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4.0 out of 5 stars Meshuggah- obZen Review (8.5/10), 15 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Obzen [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Continuing on from 2005's immense yet rather sterile sounding `Catch thirtythree33', Meshuggah continue forth with their unique brand of mathematical sledgehammer-core, seeking to cement their status as tech-metal overlords. Although the band have stated on previous interviews "that `obZen' will be a collective return to the band's past works, signaling a shift in direction away from their previous math metal-laden effort, Catch thirtythree33", it does not completely veer away from this sound. Upon initial listens, `obZen' instead proves to be a tempestuous display of jagged tech-metal gone into overdrive. Tightly clustered drum and bass clusters drop incessantly like some kind of infinite sonic grenade attack, whilst lead guitar melodies tend to launch off sporadically into warped neo-prog territory. The guitarists, Thordendal and Hagström utilise custom-made Nevborn, and custom Ibanez eight string guitars which add two low strings to allow the manically crushing riffs to be played in even lower registers. Each individual instrument is slightly out-of-sync and attempts to force itself in a different direction, only to end up creating a fully rounded and complimentary end-product which is teaming with molten-energy. Consecutive listens however reveal the depth of the album as `obZen' does indeed return Meshuggah back to their song-writing core, and then some! As well as producing a warmer and more captivating sound, they display a keen sense of (mutated) melody and matured arrangement, to create a consistently forceful album that keep the listener captive and engaged at all times.

Throughout the release, angular instruments collide in an accelerated and frenzied fashion, continuously wearing down any defense the listener may attempt to put up and pounding them into submission. The turbulent drum, guitar and bass swirls seem like they are almost looped (which is a formidable skill in itself) but they move progressively across the sci-fi terrain in such an endearing and almost hallucinating manner that it is difficult to resist anything other than diving head first into the sound and nodding your head like a schizoid. Jens Kidman abrasive throat-work is delivered with real menace and is consistent in its delivery which really fits in with the musical soundscape, although some listeners may be turned off due to the lack of variation and human emotion.

On the 7minute single, "Bleed", the group open with razor sharp machine-gun riffage whilst guitar and bass motifs meander across the scales to provide perpetual energy to the track. This theme continues throughout with subtle variations in both arrangement and tempo creating real buoyancy to proceedings. After threatening to do so for the last 5 minutes, the guitars finally move into an Opeth-esque proggy black-metal workout towards the end before being reigned back into an ultra satisfying tech-metal stomp.

Sounding similar to an irate KNUT at their most visceral, "Pineal Gland Optics" grinds incessantly on a bed of psyched-out guitar waft before launching into a pounding sub-machine gun riffathon. Probably the masterpiece of the album, `Pravus' sees Meshuggah waste no time in setting upon the listener with a frenzy of jazzed-out, tech-metal mayhem resulting in a really ugly, dissonant soundscape of inside-out metal hurtling towards you at a breakneck speed. On the lengthy "Dancers to a Discordant System", Meshuggah move towards heavy-rock territory with a cryptic and dark offering that moves throughout a number of genres. Initially, creepy vocals crawl under your skin whilst the drunkenly arranged psyche-rock/metal soundscape will leave you seasick and dazed. The track then moves into more familiar territory with the grinding metal taking prime position over the rock elements and the vocals moving back into a harsh satisfying yelp. The finale then sees the band move into a satisfying Nile-esque, metalized prog-work which acts as a great closing passage for this album.

Tech-metal can tend to be suffocating in that it can be a show of instrumental dexterity over melodic composition. As mentioned above, `Catch thirtythree 33' did suffer from this but there are no such problems with `obZen'. Although consistently hammering in its delivery, listeners will never be left jaded as, refreshingly, the tracks on `obZen' never lie dormant. Just as you think you've figured out a passage or you've locked-in to a groove, they immediately switch into pastures fresh (and usually far more heavy). Their sheer technical prowess is a force to be reckoned with and will leave you enthralled for years to come, but more poignant is their ability to fuse genres. `obZen' succeeds in recapturing the glory of mid-90's math-metal, molding it effortlessly with stylistic elements of grindcore, noisecore, neo-prog, heavy-psychedelica and math-rock and reshaping it into something entirely their own. This release will be one of the strongest metal releases of 2008, it will be a future classic and it will elevate Meshuggah to the position of tech-metal overlords. (KS)

For fans of: KNUT, Burn It Down, Red Chord, Ion Dissonance
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Initial post: 8 Apr 2008 19:40:20 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Apr 2008 18:28:29 BDT
G. Young says:
Brilliant review mate! This is already my album of the year and one of the best albums I have ever heard. Genius. I recently bought 'Catch 33' and 'Chaosphere' and was just as impressed.
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