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Power aplenty - 74%

gasmask_colostomy, September 28th, 2018

Meshuggah have never been a band to make things easy, either for themselves or their listeners. First of all, there’s the name, taken from the Yiddish language; next, the baffling technical time signatures that have been in their sound since the new millennium; finally, chaotic, morphic songs that deal with curiously rigid - even formal - subjects, as with their latest offering, The Violent Sleep of Reason. This one picks up where 2012's Koloss left off, implementing themes of mechanized technology, the structuralism of the city, and troubling scope into their shuddering grooves.

Musically, this is not a far cry from the Swedes’ previous work, Tomas Haake laying down polyrhythms like some heavy metal Vishnu, the guitarists drowning us in treacle-thick downtuned riffage, while Jens Kidman roars out in his monotonous bark to narrate discomforting truths about our world. Some of these songs tend towards drier, more rhythmic workouts, while others like 'By the Ton' add in plenty of the elastic groove that gave djent bands like Meshuggah a name for their sound. Since this style of music has always been divisive at best, it would be difficult to claim that The Violent Sleep of Reason will persuade any new fans over to the cause, though the technical exhibitionism shown during 'Clockworks' and the title track prove that no one else is threatening Meshuggah's status as leaders in their field. Then again, the album seems to become freer as it goes on, 'Ivory Tower' and 'Stifled' making up a strong mid-album stint of more memorable riffing and an eerie, soothing outro to the latter song.

The true worth of this album thus depends a lot on whether Meshuggah is a band that you can feel excited by or whether their technicality and abstruseness leaves you cold. On a positive note for The Violent Sleep of Reason, there is atmosphere to be found on certain songs, growing with the use of keyboards on closer 'Into Decay' into part of the album’s legacy. On the other hand, there are moments too when the rhythmic demolition might appear all too soulless, not helped by the single fearsome dimension of Kidman’s voice. Either way, there is plenty of power contained in the hour of music on offer.

Originally written for Metalegion #3 -