Guest Playlist: Neurosis’ most vital predecessors

Neurosis: Souls at Zero (Reissue)Neurosis: Souls at Zero (Reissue) (Neurot, 2/15/11)

Neurosis: “To Crawl Under One’s Skin”

[audio:|titles=Neurosis “To Crawl Under One’s Skin”]

Earlier this year, pioneering sludge-metal band Neurosis reissued its third studio album, Souls at Zero, on its own label, Neurot. Though it sounds just as fresh today, it has been nearly 20 years since that influential mixture of heavy grooves, diverse folk instrumentation, and mammoth metal riffs first cropped up. We asked frontman Steve Von Till to compile a playlist for us, and he came up with 11 bands that were instrumental in Neurosis’ formation and development.

Bands Integral to the Origin of Neurosis
by Steve Von Till of Neurosis

This playlist may contain the secrets to the origin of thousands of bands who became inspired to give it all.

1. Joy Division: “New Dawn Fades”

The driving bass. The melodic yet primitive guitar. The empty and bleak space as large as the riff. The words, “Me, seeing me this time, hoping for something else.” The emotions left behind.

2. Black Flag: My War (side B)

“Nothing Left Inside,” “Three Nights,” and “Scream.” Slow dirge and discordant angst…perfection.

3. Amebix: “Last Will and Testament”

No Gods, No Masters, and yet a spiritual thread runs through its music. Punks informed by Crass and Killing Joke but armed with mysticism and huge metal guitars. We owe a lot to these men.

4. Pink Floyd: “Careful With That Axe Eugene” (Live at Pompeii version)

Man…that scream…I swear Roger Waters looks like he is about to transform into some beast during that performance. Heavy psych at its best.

5. Die Kreuzen: “All White”

Dissonant guitars, insane, augmented chords, melodic bass, and that voice! “Let me out!!!!!!!!”

6. Voivod: “Tribal Convictions”

Along with Die Kreuzen, Piggy (Denis D’Amour) from Voivod blew our minds with the insane, dissonant chord shapes. Psychedelic metal from space. Truly one of a kind. We miss you, Piggy.

7. Rudimentary Peni: Cacophony (entire record)

A band considered to be a group of art-damaged anarcho-punks comes out of nowhere with a completely bizarre, hypnotic masterpiece dedicated and inspired by the life of HP Lovecraft. This may be one of the strangest rock records of all time.

8. Killing Joke: “The Wait”

Even though it is overplayed thanks to a cover by an arena-rock band, it cannot detract from the fact that this track from its first record is heavy as hell — a badass new-wave anthem. Killing Joke is still intense and passionate. Huge inspiration.

9. Deep Purple: “Highway Star”

Harmonic distortion. This is what the human ear finds pleasing. I can think of no other sound that personifies those words more than this era of Deep Purple. Before I knew much about music, I thought it was Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar that was responsible for the thick, rich, tough wall of sound, but as I got older, I thought, “No, it must be Jon Lord’s distorted organ that is so heavy.” Finally I had the moment of clarity; it is the magic blend of the Hammond B3’s foldback distortion with the Stratocaster and Rickenbacker through dimed stacks of ’60s Marshalls that is so damn good. My quest for my guitar tone has been chasing that ever since.

10. The Subhumans: “From the Cradle to the Grave”

The title says it all. An absolute epic of musicianship and depth of lyrics that stands leagues beyond the shallow and naive sociopolitical punk of the era. Timeless.

11. Black Sabbath: “Black Sabbath”

They say both good and bad things come in threes. This is all about three notes, which bring forth both good and bad in the mind of the listener. The triad. The ultimate, heavy, slow doom riff. I cannot count the number of times I have “written” a riff, only to realize “Damn it, I ripped off Sabbath…again.”

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