The press release for the debut album from Australia based band Meshiaak peaked my interest. They bill themselves as a super-group, with the most notable name on the list being Drummer Jon Dette who has played with industry heavyweights such as Iced Earth, Slayer, Testament and Anthrax. Alongside him are former members of Teramaze and 4Arm, both of which I must confess I am completely unfamiliar with. But what mainly stuck out to me was the blurb about the album, the main points that immediately grabbed my interest from this were “In a thrash world gone metalcore” and “…record that evokes the magic of Ride the Lightning, Rust in Peace, South of Heaven and Burn My Eyes”. To any metal fan that sticks out as a bold claim, and for someone like myself who is unashamedly a fan of more old school sounding metal and dislikes metalcore in general, it is a claim that was bound to get me invested. But what I expected from reading that and what I find myself presented with are sadly two very different things.
I’m sure this will make me no friends out there but I have to say, when I read “In a thrash world gone metalcore” I was expecting this album to present itself as being opposed to that sort of sound, but to my ears that is exactly what this album sounds like. Thrash metal for the post Killswitch Engage generation of metal fans, that’s not a bad thing if that’s what are you are looking for, but it’s a long way from what I was expecting, and I just can’t help but be disappointed by that.
Don’t get me wrong, these guys are very good at what they do, in fact they among some of the best I have heard at this sort of stuff in a long time. I would pitch this album as something for fans of In Flames and modern day Machine Head etc, if you are big on that sort of sound then odds are you will love this album.
The drumming is obviously a stand out element from the outset, Jon Dette is a known quantity. He has had the privilege of playing with many industry giants for a good reason, because the man is a beast behind the kit, and that is very much the case here as much ever. On top of this, performance across the board is flawless, the guitars and bass are beefy and solid, the melodic licks are smooth and the vocals are varied and powerfully delivered throughout. And this is all complemented by a super polished (If a little sterile) production.
The song writing overall is good, nothing I haven’t heard before, but it’s very well put together none the less, and it does the job just fine. There is a nice variation of pacing between the tracks and the album has a good natural flow to it and it feels like a solid album rather than a collection of songs.
On the vocal side I am torn. The vocals here are unquestionably one of if not the strongest point of this album. As a vocalist myself I can appreciate a talented vocalist when I hear one, and Danny Tomb is clearly very good at what he does. He has a great range at his disposal and uses all of it. Switching between classic Gothenburg style melodies to howling James Hetfield impressions, and a lot more in between. But therein lies the other side of what I get from it, at times it does sound a collection of impressions of all his favourite vocalists rather than a unique voice, and on top of that the lyrics themselves are a mix of the pretty clichéd angst and political ranting that always make me cringe no matter what band they are coming from. It’s not that the lyrics are particularly bad, just that it’s something I grew out of a long time ago and was hoping that one day metal will too. And so I find myself confronted with a very talented voice that doesn’t really have anything to say that I personally want to hear, which is a shame.
If I had picked this album up when I was a teenager I would probably have loved it passionately, but to the slightly jaded ears of thirty year old metal fan who has heard it all before a hundred times over I have to be a little harsh and say that at times it comes across as clichéd and a little immature, and the bottom line is I personally don’t like this album all that much. That’s not to say It’s bad, quite the opposite, it’s just not for me.
But if this is your sort of thing and you liked the last couple of machine head albums, or are still waiting for In Flames to do a new album that doesn’t suck then I still strongly recommend that you check this out, odds are you will really enjoy it. But for the die hard thrashers, traditionalists and old farts out there, by all means check it out, just go into expecting more Lamb of God than Master of Puppets.
(7/10 Mark Gleed)