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Masterpiece in Mentality - 100%

Deadwired, November 9th, 2005

If there ever was a band to cause such unneccessary waves in Metal, it's Meshuggah. I always thought it was kind of ironic that the word 'dichotomy' seems to be one of Meshuggah's favourite ideals and lyrical themes, when Meshuggah's music causes one. "Catch 33," Meshuggah's newest album, is a new exercise in brutality brought upon by very ambiguous manners. It also sheds light on the situation that Meshuggah have put people into, here.

Essentially, Meshuggah is the definition of Avant-Garde Metal. Comparing them to their fundamental counterparts would be like comparing Rush to Black Sabbath, the only difference being you can hear up-front what makes Rush sound like they'd define the future of Metal. Let's face it, everyone loves Black Sabbath, but I can't count more Rush clones off-hand than Sabbath clones. Hell, I'm pretty sure all of you have heard of Dream Theater before. Back to my point, though. Meshuggah didn't start with Black Sabbath, nor pissing on Bibles. Meshuggah started with Allan Holdsworth. Since the beginning of Meshuggah's career, they've sounded different, as even though they were one of millions of Metallica emulators, they sounded drastically different. Their sense of theory sounded so far removed from Metal that even if it sucked, you'd still think to yourself: "Wow, what a weird approach." Fundamentally, that is where the line between Meshuggah fans and haters is drawn.

Catch 33 is an album from a band that cannot be confined by genres. Technical Post-Thrash, Progressive Metal, Math Metal, Jazz Metal, Death Metal... Meshuggah's tried them all on, and still nothing sticks. That's the brilliance of Meshuggah, and the brilliance of their latest flag-ship release. Catch 33 is just weird. Meshuggah is a band for weird people to revel in weird music. Their weird theories are converted intelligently into weird audible notions through very subtle manners. Want to know what it's like to be high? Trace one of the myriad of time signatures going on in a Meshuggah song. Try to predict one of Tomas Haake's drum patterns and feel yourself stumble mentally over and over again as you constantly get it wrong.

Catch 33 is brilliant in that aspect because it's so many things but still far-removed from itself. You know exactly what you're going to hear, but it's not what you hear, even though it still is what you hear. The technical differences that are present upon output only vary slightly from what you'd expect, and even though upfront you wouldn't be able to tell the difference if you were just remembering a single riff, but you wouldn't be able to reproduce it either. Being a long-time Meshuggah fan, I knew exactly what was coming after Nothing and I, but even then, I was still blown away after I heard this album. Moments like "Mind's Mirrors" and "In Death-Is Life" and it's counter-part, sister track(The end of "Sum" felt like a Neurosis-brand of redemption) caught me off-guard, even though I knew that this sort of thing wouldn't be far-removed for Meshuggah, it's more like a mystery in why they chose that certain musical route to take.

I've heard people complain about how the first few songs all utilize the same riffs, but when you bring the time of the songs into perspective, these assaults just seem trivial. The first three tracks are pretty much the same riff, yeah, but look at the lengths. Never longer than two minutes. The point of making these songs like this is to set the mood for the album, which is imperative to interpret what you're hearing. The riff slowly gnaws it's way into your head, making a hole just wide enough to put the barrel in. It's not until "Mind's Mirrors" that you start to realize this isn't just a gun, it's a fucking Howitzer.

Meshuggah is all about mentality. I'm not going to say that people just don't understand Meshuggah, because Meshuggah are no great mystery. Meshuggah have just shifted away from the fundamental and conservative aspects of brutality and ushered in an original and potent method that uses structure instead of sound. Overtones instead of bludgeoning riffs off the tip of the latest blast-beat in a series of a million. There's a mindset you have to be in to feel full-force what Meshuggah's aim is, and a mindset to see how incredibly accurately they hit the mark.

(*If you're an active musician, then you're definitely going to pick up on Meshuggah's structurally trippy stylings. Also sample some of the various styles of riffing used here. One thing most people don't seem to understand about Meshuggah is that while their songs do often sound alike, there's such a multi-faceted technical approach to them that if you're a musician, "Autonomy Lost" and "Re-Inanimate" are going to sound as different as a feather falling and a bomb exploding would.)