heavy doomy riffs, feedback and noise, raw shouting aggressive hardcore type vocals (and a few cleaner sung vocals), and atmosphere enhancing use of keyboards and electronics/samples. It´s completely uncompromising, original, and because of the unconventional nature of the riffs, the rhythms, and the atmosphere, probably a bit of an aquired taste (even for fans of heavy music).

It´s sonically challenging music, which most listeners probably won´t find immediately accessible, but the material are not without catchy moments. They just seldom appear in the form of a sing-along chorus, a melody part you can hum along to, or a harmony guitar part that you remember long after the album is over. In that respect the material on "Enemy Of The Sun" are a difficult listen. It´s gritty, menacing and ugly, and generally demand the listener´s full attention. It´s progressive music which hasn´t lost it´s aggressive hardcore authenticity.

"Enemy Of The Sun" opens with two stand-alone tracks in "Lost" and "Raze the Stray", while "Burning Flesh In Year of Pig", "Cold Ascending" and "Lexicon" seque into each other and appear like one long track. The title track and "The Time of the Beasts" follow (the latter is a crushingly heavy track featuring a section which sounds like a funeral march with violin and trumpet) and the album closes with the 26:34 minutes long "Cleanse". "Cleanse" (which is not featured on the vinyl version of the album) is a long hypnotic song featuring tribal percussion, shouting and yelling and samples. The last 8 minutes are a pretty harsh listen as it is a sampled shout repeated over an over again. It´s pretty surely the kind of track, which is an aquired taste. The same can be said about "Lexicon", which is an extremely noisy track. It sits on the verge of being avant garde.

"Enemy Of The Sun" features a suitingly harsh and raw sound production, which further helps the material shine. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality release by Neurosis. While "Souls at Zero (1992)" felt at lot like a transitional album (and in that case, that´s not a bad thing), "Enemy Of The Sun" is an album featuring an almost fully developed new sound. I write almost, because the band would further develop and refine this particular sound on the next two releases, before making another change in musical style. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

NEUROSIS Souls at Zero

Album · 1992 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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UMUR
"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.

NEUROSIS Souls at Zero

Album · 1992 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Necrotica
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.

NEUROSIS Fires Within Fires

Album · 2016 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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UMUR
"Fires Within Fires" is the 12th full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/post metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Neurot Recordings in September 2016. It´s the successor to "Honor Found in Decay" from 2012.

Stylistically the material on "Fires Within Fires" features very few surprises if you´re already familiar with the band´s atmospheric sludge/post metal style. It´s slow, doomy, and organic music featuring both deep register clean male vocals and harder edged hardcore shouting vocals. The song structures are adventurous and you never really know where a song is going before you reach the end and look back at an intriguing compositional structure. The whole thing is packed in an organic sounding production courtesy of Steve Albini. The sound production takes the meaning of organic maybe a bit too far though, as this sometimes sound like it was recorded live in someone´s garage. I know some people love a stripped down and raw sound production like that, and under the right circumstances a sound production like that can work wonders. Here though I think it takes the power out of the music and even the most heavy and punchy parts of the album, lack energy and conviction.

To my ears Neurosis also seem to have lost a bit of their creative spirit on "Fires Within Fires"...and don´t get me wrong here, because as mentioned above this is still very adventurous music, but it´s like they´ve made this album before a few times, and I´d like to think of them as innovators who take chances and who challenge their audience. We don´t really get much of that here. "Fires Within Fires" is Neurosis playing it completely safe and since they´ve also tuned down on their more aggressive side, the album does become a bit tedious if you´re not in the right mood. However it still speaks volumes of their general qualities that one of Neurosis lesser albums still deserves a 3.5 star (70%) rating, and I´m probably just being a bit hard on them, but that´s only because I expect so much from them considering their impressive back catalogue.

NEUROSIS Times Of Grace

Album · 1999 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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Warthur
Although it can be enhanced by listening in synch with the Tribes of Neurot album "Grace", even by itself Times of Grace is still an extremely solid followup to Through Silver In Blood which builds on the atmospheric sludge metal sound of that album impressively. The title track's titanic closing riffs melting away to reveal the plaintive brass instrumentation of album closer The Road to Sovereignty is a particular revelation. Between this and its predecessor, I would actually give this one the edge and say that it's the best release since the magnificent, genre-defining Souls At Zero. (Those especially keen to try the "Grace" experiment may want to bear in mind that a compilation of both albums was issued for your ease of buying.)

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ISIS Clearing the Eye

Movie · 2006 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Triceratopsoil
Probably only really for fans of ISIS (I mean, who else would buy a concert DVD than a fan of the band in question?), but an absolutely great experience. Witness an incredible band at their peak. The main feature here is the full 70 minute performance from Sydney Australia in 2005. Great cinematic camera work, a relaxing and overall fantastic performance of some of the best songs ISIS ever wrote. Top notch. No complaints here, though I'm a giant fanboy so take my opinion with a grain of salt or 10.

Most of the other live videos are curios, though they are quite good - not the same professional sound and video quality as the Australia concert.

I made my mom buy me this for Christmas a few years ago, ahaha

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