Neurosis 

The Eye of Every Storm

At the height of summer comes The Eye of Every Storm, the ninth studio album from Oakland's Neurosis, and one that actually conjures visions of being huddled inside a frigid Scandinavian cabin in the dead of a winter's night, listening for the terrified sentry's cry that the Armies of Darkness are closing in on the village.

Though the band has moved beyond the hardcore, headbanging crunch of its initial recordings, its music has truly gotten heavier by pushing that gloomy, Gothic tension into dense, gripping, near-Wagnerian symphonies of psychedelia, space-rock, industrial, and prog-metal. The dirge-y eleven-minute title track ebbs and flows like a more forbidding Mogwai or Godspeed You Black Emperor epic, dominated by phasered guitars and pulsating keyboards ominously layered over a languorous beat. Meanwhile, singer Steve Von Till redoubles the drama with his brooding baritone (equal parts Nick Cave, Glenn Danzig, Tom Waits, and Mark Lanegan). And when the guitars come crashing in, they're huge and vicious, like a mastodon thrashing in a tar pit. Same goes for opener "Burn," which sandwiches Sabbath-like sludge-riffery and thunderstorm cracks around a sparse, ghostly, synth-backdropped midsection.

Those subdued parts provide little respite from the overall grimness -- the acoustic entryway to "I Can See You" still sounds fairly apocalyptic, as do the piano-and-distant-drum-driven highlights of the also-eleven-minute "Bridges," which are sliced up by what sounds like either static transmissions or a sparking transformer before another guitar squall shatters the lull. Expertly produced by frequent collaborator Steve Albini, Storm is thick with sound and doggedly bleak in mood; sometimes loud, rarely fast, but always heavy.

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