obZen 8 ( 2008 ) Combustion / Electric Red / Bleed / Lethargica / ObZen / This Spiteful Snake / Pineal Gland Optics / Pravus / Dancers To A Discordant System
Sweden is a marvellous country that has brought my wife Ikea and brought myself Joel Larsson and now, Meshuggah. Meshuggah appear to specialise in precise crunchingly heavy riffs, powerful screamed vocals and in drummer Tomas Haake have an absolute monster. It's hard to believe he's human at times and also hard to believe Mushuggah would be quite the earthquake they appear to be without his vital contributions. A warning to newcomers, by the way. It's impossible to head-bang to Meshuggah without having three seperate heads, such is their polyrhythmic majesty and sheer intensity! Opening track 'Combustion' is a good indication of things to come as they race out of the traps and do appear to explode somewhere on the way to the finishing line. Spiralling, twisty guitar lines, lorry-loads of ten-ton bass lines all peppered with ferocious drumming and come the mid-section of the track, a suitably demented guitar solo. Plenty of the tracks open with distinctive inviting riffs. 'Lethargica' is such a track with bass lines almost bordering on funk-metal, yet heavier than ten Red Hot Chili Peppers put together, it's fairly safe to say. The noise is almost too overwhelming at times, which is a criticizm as Meshuggah throw everything at the wall in a planned and thought out war on speakers the land over.
'Bleed' is a standout, seven minutes of machine-gun drumming, twisted vocals, bass lines as deep and heavy as barry white's voice and guitar lines serving, rather oddly, as the percussion. The drums do the business, you see. Overall, it's a heavy heavy monster sound and no mistake. 'Dancers To A Discordant System' closes the album with nearly ten minutes of this intensive, will give you a heart-attack 'sound'. It's also possible however, if you give the album and this track in particular repeated plays, to pick out the melodic strands going on. This isn't just heavy guitars and drums for the sake of it. Meshuggah are often either praised or criticized for being 'mathematical', yet as a guitar solo sails in on the six and a half minute mark, a serene beauty in the middle of erupting muddy sludge, you get the idea that Messhugah are more than they appear to be on the surface. 'obZen' won't of course be to everybodies tastes, even if you are a metal fan. They take you to the furthest extremes and dump you out there to make your own way back home. Sometimes we need to experience such things in life.
Joel If Sweden has brought me to you, wait until you see what I'll bring to you!! :) I think you nailed some of the greatness of Meshuggah in your review - they are definitely a band of extremes, and they leave it up to you to find out what's so great about them. As you say, there is more to Meshuggah than what first meets the eye, and I don't think anyone can perceive what's going on from a first listen only. Even if yu get yourself adjusted and tuned in to the music complexity, you'll still have some of the most thoughtful of lyrics to contemplate upon. They take the extreme dehumanization of modern art to another extreme, flip it over, and makes turns the timeline of art into a circle. Because, there is a certain hypnotic beauty in the complex but regular rhythms, there is immense power in the two-note, seemingly out of place guitar lines they sometimes place over the grinding riffs, and there is spot on, clever criticism towards our Western way of living beneath wh! at might at first seem as some dictionary wanking, nodding towards the views of certain Eastern philosphers such as Frithjof Schuon or Seyyed Hossein Nasr. And, once you swallow the entire concept as a whole, any objections against their complexity will lose their meaning, because the complexity of Meshuggah is the complexity of the world.
Meshuggah might not only be some of the most technically refined bands out there, but also the act most convesant with the intellectual world. All that said, I am not all that impressed with obZen. Despite many songs being based around a similar riff, it lacks the homogenic and dynamic feel of Catch 33, which is their magnum opus in my eyes. I also get the feeling that the band was not all that sure about which way to turn after the mentioned album, as half of this album continues in the same hypnotic way, while the other half marks a return to (or further development) of the thrashier sound of Destroy Erase Improve a! nd Chaosphere. Ironically, I generally like the latter songs b! etter. ' Combustion' is proof that they can thrash harder than any band out there, while 'Bleed' is the baddest and meanest song I've ever heard. It's almost ridiculous, I've never heard as much muscles and power in a song before, and I've heard lots. The slow whole note bend the guitars do while chugging that wicked rhythm, it's fantastic. On the other hand, I find 'Lethargica' being pretty dull and boring, and though I like them better, 'Dancers', 'This Spiteful Snake', and 'Electric Red' fail to catch my interest to any greater extent. They rely too much on tom-based grooves that seldom seem to go anywhere. The guitar solo of 'Dancers' is probably the least inspired solo Thordendal has done since the early days. Of course, I like these songs better than 99,9 per cent of all other metal out there, but they don't hold up to the overall standard this band has had since Chaosphere.
I love 'Pravus' and 'obZen', though, the overwhelming heaviness, the song structures, and those g! uitar melodies coming in here and there, glimpses of beauty. 'Pineal Gland Optics', possibly the least undestandable song here, with strange rhythms seemingly floating around at random, but with structure in itself.
I'd consider obZen as equal to Nothing, and if I hadn't heard Catch 33, it'd be a 10 in my book for entirely wiping out and deleting my need for the entire metal genre. There is nothing as massive and all-encompassing as these three last Meshuggah albums.