Oliver Riot's Neurosis: A Review

In musical theatre, the characters don't know they are singing. The idea is that the heart of a person is captured in music and in movement to such an extent that their story is carried forward. Their emotions and thoughts are made manifest; there is no break between what is being said and what is being felt. In this sense, Neurosis is audio theatre. 


Ben and Alex Moore both have, as they phrase it, "pure-O. obsessive compulsive disorder." It is what it sounds like: the fixations and OCD thought spirals are present, but not the compulsive behaviors they can lead to. Neurosis feels like a guided tour through a spiral, an exploration into the mind that can't escape itself. There is a story here, but it's one that we're allowed to experience, not just observe. In other words, it's my jam. 

Hallucinate, their first EP, was full of stories, even if we often stood outside of them. Songs like "Tired and Awake" and "Ivory Black" had clear memories in them, but were poeticized to the point that it felt like my story. The lyrics here are sparser, carefully chosen to tell the story. Neurosis makes me feel like I am Dante guided through my own mental illness by twin Virgils. Instruments and voices appear from everywhere. When I listen to it in the car, I find myself looking around to see where the piano is coming from, then turn away again to look for the percussion, etc. There's nowhere to hide from the experience of the EP as a whole, and yet each song stands out. The obsessions and thought spirals have been made audible.


This is where I also say it explicitly: these guys are really, really good at music. I've had the good fortune of hearing them play live and listened to them jam instrumentally for around twenty minutes without them breaking a sweat or losing the plot. Neurosis has no silence and also no noise, with the exception of a voice in the background that feels ever-present. I've lost count of how many times I've heard this album and I'm still not certain off the creepy narrator stops talking or if I stop listening momentarily. Stylistically, it fits the indie box (vaguely), but these guys are at ease with the complicated work they're doing. These aren't four-chord ballads. This is the relaxed work of two experts in their craft and their subjects. Their gypsy rock roots appear, but no one style or genre is allowed to steal from the experience of the descent.  

Take fifteen minutes with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and dive in. This is a journey worth taking.