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For Sovereign’s title cut, Neurosis revisits and expands “The Road to Sovereignty,” the string- and horndriven album-closer from the Bay Area quintet’s last LP, 1999’s Times of Grace. The 13-minute epic is a perfect example of the band’s singular sound, which combines heavy-metal riffs, tribal drumming, and atmospheric keyboards with intuitive, Slint-like dynamics. As the band successfully taps into its seemingly inexhaustible supply of ass-kicking midtempo hooks, guitarist Steve Von Till sings, “Her rain is like black rust/And melts down heavy on dreaming heads/It cuts through.” Although these guys clearly won’t be writing ditties about their girlfriends anytime soon, they do have a talent for composing expansive, ridiculously heavy music that falls outside the bounds of metal orthodoxy. “An Offering” kicks off slow and dirgelike, with minor-key guitars and sampler noise churning like an undertow, before exploding into monolithic waves of riffage, over which the band screams, “Chaos fills our landing, the wizard points to the one/The cup is poisoned, the crime has risen.” “Flood” is a martial, percussion-dense instrumental that fills the spaces between its shotgun beats with streams of feedback and distorted bass guitar. And “Prayer,” the opening track on this 32-minute EP, pits uncharacteristically nondistorted guitars against gravel-voiced vocals and tom-heavy drumming. Singing as if they’re about to burst every friggin’ blood vessel in their heads, Von Till, guitarist Scott Kelly, and bassist Dave Edwardson propel the song’s dark couplets with contrapuntal sparring: “Trapped inside I abide this ordeal/Drawn in and praying in waste, sent out and smashing down.” “Prayer”‘s six minutes of majestically unreleased tension prove that there’s a lot more to heaviness than the distortion knob on your Marshall stack.

—Brent Burton