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Snore at Your Own Risk - 83%

RondofedoR, October 24th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Nuclear Blast

Meshuggah are back in business, and, as per usual, business is quite literally booming (in odd time signatures). Four years removed from the mighty Koloss, and the quintet have returned with album number eight in The Violent Sleep of Reason, a title inspired by ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,’ an etching found in Francisco Goya’s late eighteenth century suite Los Caprichos. On the outset, Goya’s work shows an artist having a nightmare, one filled with pestering, swooping creatures like bats and owls. But, as one would surmise, the context is deeper than the paper it’s printed on, with Goya using the scene to symbolize the folly and irrationality of his Spanish society. Meshuggah, of course, are not Spanish. They’re Swedish, and they are ‘crazy,’ which, if you’re following this whole Goya thing, should rightly elicit no small amount of troubled dreams.

One of a cluster of huge metal bands enjoyed by both metal ‘plebes’ and ‘purists’ alike, Meshuggah continue to rebuke the inevitable tide of gray hair and achy joints by playing their self-invented ‘djent’ sound better than their younger copycats and counterparts by way of sheer wisdom, finesse, and an approach that demands tourniquet tight teamwork. On The Violent Sleep of Reason, it is business as usual. What one expects from Meshuggah—bulbous grooves, gigantic off-kilter rhythms, and soul-scraping roars—one most certainly is granted, with the result, as far as these ears hear, falling somewhere between Nothing and Koloss, but, as it just so happens, eclipsing neither by way of impact or durability.

Does that make The Violent Sleep of Reason a lesser Meshuggah record? Well, no…and a most definitive, sort of. For the first time in nearly 25 years, the band recorded the album live, a distinction that does lend the album a more ‘natural’ feel, but which likewise doesn’t necessarily weaken their well-oiled, and unmistakable, dystopian air of big metallic things colliding with other big metallic things. The opener “Clockworks” proves the most exacting, longest, and most impressive bitch of the bunch, with the song’s final three minutes a hardened endurance test redolent of Obzen’s “Pravus.” The follow-up, the record’s first single, “Born in Dissonance,” plays like quintessential Meshuggah, swollen and labyrinthine with engine-driven bass-work and Fredrik Thordendal’s eerie guitar lines wailing over pummeling war drums.

With the exception of the curiously ineffective “Monstrocity,” the album is notably front-loaded. The band’s penchant for contagious groove undergirds tracks like “Stifled” or the closer “Into Decay,” but, performances aside, it’s hard to deny that many of the record’s most memorable moments occur early and often. Still, the kinetic and rubber-walled bounciness of “Our Rage Won’t Die” remains hopelessly fun, and does much to jumpstart any waning adrenaline.

Ultimately, The Violent Sleep of Reason exists as another stentorian slab of climatic progressive metal, coaxing even the weakest of imaginations to envision ranges of exploding peaks, terrible, billowing skies, and any other doomsday scenario worth its salt in destruction. Meshuggah may not have eclipsed the consistent mighty crunch of their last record, but there’s still no denying the white-knuckled satisfaction one feels when old man Kidman strolls to the storefront and flips the sign to ‘OPEN.’

Written for The Metal Observer