Meshuggah

Koloss

Written by: AP on 31/03/2012 00:19:31

Meshuggah are widely regarded as the original proprietors of the djent movement, having coined the term and revolutionized the way we perceive metal, and music in general. But even before the birth of the genre, Meshuggah were known for conceiving of fusions no one had attempted before and executing them with unparalleled tenacity, skill and speed. But over the years, Meshuggah's songwriting has gradually moved further away from speed and ferocity, and begun draping the band in an engulfing atmosphere of menace. Three years have passed since "obZen" perfected the algorithm and Meshuggah were crowned as the undisputed kings of experimental metal, and the time has come to judge whether or not the band's latest goliath, "Koloss", can measure up to its ingenuity.

Though almost no other band could ever dream to write an album full of such technical mastery, "Koloss" is hindered somewhat by the absence of a red chord in the vein of "obZen", "Nothing" and "Catch 33". Within the space of three songs the band has introduced three entirely unlike songs in "I am Colossus", a droning chugathlon pierced in the middle by a wailing echo from the netherworld; "The Demon's Name is Surveillance", a hypnotic exercise in constancy, with a grueling backdrop of pummeling double pedals that would have any other drummer collapse from exhaustion; and "Do Not Look Down", a showcase for the irresistible grooves that this band so effortlessly musters up on demand, and without a question the most quintessentially djent song on the album. Recalling that "obZen" began in near equivalent fashion with "Combustion", "Electric Red" and "Bleed", it is difficult not to make a direct comparison between the two albums, and in this sense "Koloss" falls slightly short because "Do Not Look Down" is not quite as enthralling as its counterpart "Combustion"; the chug-driven approach of "I am Colossus" is not quite as impactful as the slow-burning dissonance of "Electric Red"; and the eerie shredding of "The Demon's Name is Surveillance" never bores quite as deep as the punishing time distortion of "Bleed".

Some might say the comparison, however inevitable, is unjust because "obZen" is widely regarded as one of the finest metal albums of the previous decade. But then Meshuggah have always been ones to overstep the boundaries of the genre, and consequently each new release must face towering expectations. Metal needs bands like Meshuggah to continue pushing the envelope in order to reinvent itself. And despite briefly venturing deep into their thrashing origins on "The Hurt That Finds You First", I find it nigh impossible to claim that Meshuggah aren't doing just that. The relentless technicality and the inexorable staccato crush of Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström's eight-string guitars are but the tip of the iceberg now, while the anxious tension instilled by the grinding of disparate instrumental elements that work both towards and against each other has risen to be their most identifiable contribution. Atmosphere truly plays a vital role in Meshuggah's music now, with bizarre and terrifying howls of melody piercing the bleak dystopian tone that defines "Koloss". "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion" and "Swarm" are perfect examples of the monolithic core of Meshuggah's songs shifting to reveal a cataclysmic maelstrom of melodies unlike anything you will have heard before. The question is if they're pushing it enough this time.

"Koloss" comprises three types of songs: the entrancing ones that sound like malignant interstellar signals and recall the obscurity of songs like "Bleed" - exemplified here by "The Demon's Name is Surveillance", "Behind the Sun", "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion", and "Demiurge"; the more immediate ones characterized by their groove and headbanging tempo - represented by "Do Not Look Down", "Marrow" and "Swarm"; and the simplistic, retrospective and odd picks which coincide with the weakest songs on the album - embodied by "I am Colossus", "The Hurt That Finds You First" and the entirely clean conclusive piece "The Last Vigil". It is because of the inclusion of the latter three that "Koloss" ultimately falls short of the grandeur disseminated by the remaining songs; they feel disjointed in the context of the big picture, the album as a whole. Even so, however, there is no denying the magnificence of "Koloss", as the wisdom, talent and ambition behind it supercedes that of any current so-called djent group.

Download: The Demon's Name is Surveillance, Do Not Look Down, Marrow, Swarm, Demiurge
For the fans of: Gojira, Heart of a Coward, TesseracT, Uneven Structure
Listen: Facebook

Release date 23.03.2012
Nuclear Blast

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