I have been following Meshuggah for a long time. In fact thinking back, having first discovered them when I was 15 years old, being 30 now means I have literally been listening to them for half my life.
Which is a very scary thought indeed.
So obviously I am a big fan, but over the last few years I have developed an opinion on their recent output that has proven to be fairly divisive whenever it comes up in conversation. And since this is my first time actually reviewing one of their albums, it seems like the perfect place to start.
With every album they put out Meshuggah were on an incredible musical journey, experimenting and evolving with every album, and forging an often imitated sound that has changed the face of metal music forever. For me this journey sadly seemed to end when I felt that they peaked creatively with the incredible Catch 33 album. That album was a true classic. But to quote that immortal line “the struggle to free myself from restraints becomes my very shackles”. I felt that line had turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The follow up Obzen (whilst still miles ahead of any ordinary metal band) disappointed me a little. Whilst it had some truly incredible moments (who doesn’t love
bleed?) as an album it just wasn’t as ground-breaking and consistent overall as I had come to expect from them. And Equally the next album Koloss didn’t do much for me. Whilst still excellent it just felt a little pedestrian. And so I had figured that Meshuggah had backed themselves into a corner creatively. And maybe that was true, because when an animal is cornered is when it is at its most vicious and dangerous…. and with this latest offering Meshuggah have come out fighting, and anyone who stands in their way is certain to be savagely mauled.
From when I hit play, it took about a minute for an opinion I have spent 10 years forming to be completely shattered. This album instantly makes its presence felt, and stakes it claim as the most ferocious and energetic thing the band have ever done, and this instant feeling only grows over the course of the album.
Whilst this is an original studio album, these songs were recorded live, and so everything has been stripped back to a much more raw and aggressive sound than the band has previously enjoyed. The Instruments are truly pummelling. And the vocals are dry and raw. It’s a beautiful sound in the most horrific way. It is a sound that not only Meshuggah but modern metal in general has been crying out for. To both perform music this complex and have your vocals laid bare in this manner requires serious balls, and serious talent. And Meshuggah have made it very clear here that they have more than enough of both to spare.
The songs truly sound monstrous, and the writing behind them takes things to yet another level of excellence. They contain everything you will have come to expect from Meshuggah, and I really do mean everything. They have a lot more range and dynamics than I was expecting. From the trademark pulsating low end riffs from the Nothing album and the disjointed vocal masterclass of Catch 33, to the twitchy grooves they had back on Destroy, Erase, Improve and everything in between. In some ways each track sounds like a condensed, self contained Meshuggah greatest hits, and somehow also manages to sound completely new and fresh at the same time.
To put it simply, it sounds like they are a lot more interested and enjoying what they doing here more than they have in a long time. And so in turn the album is a lot more interesting and enjoyable to listen to.
To my ears this is Meshuggah’s finest album to date. This is the most enthused and vital they have sounded in a long time, perhaps ever. This album is a bold statement. A powerful, vicious display of sheer excellence that is certain to remind every so called “Djent” band which dog still run’s the yard, and always will.
This album has not only addressed every criticism I had of Meshuggah over the last 10 years but also of modern metal in general. This is simply a masterpiece. It is as perfect an example of a Modern classic as you could ever hope to find.
(10/10 Mark Gleed)