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  • Obzen
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4.4 out of 5 stars
25
4.4 out of 5 stars
Obzen
Format: Audio CD|Change


on 30 August 2009
Black waves crash against an alien shore, the rocks are red and bleeding, great currents surge, the sea is tipped white foam and bottomless. Bleed rises and shifts, slows and accelerates, a rhythmic powerhouse of steel and stamina. Above, the void beckons, droning and vampiric, the sound of absolute doom. The black cloak of an indifferent universe shadows human morality, a lethargic unstoppable force.

All being comes to a stop, a pin-point of silence in dead space, a perpetual black second. A moment in which a spark ignites into an Electric Red shroud, it writhes in darkness, and finally rests, pulsating.

Meshuggah are truly pioneers in metal and with Obzen they evoke the beautiful poetry of space and ask if the seemingly meaningless state of humanity at this point in time, is our zenith.

Yet, at the heart of the music is everything that makes us worthwhile; intelligence, imagination and spirit.
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on 3 April 2008
New album... back to their roots... fusing most previous styles... etc etc. Musically, this is definitely Meshuggah's most varied album, and for that it should mostly be liked by all Meshuggah fans. It features some of their most intense and some of their most lethargic material. Listening to some of these tracks, I am getting the same feeling I got from first listening to metal - never before have I heard anything quite like some of the things I witness here; never have Meshuggah been so damn amazing.

For starters, the production is obScene, the best they've had. I always felt that the production of the drum-machine releases suffered by feeling slightly artificial, but that has been nicely corrected. The refusal to obEy normal timings is present as usual, every I drank a shot every time I got blissfully confused whilst listening to the polyrhythms here, I would now be incredibly obEse. On top of this, all of the members give their best performance to date, thanks to the varied nature of the songs. The atmosphere is not quite as intense and claustrophobic as Catch33, (which many will see as a good thing), but for me this is a step backwards - perhaps one necessary to move forwards in the future).

"Bleed" is my standout track, I have never heard such an incredible all round performance. This is the single track from the album, for obVious reasons. "Dancers to a Discordant System" is the obLigatory long track that Meshuggah have grown to love doing, but this one is far more consistent than "In Death - Is Death", and more down-to-earth than "I". There are a few moments of not-so-much-filler-but-slightly-boring parts on the album, such as the Fear Factory-esque intro to ObZen, or most of "This Spiteful Snake" - a track which sounds like it was taken from possible extra tracks for Nothing. However, these few sections are easily covered up by the brilliance of everything else.
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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2008
Meshuggah have come a long way. From humble metal roots they have progressed through a miriad of sounds and styles, all the time pushing the borderline of metal, and becoming the most innovative and original band in the genre. So here is their sixth LP "Obzen" - a grand concept album on man's struggle in the modern day world of supposed religious and spiritual wellbeing (hence fusing the words obscene and zen). It's importantly the end of an experimental stage that produced the daring one-song-epics "I" and "Catch Thirty Three". According to the band themselves "Obzen" is their attempt to draw together their sound and various styles from past albums in order to create a balanced and eclectic new direction. This is certainly the case, as "Obzen" effortlessly merges the brutal thrash of "Destroy Erase Improve", the visceral riff-orientated "Chaosphere" and later downtempo grooves of "Nothing" and "Catch Thirty Three". It also sees drummer Tomas Haake back on the kit after his "drumkit from hell" programming on "Catch 33" and the "Nothing" re-release.

I've read reviews arguing "Obzen" is simply a re-run of "Chaosphere", or that it owes most heavily to that album. I have to disagree with this, as I feel "Obzen" borrows equally from past releases. For one thing there's a deal more melody to the riffs here. Take for example the opening two riffs of "Combustion", the lead being extremely melodic for Meshuggah, sounding more similar to Tool at their heaviest. Compare this to the utter abrasive opening riff to "Concatenation" that lacks any hint of melody. "Bleed" and the title track would be the most "Chaosphere" sounding tracks for me, with the later fashioning the kind of riff breakdown that sprawled throughout "Chaosphere".

"Obzen" is noticeably faster as a whole when compared to recent albums, being more on par with the energetic thrash of "Destroy Erase Improve". Moments of punishing speed are employed through most of the tracks, such as "Pineal Gland Optics" which opens with a flurry of intense drumming and machine-gun riffing. Vocals wise I would also draw parallels to "DEI" over other albums. They are slightly more forward in the mix when compared to "Nothing" or "Catch Thirty Three", and with these albums they are used more as rhythmic accents, often sacrificed for instrumental grooves. Like "DEI" the vocal sections are more extended, possibly as there are more lyrics per song.

Where "Obzen" sounds best is when Meshuggah play with dynamics. Thordendal has always enjoyed his eerie atmospheric sections, but they have never sounded so perfectly quiet and brooding as here. "Lethargica" is downtempo Meshuggah at their most lethal, instantly recalling the best of "Nothing", it cuts to a sublime ambient breakdown that gives way to an absolute monolith of a riff. One of the heaviest breakdowns Meshuggah has ever carved out, and a highlight to the album. The epic closer "Dancers to a Discordant System" is my favorite track on "Obzen", opening with quiet guitar ambience it builds to a progressive metal run-through of all stages in Meshuggah's career. The song has it all - eerie atmospheres, pummeling thrash, breakdowns and a face-melting final riff that lumbers with immense groove. Utter perfection for the Meshuggah fan.

It was a risk to attempt an album that can capture all various sounds and styles, but I feel "Obzen" does it with sophistication. The album never sounds jumbled or confused despite switching through such extreme dynamics and tempos. Meshuggah fans should certainly enjoy this, and those new to the band will get a concise taste of what Meshuggah is about.
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on 12 February 2014
This is the first Meshuggah I've heard, and initially I was repelled. I had to listen again and again and again, and now... the brutality of early Swans merged with the virtuosity of late King Crimson... I'm in love and this time it's forever.
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on 12 March 2014
Took me a while to get into this mind-blowing album, but when I finally managed, it became to me one of the best albums ever recorded. Obzen sounds like the apocalypse!
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on 1 June 2008
Listening to obZen for the upteenth time, a though strikes me; Meshuggah really dont seem like the type to conform to anyone's wishes at all, let alone their fans. So it's even more of a surprise that this album seems to be a collection and summonation of the band's ever-shifting career to date.

The neo-thrash of 'Combustion' is a welcome return to pace and about as straight-forward a song as the band has ever done, dripping in poise and speed. 'Lethargica' and 'Electric Red' harken back to the alternative groove (if you can call it that) of Catch 33 and the album's title track harkens back to the Nothing era. Yes, obZen is definitely a unique proposition in that it never really settles for one style or mood, instead going for multiple tempo shifts and swings.

It's an odd choice for a band that tends to have a specific sound for each album to find them now embracing diversity, but each of the 9 songs present a different side to the Meshuggah personality without any real repitition or dragging. The band are still as delightfully inventive, crushing and heavy as they've always been, and obZen can stand as a summination and celebration of their career so far, whilst at the same time offering a perfect introduction for new fans to get their teeth into. A great piece of modern metal.
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on 28 April 2010
It's not so easy to review a band like Meshuggah, because there's not much to compare them to. Of course musically they come from the tradition of death metal, with the customary growled vocals, detuned (mostly) guitars and frenetic drumming. But Meshuggah Have really pushed the envelope in terms of developing a progressive sound where the vocals become an accompaniment to the music, rather than vice versa.

This album bristles with musical ideas, time changes and a plethora of hypnotically mechanical rhythms. But more than that, it is a sustained assault on the ears. The hoarsely shouted vocals (you'll need the lyric sheet) pale beside the butal onslaught of the guitar and drums. Yet this is a precision attack, an exercise in controlled aggression.

If I have a criticism of this album (and I do) it must be the lack of light and shade. Where there is the occasional quiet passage in the music it can only be a short prelude to an outbreak of redoubled ferocity.

If you're a fan of virtuoso musicianship that takes the metal genre into new areas you need to buy this album. If you think music should be about tunes and songs, or something you could possibly dance to, it's best avoided.
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on 6 March 2008
I couldn't possibly attempt to be more pretentious than the other two reviews: "angular instruments"; "mathematical sledgehammer-core"; "a bed of psyched-out guitar waft" - what?!

And the other one's worse.

Try their myspace, they have 2 songs up.

If you liked Nothing, I or Catch 33, you'll like this.

Job done.
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on 22 April 2008
A good Meshuggah album, don't get me wrong i love them, but i don't think its anywhere near as good as I or Catch 33, But on the other hand, they followed up Catch 33 they only way they could have ! A great album for introducing people to Meshuggah but it doesn't really add anything new to their already phenomenal music .
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on 29 March 2015
Great Album 1st Class Service
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