Neurosis – Souls at Zero (reissue)

By Gruesome Greg

What else can be said about this classic album, which has been remastered and reissued just shy of its 20th anniversary? Back in 1992, when sludge metal was still in its infancy, Neurosis was taking it in completely unheard-of directions on this, their breakthrough third full-length release.

I still get chills when the screams come a good five minutes into opening track “To Crawl Under One’s Skin.” The creepy Exorcist guitar riff that punctuates the title track and the sinister atmosphere of “Sterile Vision” achieve a level of uneasiness that horror gore bands can only dream of. “A Chronology for Survival” is one of the heaviest, most hauntingly beautiful songs of all time, what with its string section accompaniment, and “Stripped” is right up there in the same league. Just thinking of the impact this album had in ’92, when Neurosis abandoned their hardcore punk roots in favour of their new, cutting-edge sound boggles the mind. (Of course, a lotta hardcore punkers jumped ship—including their label, Alternative Tentacles, after ’93’s follow-up Enemy of the Sun, but I digress.) A lotta imitators have come around since, but innovators like Neurosis are in short supply.

Twenty years on, and this record still sounds fresh and original. The reissue tacks on a couple early demos, of “Zero” and the title track, and a live version of “Cleanse III” recorded in ’96. Considering that the original “Cleanse” didn’t appear till Enemy of the Sun, it’s a little outta place, but that’s a minor complaint. Very minor.

If you don’t already own a copy of Souls at Zero, you need to buy this reissue when it comes out. One of the essential albums in extreme metal, period.

(Neurot)

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.