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“Honor Found in Decay” was perhaps the first Neurosis album where it felt like the band wasn’t moving forward any more. It didn’t introduce many musical innovations, and it’s mostly “At the Well” that I still listen to from it. It also suffered from an overlong play time. Neurosis made even longer albums, but those also had vastly superior material.

Solid songwriting, shorter running time

This album doesn’t necessarily have increased amounts of innovation, but the songwriting is back in healthy shape. First off, this just feels like a more focused record, perhaps best highlighted by the 40 minute running time. Many times when I listened to the last album, I found myself zoning out and waiting for the next interesting move. Regardless of how heavy or mellow a section is, this one never drags.

The 40 minute running time works for me for another reason: I have an admittedly hedonistic relationship with this type of music. There are sludge fans who frown on bands like Ghost Brigade and Eyes of Fire that play Neurosis influenced music in a more accessible style. I’m not one of them. I’m not saying that Neurosis took a more accessible direction here though. In fact, this is an album without standout songs like “Locust Star” or “Burn”.  When closer “Reach” rings out it feels more like a logical conclusion to a massive song.

Neurosis makes something spectacular with basic tools

When I listen to this band I often find myself jealous as a composer. Neurosis use basic musical tools to create something much bigger. The attention to detail is high, and when a mellow part explodes into a sludgy riff it feels as primal as it feels calculated. There doesn’t seem to be an underlying formula to it, every transition just comes exactly where it’s needed. As always, Scott Kelly and Steve von Till both put in great vocal performances. Kelly sounds especially fierce and drives a lot of the songs. The vocal arrangements also contribute to the combined feeling of passion and precision.

“Fires Within Fires” is Neurosis back on track

It feels like there’s nothing left to say but to congratulate Neurosis on being back on track with a strong effort. If they build on this foundation of strong songwriting and find their way back to previous levels of innovation, this could be a great sign of things to come.

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