Meshuggah Still Refuses to be Subdued
I won't take the time to write a long introduction for this review. Everyone here should know who Meshuggah are, everyone here should have heard a large portion of their work by now. As always, they are still defying expectations. 'Koloss' is, of course, a phenomenally good record, and more than that; I really like it. It's phenomenal. If you're interested in why, read on.
The album's artwork certainly reflects the music - its complex, dark structures pile up upon each other, converging in a mass of shapes that create the overall image that the artist intended. Although Meshuggah's mathematical wizardry may seem subdued in this album, upon closer inspection, it is as omnipresent as ever - it's just sunken even deeper into the foundation of the music. None of the polymeters and polyrhythms stick out as much as they do on previous bone jarring tracks like 'Spasm' and 'Straws Pulled at Random', and the speeds don't reach up to some of the extremes seen on the 21 minute monster, 'I', but the Swedes have certainly not lost their extreme touch. There's still a lot of experimentation, and that's always good.
Of course, all of the members are still at the top of their game - Haake's drumming still kicks ass at extreme speeds, Thorendal's solos are just as creative and strange as ever, and Jens Kidman seems more menacing than ever before. Mårten Hagström's rhythm guitar is so well performed that it seems almost otherworldly, and Dick Lövgren's bass work is still there in all the right places. Never before have they intermingled this well - the guitarists could be going all Dark Tranquillity and switching off between parts and I wouldn't even notice. 'Koloss' just sounds well written, well performed, and well mixed.
The album starts off with the slow, "Meshuggah at half speed" 'I am Colossus'. Though it's very interesting, the song is quite simple in its melodies, and isn't really a highlight of the album. The same cannot be said for 'The Demon's Name is Surveillance'. When Thomas Haake said in their interview a while ago that this song was written in waltz, I flipped out. I knew it would be great. It is. 'Surveillance' is easily the fastest song on the album, seeming more like a mid paced 12/8 than the supersonic waltz that it is. It's catchy, technical, and just plain cool. It sounds slightly like 'Bleed', but with absolutely no breaks. Four minutes and forty seconds of non-stop death metal waltz.
There's way too much in the rest of the album to go over fully here, but a few other highlights are 'Marrow', which has, in my opinion the best groove since the 'Nothing' album, and is nearly as addicting as the second track. 'Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion' has insanely addictive low-end and is a great all-around song. The final track, 'Last Vigil' is just as atmospheric as anything coming out of today's djent bands, and is a deliberately simple, straightforward, bare bones song.
Whereas many say that 'Koloss' is a response to the "djent" movement, I'm going to take Mesuggah's word for this album - they say they really haven't been listening to it and don't know much about the whole scene - and that certainly seems true, given 'Koloss's bleak, atmospheric, more subtle sound. It doesn't seem to be a reaction, but just a progression of Meshuggah's natural sound. I, of course, highly recommend 'Koloss' to anyone who is a fan of extreme metal. It will be copied by others, hated by a few, and lauded by many, and although it might not be as catchy or as distinctive as previous releases, it certainly will not be forgotten.
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- Josef Kořínský