In terms of complex, convoluted and mathematically-precise metal, Sweden's Meshuggah have been a domineering presence for some 25 years, keeping company with the likes of Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan in terms of consistency and influence. They’ve brow-beaten us with unstoppable chromatic riffing, surging jazz-like undercurrents and Jens Kidman’s belligerent monotony-as-a-weapon gargle throughout, representing a vexatious anomaly who’ve received gushing critical praise while wider acceptance only came as they began to grey around the temples.
Seventh album Koloss, then, comes at a somewhat curious time. Not only was its predecessor – 2008’s obZen – a commercial as well as critical success, but the band have found themselves a near-constant point of reference for those waving the flag for the foolishly-monikered (if onomatopoeically-correct) genre known as ‘djent’. This, for the uninitiated, is a uniquely metallic equation that’s equal parts guitar tone, metronomic regularity and ever-spiralling levels of technical virtuosity that boasts a handful of truly trailblazing acts (see, for example, Animals As Leaders) while infinitely more bedroom-bound wannabes content themselves with trying to out-chug the Swedes' third LP, Chaosphere.
Whether a reaction to their status as tech-metal posterboys or just another evolutionary shift, Koloss is perhaps Meshuggah’s most straightforward release to date. This, thankfully, doesn’t mean it’s remotely digestible or that the band’s impeccable musicianship has somehow gone to seed. Instead it’s as if the industrially-forged menace has simply become a little more human: similar to the upgrade, shall we say, from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s piston-driven killing machine to the sleek‘n’shiny organic gloop of Robert Patrick’s jug-eared T-1000.
With the syncopations slightly smoother at the edges and a tad more room to manoeuvre, Meshuggah have forged an altered landscape that’s still pockmarked by relentless pneumatic thumps and often shaken by undulating rhythmic tricks, yet it’s capable of belching up immense and irrepressible grooves. As it progresses, the album accommodates the sludgy, slugabed crawl of Behind the Sun and spacious grumble of Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion while allowing for the bamboozling clatter and off-the-chart soloing of Swarm. It assures us all that Meshuggah can still bury their copyists while leading the way when it comes to intelligent, thoughtful and undeniably brutal heavy metal.
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