Meshuggah: 'Koloss' roundtable review
'Koloss' is indeed a colossus in every sense of the word. With it comes the incalculable wave of expectation, discussion and hype. With nearly all eyes in the djent community on this leviathan of an album, the got-djent.com team got together to try and make some sense of it.
Klonere: I discovered Meshuggah in 2007. Being a huge Dream Theater fan I started looking to expand my taste in metal beyond the obvious proggy stuff. I kept hearing and seeing the name 'Meshuggah'. So I got 'Chaosphere' first, then 'I', and was completely blown away by the sheer heaviness and uniqueness of their sound. It really opened up a whole new avenue in music for me. My favourite album is 'Catch 33', which really lead me away from the proggy side of music and would be in my top 5 albums of all time.
Meowzer: I discovered Meshuggah at the same time I discovered the whole "djent" scene, which was not that long ago at all. I think 'Catch 33' and 'Nothing' are about the same ranking on my favourite albums list. I know a lot of my more traditional metal friends really hated 'Catch 33' for whatever reason. I guess that goes to show I am more of a tech junkie than them. I can't say that I am a huge Meshuggah fan, but the last few albums they have put are definitely heading in the right direction for my personal taste.
Clarity: I don't have a solid background in Meshuggah because I never was a fan of theirs. I knew the name before I heard about the whole "djent" scene and when I gave their stuff a couple of spins I didn't like it much. I've heard a couple of albums: 'I', 'Catch 33', and 'obZen', before I listened to 'Koloss'.
Marinos_Revenant: I found out about Meshuggah in 2006. A friend of mine was reading Metal Hammer and he told me about a band that released a CD that was just one song and that they were so experimental. Around that time they re-released 'Nothing', so I heard it at the same time with 'Catch 33'. At first I didn’t like it much, but I continued to listen to it over and over, until one day 'Catch 33' became one of my favourite albums ever. For me 'Catch 33', 'Nothing' and 'Obzen' are very solid works and I love them. I am not too much into their older stuff, like 'Contradictions Collapse' or maybe some of 'Destroy Erase Improve'.
'Koloss' album artwork.
Expectations from the album
Meowzer: After listening to 'Obzen', I never really gave it a legitimate chance. I have to say that, lyrically, considering their earlier works it sounded even less like they went through a thesaurus to try and find the most disgusting synonyms, like 'Cadaverous Mastication'. Anyway, my expectations were what came out of it. Definitely more style, more finesse, than trying to be super experimental. It sounds like they have really found their sound and are now working on being awesome.
Clarity: I personally didn't expect much. However, following the whole hype, I was hoping they would live up to their name.
Klonere: I was very interested to see where they were going to go. On 'Obzen' they took their whole sound, like the thrashy stuff on 'Combustion', the slower 'Nothing' and their 'Catch 33' stuff, and put it all on one disc. I was thinking, what can they do now; they can't really do 'Obzen' again and combine their whole sound. They had to do something new and interesting.
Marinos_Revenant: I didn't have too many expectations. I loved what they have done so far, what they have accomplished, and thought they couldn't go any further. I wanted them to do something similar to what they were doing but to go in a slightly different direction.
Klonere: I'm not gonna lie, the first time I listened, I said to myself "This is the new Meshuggah and I am not excited for it at all, is there something wrong with me?". The first song 'I Am Colossus' completely turned me off the album, it was kinda like 'Stengah' from 'Nothing', except worse in every way, it came off as really boring until the very end. The main problem I had with the album when I first listened to it, all the good bits of the songs were towards the ends of them. The songs start to progress but then they just abruptly end. There are few of them that bring in a new idea at the last possible moment or miss out on opportunities to expand the song. In general, my first impressions were not good, but I think that’s just the nature of this album.
Meowzer: I totally agree with the first track being one of the most boring things I have ever heard come out of Meshuggah. I think it was a terrible way to open the album. After about 10 minutes of listening to the band, I get a splitting headache, because it’s just so heavy. But I appreciate them for their technicality and talent, that's why I still listen! There are certain tracks that are intermittently placed throughout the album that I thought were typical Meshuggah, and there were some gems where most of their parts really stood out.
Marinos_Revenant: I, on the other hand, was blown away when I first heard the album. It started very aggressively, and when the lyrics came in: "I am the great leviathan, the insatiable colossus", I thought that was very cool. I agree that many songs have some riffs that get a little boring, like 'Behind the Sun' or 'The Hurt that Finds You First'. I loved 'Demiurge' even though I thought it was kind of simple for a Meshuggah song.
Clarity: When I first heard this album I thought, "Damn this is really boring". I wasn't impressed at all, to say the least, and could hardly bring myself to get back to it again. But then I started to listen to it as background music and it grew on me, but only just a bit. I still couldn't distinguish between most of the songs, I only remembered the last one because it was very much different from the whole album, being melodic and everything.
Music video for 'Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion'.
The last song ‘The Last Vigil’ is similar to the outro of ‘Catch 33’ but somewhat less unnerving, what do you think about it?
Clarity: My impression is that the band got bored of writing their music and decided "let’s put in some ambient stuff at the end" just to create some diversity. What I would have liked is for them to take this song and disperse it throughout the whole album to create some overall ambience instead of all at once. The album lacks melodic elements; I know it’s Meshuggah, but still I wouldn’t mind hearing some melodic riffs.
Marinos_Revenant: I was hoping that this song would be somewhere in the middle of the album; it would have been much better. When I got to 'The Last Vigil' I waited for some cool heavy riff to come in and blow me away, but it didn’t happen.
Meowzer: As far as I can tell, there is no underlying concept across this album. That being the case, this is another collection of really heavy music. The only purpose I see of that track being at the end is just Meshuggah’s way of saying "This is the end, this is where we stop being heavy."
Klonere: I think Marinos said it best. If it was in the middle of the album, it would have been great. The entire album is very heavy and repetitive, so in the middle of the album it would have made a great break and time to take a rest. The only other reason why it would be there is just because of the name, 'The Last Vigil'.
How did your opinion of the album change after a few listens?
Klonere: After my bad first impressions, I thought "Oh God, I'm going to have to give this a bad review, I'm not looking forward to this". Then I listened to it a few more times, and it inevitably grew on me. I've started enjoying it more and more, and got more subtleties to the riffs that I first thought were really repetitive. I've started to appreciate a new direction of the production where everything is a lot richer. I really liked 'Swarm', 'Demiurge' and 'The Demon's Name Is Surveillance' despite its really ham-fisted lyrics. I think I've heard the album around ten and a bit times, and I still can tell that I'll probably be listening to it more and enjoy it more, so at the moment there's still a room for it to grow for me. In my opinion it's a solid album, and definitely not as bad as I firstly thought it was.
Meowzer: When I first listened to this album I thought "Oh, cool, this doesn't sound like an old Meshuggah, it sounds like a new Meshuggah, and this is what I want to listen to", so this is pretty good compared to the rest of the band's material. I'm not their biggest fan, so there’s a really low ceiling of enjoyment I get out of it. There are a couple of songs that sound like old Meshuggah: they are really slow, and it kind of bores me a little bit. However, some of the tracks have grown on me, for example 'Swarm', which I didn't dig at first, and 'Demiurge', because it starts out with that really alien feel. It's really hard for me to think back on each of these songs and recognize something different about them, except for the fact that "oh, that’s that song that dies at the very end when you’re expecting more".
Clarity: After a few more listens the album did not seem so boring as it did at first. Sometimes you don’t like an album from the first time, but after a few more spins it becomes one of the best things you’ve ever heard; although that was not the case with 'Koloss'. For me, not being a big fan of the band, the album in general was mediocre. If it wasn’t for this review I’m not sure I’d get back to it after my first listen.
Marinos_Revenant: What I liked about Meshuggah's old albums is the crazy progressive stuff that you couldn’t get into instantly, so I was listening to it again and again to the point where I started to understand what’s going on. I liked how it grew on me, but it took lots of time to do that. 'Koloss', when I first heard it, seemed more straightforward and simpler. Some songs that I found to be interesting in the beginning started to feel boring with time, and I began to like the more progressive ones. I knew from the outset that I wouldn't be impressed as much as I was when I first started to listen to the band, but I loved this album anyway. The only bad thing for me was that I started to get bored faster than with their previous records.
Meowzer: So, in general the summary seems to be that you really have to listen to this album a lot for your opinion of it to change.
Album artwork for 'ObZen', Meshuggah's previous full-length album.
Thoughts about the vocals
Klonere: Personally, I can say that Jens hasn’t lost anything; on every Meshuggah album so far, there are a couple of bits where I’m like, "yeah, Jens really killed it there". He was either sounding even more angry than usual, or he played off the rhythm very well, or had his own vocal line that was really cool. Here, I find that his vocals add nothing to the music. Maybe it’s just me getting tired of Jens, because he has this style which fits with the band and is completely integral to their sound, but it’s just so monotonous that it’s getting on my nerves.
Meowzer: Well, I suppose I consider myself a vocalist - it’s what I aspire to do - and I hear a lot of people say that vocalists in metal in general don’t add an awful lot to the music, except for maybe a selected few. Jens yells pretty much the same on everything, there’s no emotion; it sounds like it is there just to fit in, because this is metal and being angry in metal is the thing to do. I can’t say it’s bad, I think he yells quite well; it’s not like he has problems doing it. His screams become cleaner with every new album, but I’m not super impressed by it.
Clarity: I think Jens' vocals are one of the things that make Meshuggah the band we all know: they form an important part of the band's music and I find them fitting to their overall sound; they meld quite nicely with the music. That’s why I can’t say they add nothing. In my opinion they add lots of aggressiveness and emotions.
Marinos_Revenant: To be honest I’m not into vocals so much as I am into the instrumental aspects of the music, although this does not mean that if a song has crappy vocals I will still listen to it. I just don’t pay much attention to the vocals. I like Jens' tone and the fact that he’s so steady. For some people it’s disturbing that he doesn’t do much with his voice, but I have associated it with Meshuggah's music. I haven’t read the lyrics for this album, so I’m not sure in which direction they go. In general, I feel that his singing became a little better.
Klonere: Yeah, they don't sound as robotic as they did before.
Klonere: The production is really good and is a very refreshing change. The drums immediately hit you because they sound real, like you can feel Haake is sitting down there, playing the kit. The guitars are the same djenty ones that we have all come to know from Meshuggah - super low, crunchy and all around heavy. But there is more of a warmth to them, which is strange because many bands are using digital sound techniques to get that heavy sound. Meshuggah have got that really warm, yet really heavy guitar sound, and I find it really impressive. The vocals are a lot more raw as well, you can definitely hear that there is a lot more wetness to Jens’s voice.
Meowzer: For the production quality in general you hit great points with that. It sounds a lot warmer, the vocals sound more human certainly and the drums, I don’t pay a lot of attention to them, but I did notice they stand out more. It doesn’t sound so heavily produced and terribly djenty and digital.
Clarity: I personally don’t pay attention to the production. If I do, that means that it is very crappy, which you don't expect from a band like Meshuggah.
Marinos_Revenant: I agree with you about the production, for me it was great and I liked it, although it was nothing special, because nowadays you can get great results and very good sounding albums from good studios. I liked that they didn’t go with the same djenty sound that they pioneered and everyone is now trying to copy. The guitars sound like they are coming out of real amplifiers and you can hear the attack of picks scraping on the strings.
Meshuggah: Dick Lövrgen, Mårten Hagström, Tomas Haake, Fredrik Thordendal and Jens Kidman.
Highlight songs and overall marks
Klonere: My favourite song on the entire album is probably 'Demiurge' because of its atmosphere. Unlike a lot of the songs on the album, the riff that they established in this one is reasonably repetitive, but they do a lot with it as the song progresses, and there is also the whole atmosphere of this track. It is a really solid piece of music that actually progresses, unlike a lot of the other songs. Another song that I liked is 'The Demon's Name Is Surveillance' because it’s like: "hey, we’re gonna make a thrash song" and that’s exactly what they did, and it’s awesome. There are no other real stand-out songs for me, everything is really solid, everything is really well produced, the album isn’t too long, but kind of like with Veil Of Maya's album 'Eclipse', there is nothing amazing about it. There is no flow to it either, the songs do not lead into each other at all, there is no real pacing and 'The Last Vigil' being the last song is a really strange decision.
Overall mark: 7/10
Meowzer: 'Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave Them Motion' is one of my favourites because of its groove and syncopation. I have a lot of fun listening to it, and I don’t do it for the darkness or emotion, because I can’t really find any. It is Meshuggah, it’s all just alien and evil. I also liked 'Marrow' and 'Demiurge', because of their foreign feel, and especially in 'Marrow' there is that great bass sound, that resonates and feels good. I can’t do anything but compare Meshuggah to the rest of Meshuggah.
Overall mark: 9/10
Clarity: For me there are two highlight songs. 'Demiurge', because of that riff, and 'Do Not Look Down', because somehow I feel like dancing every time I listen to it; it has this cool rhythm. Generally the album has some good moments here and there, but not any awesome moments. However, I didn’t expect much from this album, so it has almost lived up to my expectations.
Overall mark: 6/10
Marinos_Revenant: There are three highlight songs for me. 'The Demon's Name Is Surveillance', because it is very thrashy and straightforward. I liked it from the very beginning and I still enjoy it every time. 'Do Not Look Down' has this great riff that keeps going on and evolves throughout the song and is so groovy and heavy. Finally 'Demiurge' is also one of my favourite tracks; the riffs around the middle blew my mind when I first heard it. In general I loved the album, the only thing I did not like much is that some of the songs aren’t so solid and have some mediocre parts in them, which wasn't the case on previous releases.
Overall mark: 9/10
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