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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential portrayal of our spiritual illness, 8 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Obzen (Audio CD)
A listener might wonder why Jens Kidman, the singer of Meshuggah, is so angry. But when you take the time to study the actual meaning of this wonderful album you quickly realise that the amount of anger you can hear in his voice is fully justified. This album portrays humanity as something soulsick to the point of death. Instead of attaining samadhi, the mystical oneness that is the goal of all religion - a state that is often referred to in the Westernised use of the term 'zen' - we have embraced the obscene as our goal. Obscene/Zen = ObZen. It is sometimes easy to forget just how obscene are our times, but look with objective eyes at contemporary reality: 'preemptive' war(s), state assassination and torture, mass extinction, economic collapse, the vast majority of our species living in poverty, control of the world's wealth by 1% of the population etc. The majority of humankind, were it to awaken to these truths, could conceivably unite and reject all of this in a single decision. Humankind could decide, en masse, to make fundamental changes that would stem the tide of 'our ruin, our doom'. But what do we do instead? We embrace the banal. We cherish our ignorance. We celebrate stupidity. We sponsor the system that is destroying us. We even vote for politicians who speak in simplistic sentences and who we know will wage further unjustified wars that will bankrupt our state. To quote the final song from this album, we dance along to a 'discordant system:' 'We dance to appease/compete in stupidity.' That is, our compliance with the system is an act of appeasement. When we allow airport staff to force us to drink baby milk to prove that it is not an explosive we are 'competing in stupidity.'

ObZen is an extremely valuable piece of art that portrays the relationship between individuals (often called 'souls' in this album) and the reality that we live in. It is breathtakingly, painfully honest about the corruption of our contentment. In the first song, Combustion, the lyrics invite us to 'stare, see, take in, grasp/comprehend, assimilate/behold your reflection.' The androgynous character on the front of the album thinks itself content, but is actually doused in blood.

So horrible is the true nature of our fake contentment, inebriated with debt, that any musical portrayal of this reality must reflect the ugliness. Everything in this album works perfectly to enhance the acuity of this portrayal.

And yet Meshuggah have achieved their goal so well that they actually transcend their message. The opening riff has an exquisite sound and the polyrhythmic entry of the drums is so satisfying that one cannot fail to experience deep satisfaction upon hearing this. The entire album is one of beautifully rendered rage, a rage that continues with limitless variety throughout the tracks. It is perfect. After understanding what the album is about I have continued to listen, again and again, because on a purely musical level I find this so exciting and beautiful.

It is necessary for all GCSE-age children to study this album and its meaning. My hope is that their brainwashed preconceptions, making them 'so meticulously machined/into these obedient devices', might more easily be shattered after they listen. And then, haply, they might ask 'Why?' And 'what next?'
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Nov 2012 13:49:41 GMT
G. Young says:
Beautiful review Sarmad.

Posted on 16 Jan 2013 14:53:58 GMT
I agree that the current state of the world is terrible, but it's been like this for a very long time, it's not a modern thing to have wars and torture and large gaps between rich and poor. I have been thinking a lot lately about what to do about it. I also think that obscene is a strange word to use to describe it as generally obscene has tended to mean "sexually explicit", I suppose perhaps it is a good idea to try and change people's usage of that word to refer to truly terrible things rather than masturbation/consensual sex/sex education/pornography, but I'll admit that because of it's strong link to ant-sex attitudes, the word "obscene" tends to rub me the wrong way. I'm not religious or spiritual in any way but that doesn't mean I can't see that there are terrible things happening in this world and want to do something about it. It was an interesting review, I hope this album is better than Catch Thirtythr33 as I thought that was very repetitive... I might be better off checking out some of their earlier ones.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Jan 2013 21:00:53 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Jan 2013 14:12:37 GMT
G. Young says:
I personally love Catch 33, there are a lot of guitar changes throughout the album but they are intricate and subtle so careful listening is required, the ambient sections are brilliant; evoking a sense of deep space and of the alien - and it is beautifully eerie. I can also recommend Destroy Erase Improve, 'I,' (which has one track on it, an extended piece that is stunning in its complexity) and their newest album Koloss, which is very much the natural progression from Obzen with elements of previous work. Koloss has unearthly, unique atmosphere, like some black brown crypt that sits beneath alien jungleland. Obzen is amazing though; that is a once in a lifetime album, much like Lateralus by Tool or Moving Pictures by Rush - not musically alike you understand but they all share an astonishing level of musical, emotional and lyrical brilliance. These are very special albums. Beyond essential.
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