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Meshuggah used to be one of my favourite bands with Destroy Erase Improve and Chaosphere. I even liked Nothing to a certain extent but after that the band seemed to disappear up its own ass with I and Catch 33. Those two releases completely put me off the band and when I first got obZen I was primed to hate it.
That though was not the case. obZen starts with the catchy and groove heavy Combustion which brings to mind the glory days of Destroy Erase Improve and the bass heavy grooves on the song remind me a bit of Nothing. From here on the album basically feels like a mix of Destroy Erase Improve and Nothing while not really having the intensity of either of those albums. The songs have an incredibly clean production and this is without doubt the cleanest production the band has got yet. That though doesn’t really work in favour of the music. Most of the songs sound sterilized and calculated to cause damage in the mosh pit.
Also, the last few years have seen countless bands imitating the Meshuggah sound and this has diluted the impact of the band. What was once completely unique is now common place and dull. Having said that, obZen does have a few good songs. Combustion as already mentioned is a great album opener and one that gave me hope for the album, while the title song starts like Fear Factory before coming good with some heavy staccato riffing. Dancers to a Discordant System is the lengthy album closer and it actually works pretty well. Apart from these three songs, the album just gets boring with everything here having been done before.
obZen in fact feels like a very polished and calculated effort to go towards the next step of commercial accessibility. There are mosh parts for the kids, there are parts that some will call progressive and I’m sure the guys who loved the last two releases will think this is a terrific evolution. I’m not in that camp though and obZen just seems like a calculated re-hashing of past ideas and even more damning to the band it feels like what was once a leader in the scene has been reduced to copying its own imitators.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com