ef830183-9b4f-4676-a68a-7aaf16f1afefOn their seventh album, Neurosis moved further away from its foundational punk sound by adding folk and heavily distorted metal to what had become an experimental approach to modern rock.  Issued in 2001, “A Sun That Never Sets” disclosed that the Oakland-based quintet had arrived, forcefully and memorably, at a place it had been advancing toward on previous discs.

Neurosis profited from a stable lineup.  Dave Edwardson, Scott Kelly, Jason Roeder and Steve Von Till had been together for a dozen years prior to the release of “A Sun That Never Sets,” and the fifth member, Noah Landis, joined in 1995, succeeding keyboardist Simon McIlroy.  The album’s initial movement, the stalking, slow-to-discharge “Erode,” which clocks in under two minutes, suggested the band members were accustomed to responding to each other’s cues.

Dynamics gave the music a sense of intrigue.  Strummed folk guitars ushered in “The Tide” and Kelly entered with a melodic yet anguished vocal line followed by a violin solo by guest Kris Force.  Metal was present by inference until the track exploded behind the roar of guitars and the pounding of Roerer’s drums.  But when they hinted directly at metal tropes, Neurosis veered away and offered more of the unexpected – like the incongruous combination of simple, finger-picked pattern on acoustic guitar and guttural vocal that introduced from “From The Hill,” performed at sludge-metal tempo.  As a parenthetical aside, check out the sound of Roerer’s drums and cymbals and Edwardson’s bass throughout the album.  Under the guidance of producer Steve Albini – whose work was essential to the sound of Nirvana’s “In Utero,” Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s “Walking into Clarksdale” and the Pixies’s “Surfer Rosa,” among many, many other albums – their performances were captured and presented them with clarity without diminishing their power.   Roerer’s snare somehow sounds like soft cannon fire, especially on the title track.

Neurosis embraced melodrama.   In the 13-minute “Falling Unknown,” Kelly sang patiently, his voice at a far remove from a distant guitar and bass.   But then a restrained explosion served to set up instrumental interludes that featured subtle shifts in tempo and the electrified growl of Landis’s synthesizers.  In turn, the environment changed and an acoustic piano entered.  The pace quickened until the song’s hammering crescendo.  The track symbolized the sense of adventure throughout the album.

In the years following the release of “A Sun Never Sets,” Neurosis continued its march toward a new sound beginning with the album’s immediate successor, “The Eye of Every Storm,” this time matching folk and mammoth metal.  In 2002, it released a DVD of a live performance of “A Sun Never Sets” that proved not only that the new approach translated to the stage, but that fans appreciate it.  Celebrating their 30th anniversary, Neurosis is still active today – they’re on tour in Europe beginning in August --  and with their 2012 (and most recent) release, “Honor Found in Decay,” they continue to stretch the margins of metal.