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This is terrible, utterly terrible. I like Meshuggah, Destroy Erase Improve was for quite a while the heaviest thing I'd ever heard and they have been able to impress me fairly consistently, even the initially disappointing Nothing has grown me. But this is musical cancer. Not the musically equivalent of having cancer, but the cancer itself, killing all things musical and replacing them with this horrid, melody-free, music-free noise.
What Meshuggah have done on this 21 minute song is go crazy on their time signatures and polymetrics, and forgotten about having any of the music matching up and well, being music, leaving us with this horrible shapeless mess. When they manage to get lucky, and have everything hold together as a unified piece, this is really up there as some of their best work, as there is a lot more energy on offer on this song than the band has offered in other releases around it’s time. In fact, there are few sections I would straight up call fast, rather than a form of aggressive mid-paced attack.
For the main part, this is just a bland album, going from boring chug with tremolo to boring chug with tremolo for about 20 minutes, but there are a few moments that stick out. The problem is most of these moments stick out for a bad reason. In fact, I can think of exactly three moments where I enjoyed what was on offer, and I have to admit that 3:35-4:30 is a truly exceptional piece of listenable-yet-melody-free time signature absurdity. And in that regard, this truly does work better than anything in their discography. They’re had better moments in their past, but those parts have always had melody. There's a couple (exactly two) of good sections after the first ambient break, but both run on for far too long, and are both inevitably ruined by the inclusion of Kidman's awful vocals.
Unfortunately, the list of terribly painful sections is longer than that... much longer. Basically, everything which happens in the first 15 minutes that isn't what I just mentioned is horrid. The intro is initially boring, followed up by a pointless scream with some indistinct music behind it. Then when the actual song begins, you'll quickly see that this 2 minute section was completely unimportant and irrelevant. Haake has a few terrible sections to abuse us with, but I'll discuss more on that later. And ALL of the riffs suck. All of them, every single one. They are all, without exception, easy to play low chords chugging away mindlessly. Luckily, the last 6 minutes or so are just boring to the point of insanity, so you won't take notice enough to hate it much, which is partly due to the song ending with the same riff over and over for two and a half minutes.
I'm disappointed by most of the band on this album. Haake is easily as good technically speaking as he's ever been, but musically he is at his very worst. Random snare abuse, where Haake decides he needs his snare to be more involved in the song more, so he bashes it like bully hitting a fat slightly retarded kid, is rampant. The most frequent occurrence of this is usually due awkward timing of the snare usage, for instance 12:05 through to about 14 minutes in, the timing just seems off. This is all over the place. But, admittedly more rare, but far worse, the snare is non stop, incessant and irritating. 6:20 through to 7:50 is enough to drive a deaf man to a migraine, it's like a slow blast beat while nothing else is trying to keep up with it. It's all technically impressive; he changes his foot rhythms without missing a beat with his hands. But it sounds like utter shit.
The guitar work is heavily influenced by Thorendal's own solo project from a few years back. So expect some seriously bizarre work (in fact a few parts are directly lifted I believe, as with Catch 33), unfortunately a lot of it feels quite second rate ideas. And like Catch 33, long periods of time are spent around ambient sections, and building up out of them. There's not too much in the way of soloing, And not a whole lot of straight up riffing. In fact, most of the string work tends to be one guitarist playing the rhythm using very simple to play yet random sounding thuds, while the other tremolos his ass off in the background. There is some solid work in the first half of the song, but somewhere between the first and second ambience breaks the already rare interesting riffage stops, and you get left with this proper riff free sound, and it's boring. There's nothing on offer but the rhythms.
Hagstrom, however has one weapon on his side. He wrote the lyrics, which are fantastic. A chaotic, violent form of poetry. Really, the lyrics are up there with their best lyrical work. And let’s face it, Meshuggah lyrics kick ass.
Unfortunately, the usually proficient delivery method of these brilliant lyrics, Jens Kidman seems to be having an off day. He just sounds like any random guy, just like any of the countless nameless hardcore screamers in the world of metalcore right now. It's not a precise as before, and therefore lacks that beautifully percussive, robotic edge. There isn’t any depth or roughness to his voice, it's just a scream, there’s no growl or grunt even hinting in the vocals. No, Jens never did anything like death growls, but there was a little bit more of a rough edge to his screams than what’s on offer on this release.
I'm not sure why so many Meshuggah fans are nutting in their pants over this, it's not any more complex than usual, the rhythms are more complex, but the music being played is far more simple than usual, not much harder than Nothing. So without have any real technicality to marvel at, all you have to appreciate on this release is the music; which is disgusting beyond belief. It's not interesting enough to be music you focus on, while at the same time it's too annoying to leave on as a background listen. Honestly, I haven't heard too much that is worse to listen to than this. And I’ve heard quite a lot of Black Tribe. This is the bands peak of rhythm worship over all else, resulting in a disaster. You've got zero musical merit, zero actual instrumental technicality (apart from drums), traded for what? Some odd time signatures which make the album even less enjoyable! Sounds like a bad swap to me.