The other night, I was lucky enough to watch The Road Home play a set of hauntingly depressive Americana. Scott Kelly’s two solo albums, Spirit Bound Flesh and The Wake, delve further into the eerie calm that Neurosis began exploring with The Eye of Every Storm. With The Road Home, which consists of Jay Munly and Noah Landis, Scott Kelly expands that calm into a chasm of meditation and despair, which is perfectly captured on 2012’s The Forgiven Ghost In Me (recorded by Noah Landis and released on Neurot Recordings). Watching the group live is akin to staring into Nietzsche’s existential abyss: the abyss stares right back into you.
Scott Kelly, with his Johnny-Cash-on-his-deathbed vocals and concise acoustic guitar work, is the group’s anchor. Throughout the set, he kept the crowd chained to desolate plains while Noah Landis created inversion layers of sound, switching between synth and electric guitar. Jay Munly — who also plays in Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, a legendary country ensemble from Denver — widened the void with sparse autoharp and what were probably the most ghastly vocals I’ve ever heard. With craggy cheeks and dark circles beneath his eyes, Munly sat on the left side of the stage, expressionlessly staring while sucking the life out of everyone in the venue with his crazed yodeling.
Like Black Sabbath and Black Flag, Neurosis is undeniable. Even if you don’t like their music, you can’t refute their intensity. Although they differ in approach, The Road Home exists on the same plane. They invite you into the loneliest parts of the unconscious mind, and the effect is simultaneously visceral and draining. Scott Kelly and Noah Landis’ brilliance is in their ability to attain intensity in such wide-ranging, and often disparate, ways. In Neurosis, they crush you with churning sludge and then leave you floating; with Jay Munly in The Road Home, they envelop you in nothingness, which slowly seeps across your psyche like a semi-conscious mass of parasitic tar.