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There's generally no middle ground concerning this band. That's not a hard and fast rule, but as a general rule, there are Meshuggah haters and Meshuggah lovers. And it doesn't matter what side of the fence you reside - this band will still be here, pumping out their math-metal polyrhythms, which they do again on their 6th full-length album, "ObZen".
Now, first things first: If you don't like Meshuggah, this album won't change your views of that. This album has the same technicalities as previous albums. But what is different?
Speed. Where Nothing and Catch 33 (one of the best albums ever, in my humble opinion) were a slower beast, this one picks up the speed a little. Tracks like "Bleed" and "Pineal Gland Optics" show that they can still deliver speed when they want to, but by now it seems they are more interested in being technical, with tracks like "Lethargica" and "This Spiteful Snake". But just because they're slow does not mean they are bad. "Lethargica" is one of the heaviest tracks on the album.
Also, where "Catch 33", and even "Nothing" plods along, there appears to me a lot more hooks in this one:
- "Bleed" is probably the best song they've recorded in 10 years. Monotonous, yes, but thrashy and memorable. 1:24 really gets the brain banging.
- The fade-out riffs on "Lethargica" and "Pineal Gland Optics" are excellent, especially the former.
- 1:10 at "Electric Red" contains an excellent riffing passage. Basically sums up Meshuggah in the space of 20 seconds.
- Opening riff on "Pravus" may be simple for the drummer's standards, but it does its job of leading into the song perfectly.
There are many more, but these sum it up nicely.
They have also ditched their experimental stages, circa "I" and "Catch 33", and went back to writing individual songs. While the album doesn't flow as much as those, for obvious reasons, it makes up for it in creating great songs that have a great amount of replay value in them. I also feel that was something they needed to do, as to not start pigeonholing themselves as an experimental band. Incidentally, all the band members sound like they're having fun on this album...it doesn't feel as structured or mechanical as "I" or "Catch 33", and that has a positive effect on the groove and general feel.
One song that deserves a particular mention would be the opener, "Combustion". It does not contain any polyrhythms and it's pretty much an all-out thrash song. This sounds like a callback to Contradictions Collapse, all the way back in 1991. And they do this well, too. A very up-beat way to open the album.
There is no point in mentioning any other songs particularly, as they are all quite good and sound complete. It really sounds like they had fun recording it, and it goes to show that even in this stage of their careers, Meshuggah still know how to create a crushing album full of groove, heaviness, speed, creativity, tightness, and replayability. This is probably their second-best album (behind "Catch 33" - nothing they do will probably beat that), and I eagerly await what they do in the future.
Best tracks: Combustion, Bleed, Lethargica, Pravus