8. Neurosis & Jarboe (2003)
The Neurosis/Swans connection is a strong one. Swans main man Michael Gira supposedly considered recruiting Neurosis as his new backing band when Swans broke up in the '90s. This collaboration is the next best thing: Gira's Swans co-vocalist Jarboe takes over mic duties in Neurosis for an entire album.
In Swans, Jarboe mostly provides pensive contrast to Gira's domineering howl. She uses her entire range here, and what a range it is: layered harmonies, resonant crooning, childlike whispers, and grisly screams. It's a virtuoso performance that ranks among her best, thanks in part to the hair-raising instrumental atmosphere in which it appears.
Neurosis settles into a backing-band role with surprising ease on Neurosis & Jarboe. They hold their signature sonic tonnage in reserve for virtually the entire album, instead using their arsenal of drones and Jason Roeder's signature tribal tom work to endlessly build anxiety. There's not enough release for that tension; only "Erase" delivers on the album's whispered threats. For the most part, Neurosis stays out of Jarboe's way, glowering from the wings instead of lumbering into the fray. Still, Neurosis & Jarboe constitutes a fascinating aside. I hope a follow-up is in the works.