Without a doubt Meshuggah remain titans of the intensely precise area of so-called mathematical metal they have helped to create and champion. However, while not outright bad, some of their recent output has been a bit rocky. Tempos were slowed, ideas were repeated and at one point programmed drums were even enlisted. Given these factors there has been some unrest among the Meshuggah faithful and "obZen" can be viewed as a make or break affair for continued devotion.
Thankfully, much like Neurosis's recent change of heart, "obZen" finds Meshuggah embracing the attitude of their destructive earlier efforts. Instead of relying on bowel-rumbling tuning and drawn out turbulence, the band are back to cunning technical ability and ballistic aggression. Nearly each track included on this effort is guaranteed to sonically atomize the listener. Lyrical themes seem intent to speak out on humankind and its current effect on the earth while avoids the expected air of peachiness and hopefulness in favor of malicious contempt.
Lyrical condemnations aside though, the blistering pace of the songs featured here almost gives them a near hooky nature - a welcome change given the bands somewhat stilted approach as of late. It's not all full throttle though, there are still elements of experimentation as a harmony or an ethereal guitar note can ring out over a thunderous rhythm section. The thing that holds this disc back though is not their renewed sense of hostility, but rather their tendency to retread their own unique sound.
While the group push their technical ability to new extremes, they fall short at creatively elevating themselves past what they've already achieved. In turn, while "obZen" is easily the best Meshuggah album since their landmark releases, it may also hastily be written off as another Meshuggah album by those already burnout on the bands well-exposed characteristics. Regardless, "obZen" is a remarkable return to form and a standout in the bands discography hindered only by its relative lack of adventurousness.
(4 / 5)