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Ehhhhhhh... - 70%

Noktorn, February 15th, 2008

The isn't my least favorite Meshuggah album per se, but it is probably the one I willingly listen to the least, just because I don't generally have the attention span required to absorb it all, because, as you know, the whole album is one song split into a bunch of different tracks. So no individual track is going to carry any meaning, since they generally have one or two riffs each at most, and at least repeat the same riffs over multiple tracks (the first two tracks do this, and the third has a variation on that one riff), and if you want to get the 'real experience', you'll have to sit down for the whole forty-seven-minute running time of the album. Rarely, very rarely, does the mood strike me to listen to that much of what comes down to variations on the same general riff and musical ideas. Meshuggah has been repetitive for quite some time now, but never have they been this punishingly ambient. Because that's what this really is: ambient music. Not metal; it just happens to have heavy guitars, drums (or drum machine, actually) and gruff, shouting vocals.

Ambient music thrives off of small degrees of change over long periods of time, which is also something that Meshuggah thrives off of, but never before have the changes been so slow and tiny, resulting in collections of change that you don't notice until ten minutes later when you realize you're listening to something completely different. In that regard, it's very organic music, as mechanical as it is. Stylistically, as far as instrumental sound goes, it's still Meshuggah, though it is generally less dense than the superheavy, superthick compositions on albums like 'Chaosphere', with more spacious, mid-paced riffing taking up good chunks of the album's running time. They're still crazy time signature'd as ever, but the guitars and drums seem to do less battle with each other and mesh a bit more naturally than usual. There's no grinding industrial madness like 'New Millenium Cyanide Christ', and there are even points on the album where Meshuggah seems to harken back to the marginally more gentle 'Destroy Erase Improve' days with tracks like 'Mind's Mirrors', which is sort of this album's equivalent to 'Acrid Placidity'.

While it's very well put together in an abstract way, I don't find the songs (or song, rather) as enjoyable as those on other Meshuggah albums. I appreciate it more than 'Chaosphere' because it has a greater level of ambition behind it; there's a lot of rote high/low chugging, but it's rote high/low chugging with a supposed sense of purpose behind it. At the same time, a lot of the rote high/low chugging isn't very interesting to hear. This is a more rhythmically dependent album than perhaps any Meshuggah release before it, and rhythm only keeps me SO interested; sometimes I want something to grab my attention more than just awkward rhythms and riffs. I don't know, I guess I'd prefer this album if it were a bit more artistic and a bit less mathematical. It almost feels like the release was machined out based on mathematical computations more than it was composed by real people, and the occasional 'warm' moment, like the dissonant, hovering lead guitar or the synthesized vocals on 'Mind's Mirrors' have a sort of uncanny valley effect that just draws attention even more to how mechanical the whole album is.

This is another one of those albums that I like substantially more as a theoretical piece than as an album to be listened to for the purpose of entertainment. It's good for study, and showing friends what metal can be like, and challenging yourself, and doing a million things that really don't have anything to do with simply listening at all. It's not like this is offensive; I can put it on in the background and it never distracts me, but that's precisely the problem: it never distracts me because everything is moving in such a crawling and overtly smooth fashion that it all seems to go by both very quickly and almost painfully slowly at once. It's an album that's full of moments but doesn't seem to have any movement, if that makes sense. I prefer Meshuggah when they're more song-y, though this is cool in some ways.