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Meshuggah is one of the bands to prove repeatedly that the "thinking man's metal" label may flatter the listener, but nonetheless bore him or her to tears. Maybe Meshuggah is a true colossus of post-industrial terror, or maybe it is the dynamite truck of some friendly folks striving to achieve the unbelievable through their odd signatures and some of the worst riffs in the history of music, adding some tuff guy screams on the top. I'd say that both possibilities can be thought as parts of this whole, the second possibility being more prominent.
This album stands confortably as their least worst album in the gallery of horrors that followed Destroy Erase Improve, because it actually has some riffs that come close to catchy. Because of the annoying drumming combined with less than unmemorable riffs, Meshuggah failed most of the time. And this album opener, Combustion, may I say, is a true keeper deserving its title! It beats some of the songs on Lich King's Necromantic Maelstrom easily in terms of originality and passion. Yes, you've read well. It has a ferocious drum performance, and great riffs (probably the most complex and melodic riffs on this album). Combustion should be noted as one of the best thrash songs of this year, if we don't take the uselessness of the solo and the stupid polyrhythmic turns into consideration. The vocalist could've been a machine as well. You won't make any difference between the human and a tape or environmental noises. And, of course, that's dehumanized and thus metal as hell, right?
The rest of the album is made of the stuff that a casual Meshuggah album is made of. Seldom do we stumble upon a more melodic riff, and they respect completely Meshuggah's standards of uncatchiness. What the fuck is there so fascinating in a two-note or three-note riff where an occasional bonus note appears or instead of A-B-C one plays C-A-B? This goes way too surreal, even by my standards. All the riffs sound very bassy and clanging, which is not a good option when you're playing extremely boring riffs. I mean, if you try your hand at something complex (I said that you're playing complex, not sticking your fingers to the chords in different orders), that would work. But that case doesn't occur here. The lead guitar tone is catastrophic, to state it more indulgently, all the solos are nothing but watered-down prog stuff and recycled melodies.
The drumming? What sort of polyrhythms are these? I do feel when a bonus note appears and the tempo is slightly modified, and still I'm not having any boner because of this. You don't expect being loudly acclaimed just for removing a beat or adding a beat, do you? I'd sell my soul to see this guy playing some more inventive polyrhythms, like Eddie Prevost. Not only does he lack a certain flexibility, but he thinks that his polyrhythms are so unique that he doesn't need any drum fills. And, of course, he removes almost any trace of a drum fill on this album. The crash cymbal is abused, abused to tears, shreds and metal shards, and it's driving the listener crazy while footed in the beginning of sleep.
This is all I can say of an album which is fairly good by Meshuggah standards, but doesn't quite accomplish mine and very, very many others'. Hey, but it's a Meshuggah album! And when I'm thinking of the rating that I'd have given to a Chaosphere or a Nothing, I'm smiling and whistling joyfully in front of this. Boy, isn't it cool to be an unthinking man.