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Steve Von Till

There is something incredibly compelling about hearing the frontman of a band notorious for its inspired violence and sheer ferocity go solo with music that is quiet, restrained, and intensely personal. That is precisely what Steve Von Till, the longtime leader of the seminal apocalypse-rock outfit Neurosis, did with his first record, As the Crow Flies, and his second, If I Should Fall To The Field. This is not to suggest in any way that Von Till's solo work is antithetical to that of Neurosis; it's more like an inversion, or an account of the private struggles Von Till engages in after the public fury and aggression of Neurosis is spent.

So, as you might expect, the sound is dark and haunting: it's the sound of gazing into the abyss, confronting personal demons, going places no one has ever gone before -- alone. There's a delicate, peculiar beauty to all of these compositions, created in large part by all the strings that populate them -- gentle acoustic guitar, violins, cello -- and the contrast between them and Von Till's gravelly, sincere, unlovely voice. Von Till borrows trace elements from European and American folk balladry which also contribute to the music's mournful, dirgelike beauty. The archaic poetry of Von Till lyrics complements the melancholia of his compositions perfectly, producing a portrait of a gothic phantasmagoria that suggests an Edgar Allan Poe nightmare. These are sophisticated meditations on the shadows that fall across the spirit.