Nuclear Blast 2012
It may have been a gradual slope, but over the years Meshuggah‘s songwriting has moved further away from speed and ferocity. These days the band tend to drape themselves in an engulfing atmosphere of menace. No surprise then that their seventh album “Koloss” is an unyielding polyrhythmic cataclysm.
But no longer are Meshuggah pure catharsis. The lower tunings and slower tempos are surely crushing, but their cerebral interplay is what makes them indestructible. An inescapable sonic prison where each monstrous downtuned riff rolls out like a thunder clap, with the battering percussion serving as the ensuing rumble behind it.
Sure the unwitting fathers of djent can (and do) still shred. The drumming alone is enough to knock loose a few fillings. But on “Koloss” the relentless technicality and merciless riffing aren’t the sole focus. The inexorable staccato crush of the guitars may serve as the tip of the spear; but the anxious tension they instill is their most identifiable contribution. The monolithic core of the songs — a quality exemplified by the sludgy bellows of Jens Kidman, is where Meshuggah now put the bulk of their weight.
This has always been an area where Meshuggah excel. The internal grinding of disparate instrumental elements that work both towards and against each other. A near-mechanical give and take that is as heavy as it is inhuman. But it’s not all gloom and submission. As grueling and murky as the overall pace of “Koloss” can feel, it may just be the bands most experimental work to date.
Atmosphere truly plays a key role in the musical oppression the group so willfully impose here. There are innumerable moments of color, not just solos, but actual texture and color. Not only do they breathe life into what would be a numbing experience, but they also pierce the bleak dystopian tone that defines “Koloss“. It’s a wise move and one that feels like a progressive, it not a touch guarded, step forward for the band.
Meshuggah have always remained a divisive listen. A brutal test of endurance to some and a malevolent auditory revelation to others. “Koloss“, as varied and dynamic as it may be, isn’t going to win over the non-believers. But it does feel like the logical next step in the already impressive discography of one of metal’s most enigmatic innovators. An empowering display of pulsing brutality that consistently levels anything in its path, while simultaneously proving that speed isn’t everything.
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