1993: Neurosis - Enemy of the Sun

Doom is a Dionysian genre. I don’t mean that it’s a libertine genre, but that the bands commonly affirmed by its listening public tend to be feelers first and thinkers second. It is enjoyed by people who value the extremes of experience; it’s made by people who learned to lose themselves in sound, and those who thrive best in the solipsist glory of the rehearsal space.

Where most doom bands of the 90’s purported to be bloody-hearted romantics or sociopaths acting on base impulses, Neurosis maintained “aesthetic distance,” used clean lines and flirted cautiously with formalism. They were set apart in their total seriousness, which won them a cult among serious-minded people to whom all that cultivated danger seemed impossibly fake. These fans liked metal’s ugly crunch and outsider image but were sick of both the clownishness and the crusty rock tropes.

Enemy of the Sun is obviously an inhabitant of that world – check out the Osbourne-esque moan in “Lost” and that riff, lugubrious but articulated, piercing and then crushing. But it’s also a forebear to much of the scene now cutely dubbed “post-metal,” possessing some of its virtues – fascination with texture and pace, skillfully-deployed noise – and most of what were to become its chief vices.

All of these pitfalls began as solutions to specific problems with metal, cited by its more Apollonian fans, and all have by now outstayed their welcome. The post-rock/minimalist approach is much in evidence. Here, the alienation from linearity sought after by early musical minimalists manifests as alienation from giving a shit instead. Repetition begets a ceremonial, trance-like vibe, then boredom. In fact, Neurosis are best when they subvert their mandate to soundscape instead of songwrite, as on “Lost” and “Lexicon.”

Conversely, all the clean-and-pretty breaks don’t add much more than simulated emotional depth, and quickly produce diminishing returns. On “Raze The Stray,” the chiming minor-key interludes are meant to contrast with the harsh passages, but reliance on one scale (illustrated, for those who can’t hear, by a piano motif that continues throughout) limits their effectiveness to the bipolar confines of the loud-soft dynamic, far from the range of possibilities implied by melodicism.

Finally, the retreat to “abstract” lyrics results in a strongly sophomoric vibe, plus the occasional moment of pure bafflement as you struggle to figure out what “all that was alive and spontaneous fading under the crests of imbalance” means. Probably, it means “count your blessings we aren’t singing about Satan or witches.” But Satan talk can be made meaningful; Neurosis’ lyrics, while occasionally poetic (“my eyes were jades, so close to the center I could not see”), elude such meaningfulness.

This, I suspect, is where post-metal earns the suspicion of fans within metal culture: as with all minimalism-besotted genres, post-metal thrives on an anti-romanticism that actively subverts facile heroics, linear structure, etc.. But since metal is an intensely romantic genre (cf. Beethoven, Wagner), this approach seems passive-aggressive and sounds, for the most part, enervated. Neurosis give you one minute of riffs, one minute of doomy shouting, and five minutes of swirling chime whose purpose is to clean your palette for whatever brief vignette is the climax. Compared to even Metallica, this is slight songwriting. So there’s a vague sense that post-metal is advertising a better way to live that is really about sacrificing pleasure.

What Enemy of the Sun offers is a refined kind of bleakness: subtler than Acid Bath, more disciplined than Eyehategod. Its aesthetic choices – stark voice samples and sickly, Dirty Three strings – are bound to please someone with an aesthete’s taste in miserablism. Those looking for dynamic and tempo-changes will find them; they’re used to modulate, rather than to wrench. Those looking for “heaviness” will no doubt find that, too. If you want metal that steps clear of trademark clichés, especially the clichés of the 90’s, Enemy of the Sun may be your cup of blood. However, for inspiring a contemporary genre (what this reissue is implicitly about), Neurosis emerge with somewhat less credibility than fans might have expected.


There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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