Meshuggah The Violent Sleep Of Reason2016 Nuclear Blast Records
Don't sleep on this one.
Meshuggah are one of the rare few artists whose sound has become so distinctive that they’ve not only helped inspire—for better or for worse—a genre (*cough* djent,) they’re also commonly used as a descriptor when discussing metal at large. Over the years their definitive brand of polyrhythmic downtuned insanity has often been imitated, but never truly duplicated, largely thanks to their ability to up the ante when it comes to technical ability and pure stamina.
No surprise then that with “The Violent Sleep Of Reason” they have once again unleashed an aural experience powerful enough to fracture a tectonic plate. However, unlike past technologically aided outings, this eighth full-length effort has a decidedly more human aesthetic. You may have already read that this album was recorded live in the studio. The decision to do so has largely removed the sterile aesthetic that began to pervade their music from “Catch Thirtythree” onward.
Technological advances in recording technology have surely been a blessing for the band over the years, but too much reliance on them also made some of their songs sound a bit too methodical. You’d still be hardpressed to find flaws present on “The Violent Sleep Of Reason“, but there’s a much livelier current that surges throughout it. There’s a relatable air of human determination that ensures the songs don’t feel overtly mechanical and gridded out.
As a whole, Meshuggah aren’t out to push boundaries or explore new environs here. They seem more interested in reasserting their dominance on the prized territory they’ve long since claimed as their own. You’re not going to find clean vocals or some melancholic/elegiac tangent—though the haunting ambiance that closes out “Stifled” does come close.
Instead the band test your perseverance with a dense rhythmic onslaught jagged enough to chip concrete with each snare hit and an brutish downpour of riffs that paralyze with intricacy and sheer heaviness. If that’s not enough there’s always the oft overlooked harshly barked vocals of Jens Kidman to shear off a few layers of your flesh.
Honestly, it’s likely your first listen to “The Violent Sleep Of Reason” will leave you little more than flattened. It’s essentially nearly an hour of being crushed amongst the gears of some monolithic industrial apparatus. You really only have time to appreciate the smaller things amidst the battering. The spiraling riff that sounds like a drill bit alternating between forward and reverse in “MonstroCity” comes to mind.
So does the drugged out carnival theme that kicks in around 40% of the way into the title track. “By The Ton” meanwhile features riffs so gouging you wonder if they were played with claw hammers instead of picks. Ultimately though, it’s not until the closing track that the Swedish juggernauts finally relent and reduce the tempo to a comparative dirge, leaving you a brief few moments to assess the rubble left behind.
“The Violent Sleep Of Reason” doesn’t employ gimmicks to command its respect and it’s likely you’ll have to put in a little work to appreciate what they’ve done here. It’s hard to pick apart the subtle improvements when the band are so viciously pounding you into submission. Dynamics are trumped by momentum, but when put in the context of Meshuggah‘s catalog, this latest effort readily builds upon their legacy and finds them sounding as fierce as ever.