For years rock has refused to acknowledge the brooding and overpowering presence of Neurosis.
The underground has embraced the six-piece, post-hardcore Oakland-based battalion. In other venues, Neurosis has gone mostly unheralded.
In recent months, though, Neurosis has been able to wage their sensory-consuming show for wider, mainstream audiences as the opening band for Pantera’s U.S. tour. Pantera, Clutch and Neurosis will batter thousands of ears Monday night at the Spokane Convention Center.
“Pantera’s been awesome to us,” says Neurosis guitarist and vocalist Scott Kelly at a tour stop in Detroit last week, where band members were getting more tattoos scrawled into their fleshy canvases.
Usually management companies and booking agents assemble package tours like this one. Pantera was responsible for including Neurosis and Clutch on this leg of its tour, Kelly says. Pantera had Neurosis along for its fall foray, too.
“They came after us,” says Kelly. “Over the last few years, there’s been a few bigger, more well-known acts that have said that they’d like to take us on tour. But the only one that actually was of their word was Pantera.
“At the end of the last tour,” Kelly continues, “they were like, ‘Well, we want you to go on the next one, too.’ It’s super nice and generous of them. They treat us with respect.”
“Neurosis rocks,” says Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul, also talking on the phone from Detroit.
“They’re really different, very unusual, but they’re really intense. I think anybody that’s coming to the show, I suggest to them to get there early and check (Neurosis) out.”
Paul recalls his first experience seeing the band.
“We walked into the Whiskey (a popular Hollywood nightclub) and saw them playing one night when we were mixing the album (1996’s “Great Southern Trend Kill,” now nominated for a Grammy for best metal album). I was just blown away.
“Phillip’s (Anselmo, lead vocalist) been a huge fan of theirs for a long time. We just said, ‘Hey bring them out; give them a shot.”’
Touring with a major draw like Pantera has been beneficial for Neurosis in ways other than just playing to larger audiences.
They get to launch their monstrous stage show in a more conducive environment. In addition, Pantera can also take them to fans in markets the band doesn’t usually visit because of a lack of viable venues.
“(Pantera) can play places that we really can’t,” notes Kelly. “We can’t play the smallest club in town because of our set-up and the power constraints. On the other hand, we don’t sell enough records to play the bigger places.”
While Neurosis doesn’t sell nearly as many records as Pantera, as the band gains exposure, sales continue to climb. “Souls at Zero” from 1992 and “Enemy of the Sun” from 1994 continue be steady sellers. The band’s fifth album - 1996’s “Through Silver and Blood” on Relapse Records - has fared the best, yet.
Neurosis isn’t a metal band. They originally formed in San Francisco’s East Bay - while most members were in their teens - as a hardcore band. To this day, their songs are built on a hardcore punk chassis. Though, the battery of layered riffs, flesh-peeling screams, samples and primal beats mirrors heavy metal.
In an era celebrating throngs of creatively bankrupt rock bands, Neurosis musicians are innovators, forging their very own doom-laden and provocative music. Or noise. If the apocalypse is put to music, it will resemble Neurosis.
Neurosis has 33 minutes to woo concert-goers on Monday. As ambitious as their music is, a half-hour poses a significant time constraint. Neurosis will have time to churn out just three songs (really epics).
Kelly says playing short sets really doesn’t inhibit his band.
“The way we have it set up, it’s a pretty brutal 33 minutes,” he deadpans.
Neurosis concerts differ from most rock shows because the band wraps all of its elements - concepts and themes, music, lights, films and samples - into one cohesive multi-media show. Think of it as a symphony where you have several different movements integrated into one massive piece.
And, as Kelly explains, he and his bandmates diligently assemble their live displays so they encompass the various elements that define Neurosis. Doing it in a half-hour can be a challenge.
“We look at it from the perspective that when we have 33 minutes to work with, we want to pile-drive people initially,” he says. “We also want to make sure that we have all the elements of what we do like the percussion and some dynamics and quieter parts. That has everything to do with the selection of the songs.”
For Monday’s show, the band is sticking to songs off its latest album “Through Silver in Blood.” The combo will sandblast ticketholders first with the title track, segue into the “Eye” and then shift into “Purify.” It will end, as the band has done traditionally, with euphoric percussion-dominated piece.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: PANTERA, CLUTCH AND NEUROSIS Location and time: Spokane Convention Center, Monday, 7 p.m. Tickets: $20