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Meshuggah are Colossus - 93%

Caj1, August 27th, 2012

I’m terribly late on this Koloss review, but this is more spur-of-the-moment than anything. I got into Meshuggah in late 2009 after hearing a few of their singles, notably Future Breed Machine, New Millennium Cyanide Christ and Bleed, the single from their 2008 release, obZen. After hearing Bleed, I went out and picked up obZen as soon as I had the money. At the time, it was the best fifteen bucks I’d ever spent. As soon as I’d learned Meshuggah would be releasing a follow-up to obZen, I began to drool (figuratively, of course) with anticipation. I could only wonder what the new album would sound like. Would it sound like a fast, ear-blasting death ride like obZen, or would it be a skull-crushing return to basics, with a sound more akin to Nothing? I also wondered how Meshuggah would respond to the recent cropping-up of so many copycat djent bands. Would they try to compete, or would they turn the world on its ear with something original?

Koloss is best described as a combination of several of their previous records. It’s got the slow heaviness of Nothing, but it also sounds fast and at times thrashy, like obZen and some of their earlier albums such as Destroy Erase Improve and Chaosphere. Koloss is not simply a mishmash of styles, however; on this album, Meshuggah seem to have created a more stripped-down, streamlined version of their sound, where it seems that they concentrated more on creating solid riffs than being as fast and heavy as possible just for the hell of it. I am Colossus, Do Not Look Down, Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion and Demiurge are the songs that best exhibit this stripped-down sound; their song structure sounds deceptively simple, and they’re pretty damn heavy. Upon repeated listens, however, one can begin to hear the complexity hidden within these songs. The riffs within these songs have the ability to twist and bend into different iterations without ever losing the initial feel. On the other hand, The Hurt That Finds You First, Marrow and Swarm are examples of the fast, thrashy feel of previous albums. There are some letdowns when it comes to this record. The Demon’s Name is Surveillance seems to be a rehash of Bleed. The riff is similar and the drumming, while not as intense or complex, still has shades of that song within. Honestly, it feels as if Fredrik Thordendal (the songwriter for this song) was either phoning it in or had a song from the last album that he wanted to use. Also, album-closer The Last Vigil is little more than some nice ambient music consisting of one slow arpeggiated riff with lots of reverb stacked on top. It’s a nice way to relax, but rather boring otherwise. That said, Meshuggah have outdone themselves once again. They have proven that they can still completely reset the curve and come out on top. They’ve taken their style in a very logical next direction, and instead of trying to compete with the copycats, they’ve done their own thing.

As for the band itself, they’ve never sounded better. Oftentimes, metal bands age like milk; Meshuggah don’t seem to have aged a day in nearly twenty-six years. The production is crisp and the sound of the band comes right through. Some may be put off by how clear the sound is; this album is definitely not low-fi, but for a band that have been oftentimes described with words like “robotic” or “mechanical,” it seems to be a good fit.

The band members’ playing is also sharp. Jens’ vocals still sound excellent, and while a little raspier than he was when he was younger he’s still got vocal power; he’s a commanding presence within the music. Fredrik and Marten both sound fantastic, as well. Not only do they play with energy, their guitar tone feels even heavier than it was in previous albums, sounding more like it did on Nothing. Tomas is still pounding away at the drums, providing the rhythmic anchor and helping to keep the polyrhythms smooth and the overall sound tight. His drumming is mixed well, without being too loud or too soft. The only real problem is Dick Lovgren’s bass, which is often relegated to a distant rumble. Of course, a bassist is often there just to provide the rock bottom of the sonic imprint, so it’s to be expected.

Koloss has quickly become my favorite Meshuggah record, even usurping the likes of Chaosphere and Nothing. It sounds just as good the fiftieth time as it does the first. These guys aren’t just playing well, they’re writing well and still coming up with fresh ideas. At first, four years seemed like an eternity, but it was well worth the wait.