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Meshuggah are a band that are constantly evolving. Whilst they may have started out with a lack of originality on the album "Contradictions Collapse" which owes more to thrash and speed metal, they have took the steps to evolve forward and create more memorable albums. I don't know if "Catch 33" will be their be all, end all masterpiece, as by the way they are going, the next album could top even this!
For those new to Meshuggah, this is music that is abstract and ahead of it's time. Perhaps the answer to keeping metal original is to keep pushing the boundaries and even embrace influences from non metal genres? "Catch 33" takes in jazz complexities to create a truly complex and original 47 minute journey. To describe the sound of Meshuggah, I shall welcome in those who love technical metal that plays at death metal standards. The 8 string guitars churn out some disgustingly low and heavy riffs. The only true emotions to get out of the music and lyrics are paranoia, fear and intense coldness. The lyrics are bleak and philosophical. These lyrics aren't what you would expect from the extreme metal genre. One way of describing them is to imagine how a robot or a cold, angular machine with sharp edges would view humanity if it could process any kind of thought.
What is it that makes "Catch 33" so good? Aside from being a bold and daring experiment, what amazes me most about this album is how much thought has gone into the complexity. So many odd time signatures, yet it never sounds offputtingly busy. However it is a complete mindfuck if you try and follow the rhythmic passages or unpredictable time signatures. Meshuggah have proved that you don't need to be fast to be mindblowingly heavy, as the tempo's on this album run rather slowly. The riffs are chuggy and powerful and succeed in their brutality, not only by using intense detuning but played to rhythms that make them sound hypnotic and mezmerizing.
"Catch 33" owes a lot to progressive metal. This certainly a progressive 47 minute ongoing piece of music. Possibly the only prog metal related album to contain no extended gutiar soloing, endless shredding and wankery! The vocals are so harsh that they sound like Jens is incapable of human emotion. The only real opportunity to find any beauty is in "Minds Mirrors", a cosmic and spacey transition in the album that reflects "Cosmic Sea" by Death, or the album "Focus" by Cynic. The drums have been programmed concisely on a drum machine, but this does not at all detract from the music experience, if anything it makes the experiment more successful and I would never have been able to tell it was computerised drumming if I hadn't read it in the credits. Thomas Haake is an incredible drummer and is so complex and consise and he definitely could have played the drumming if the drum programming wasn't used. The rhythm section of the band is impressive and something they have took time to master. It all falls into place with this album, as hinted by the previous EP "I".
The journey of mind melting death jazz can be summarised in the way that it is a journey. The first 3 tracks may sound similar to the untrained ear, but they are actually different in the way they have been constructed. The slow riff that sounds like a robotic killing machine pounding a human skull into dust keeps on building and building over the first 3 short tracks. This is the idea, to build up more and more. In "The Paradoxial Spiral" the angular riffage drains out into a cold tremlo picking of a single note that leaves the listener in fear until it finally explodes. The album gets more and more brutal until it reaches its centrepoint. Everything calms down a little for "Minds Mirrors". But this track is the mere taking in of breathe before the true plunge into the depths begins. The second half of the album is true annihilation. relentless brutality, more complexity, more interesting and epic. Jens vocals keep the listener on the edge of the seat as they work so freely over offbeat guitars that work like no other metal tune has been structured.
Meshuggah are the future of metal, and to hear "Catch 33" is to be convinced that these guys have actually come from the future and somehow landed in 2005! This is a masterpiece that pushes the boundaries of metal. It's bands like Meshuggah that are keeping metal alive and breathing, and making sure that it can still be original. It may take a few listens to truly "get" or appreciate this work but it is very much worth the effort. This is recommended for fans of extreme brutal metal, and who aren't threatened by complex, technical music. Otherwise I suggest sticking with earlier works such as "Contradictions Collapse" or "Destroy/Erase/Improve". Lets just hope the machine that is Meshuggah doesn't spiral out of control too soon!