“obZen” by Meshuggah

Artist: Meshuggah
Title: “obZen”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: 3/11/2008
Genre: Technical Death Metal
Rating: 5/5

In a time where originality in music seems to be fading thing thanks to the likes of American Idol and other “talent” shows of that ilk, and a time where bands are consistently releasing cover albums, symphony albums and unplugged adventures; I am glad that 2008 has offered up new and once again startling music from the mighty Meshuggah. The Swedish quintet have returned to a scene that was quite in need of a visit with their latest studio effort “obZen”, and if you are one of those Metal fans who for some reason have yet to be exposed to the band in all their complexity and genius then the delivery of this one could not have come at a better time. The second that “obZen” begins with “Combustion” we are taken on a roller coaster ride of proportions that one rarely comes off of unscathed and I feel that this is exactly what Meshuggah wants to leave happening in you. If you’re a fan of that which is heavy, “obZen” will work for you. Should you enjoy technical movements that appear to go in dozens of directions all at once only to return to a single starting point, “obZen” will work for you. Have you a high brow appreciation of deep musicality and idea as it applies to Metal music, “obZen” will work for you – am I making some sense here? This all might seem a bit much to comprehend and if you realize this then you are not alone.

While the album on the whole is something that will take you a little bit of time to appreciate and absorb, I need to direct you over to “Bleed” as one of your main tracks of focus because its one of the best examples of what the band is all about. The tune possesses superhuman polyrhythmic drumming by Haake and the Alan Holdsworth guitar style of Fredrik Thordendal, and if you think that these two interpretations of music don’t often go together, well you are absolutely correct – unless it’s Meshuggah who is doing it. There are some readers who don’t know what polyrhythmic drumming is all about and while books have been written about it, very simply put it’s the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent rhythms. Needless to say drummer Tomas Haake seems to be one of the gurus of this when it comes to its application in Metal. These patterns are held together by some low end bass that will rumble and quake your stereo with its ominous deep end care of Dick Lovgren. The album comes at the listener hard and fast and there is not a radio single or guest appearance to be found on it which is something we should be thankful for because despite that being a popular occurrence, the guys in Meshuggah probably have little interest in radio play. Besides, who outside of a select few could make this music any more interesting than it already is? Perhaps Mozart or Frank Zappa, but they are in no way available for such input outside of cerebral inspiration. I think most fans will enjoy the way the two guitarists play off of each other as while Fredrik solos, Hagstrom keeps the razor sharp riffing on the constant attack.

Growling his soul out is their front man Jens Kidman who is also a performer who pulls no punches. His wrenching lyrical experiments bringing to life another favorite of mine on the album “Lethargica”, which will consistent with the vibe on the main core of the album even slows down a little and reminding the listener of some David Gilmour Pink Floyd riffs as far as atmosphere is concerned. “Pravus” is another goodie and more of a straight ahead tune with the lads delving into some Thrash Metal interpretations. This might be the easiest song for the new Meshuggah fan to examine since it also offers up tastes of their different approach but it remains a little more subtle than the rest. It would be safe to say that this is a perfect follow up to the bands historic “Destroy Erase Improve” in terms of technical brutality. The group’s last album was a single contiguous track called “Catch 33” and just after that they delivered up a remixed and remastered (but thankfully not re-recorded) “Nothing”. If this is your first Meshuggah release you now have a list of some of the others that need looking into. The album closes with an epic number of definite Tool-like proportions, the nine plus minute demonstration of thinking man’s Metal – “Dancers To A Discordant System” and when the album concludes you will find yourself giving it another go to see if you can better appreciate what just went past you. The albums nine tracks are housed in a very interesting cover of an apparently wise meditating figure who is somewhat drenched in blood. He appears to be doing this on a sacrificial altar so I would love to know the story behind this one. Clearly Meshuggah has once again stepped up to the game for the fans but also more importantly continue to show why so many people are impressed at that which they do. This is a Heavy Metal Thrill Ride from start to finish. If you have got an appetite for the difference that Metal like this offers, come taste the Meshuggah.

Track Listing:
1. Combustion
2. Electric Red
3. Bleed
4. Lethargica
5. Obzen
6. This Spiteful Snake
7. Pineal Gland Optics
8. Pravus
9. Dancers To A Discordant System

Official Website: www.meshuggah.net

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