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it's too goddamn late for a title - 93%

Noktorn, May 9th, 2008

I can honestly say that 'ObZen' has the distinction of being the Meshuggah album that I was really hoping for immediately after 'Catch 33', an album that I wasn't quite able to enjoy as much as I'd like. 'ObZen', though, is a great combination of 'Destroy Erase Improve' and 'Nothing'-era(s) material with just a hint of the proggy elements of the last album, and the combination is absolutely great. It's blisteringly heavy and fairly metallic like the early stuff, has the grinding industrial feel of albums like 'Chaosphere', and manages to change things up with just enough prog to keep it interesting. Even if it was lacking that, though, it would still be an incredible album simply because this is one of the heaviest and most brutally aggressive albums that Meshuggah has made so far.

The first three tracks are the real killers on this one, and 'Bleed' is of course the centerpiece, reminding one of songs like 'New Millennium Cyanide Christ' which are so devoid of dynamics as to be almost totally binary songs. Just ramp up the speed and tightness of that earlier track and you have a good idea of what to expect with 'Bleed'; pure grinding brutality from start to finish (minus the clean guitar in the middle). The album opens up on a note quite different from the previous ones... a thrash beat! For the first time in probably a decade, Meshuggah strays from the bass drum versus guitar attack that's such a fixture of their music, like an announcement that they dug out the old albums and still like them. After 'Bleed', the sound of 'ObZen' strays a bit more towards 'Catch 33' territory, but it's sufficiently oldschool to not fall into the same traps that that album did.

The proggy tracks on 'ObZen' could be compared to 'Catch 33', but more accurately they sound like an extension of songs like 'Sublevels' off the earlier albums. They're less ruthlessly atonal and more delicate experiments in texturing and mysterious layers of atmosphere. The more I think about it, the more I think you could say that 'ObZen' is really a combination of all of Meshuggah's previous material into a singular sound. This would be a miserable failure for most bands, but in Meshuggah's case, they pull it off with style. The elements of savagery and progression mesh very well throughout the album without ever becoming stale. It's an 'exciting blend of old and new' as a bad info sheet would say. It's also really heavy, and that's always good: super clear production and 235235-string guitars and all.

Overall, 'ObZen' is what I expected and I'm really satisfied by what the band has managed to turn out. Meshuggah's been at it for over two decades now and they show no sign of slowing down; they just take their custom sound further with every new album and explore the niche they've so painstakingly carved in the modern metal scene. 'ObZen' is another great album from the Swedes and is unlikely to disappoint. 'Bleed' is awesome and you should get it just for how insane that track alone is because I think they've invented entirely new time signatures on it.