I was always very neutral about this band but I must say, this is a fantastic and well thought out review. Pos!
Thanks! And yeah I definitely understand where you're coming from on that... it actually took me a really long time to get into Meshuggah. First album I heard was ObZen back when it came out and it wasn't until maybe a year later that I really started to fully enjoy it. I probably wouldn't have even kept listening to it if it wasn't for a friend that was completely obsessed with them at the time.
In my experience, what made Meshuggah so difficult to get into is that I had to approach listening to them in a different way than I was used to listening to music. Like what makes Meshuggah's good is very different from what makes a lot of other bands good. At least for me, my typical listening habits focused on melody/riffs/dynamics/song progression/aural texture etc.. you know, the typical musical elements.
Meshuggah's music de-emphasizes basically ALL of those elements and focuses essentially 100% on rhythm. There's hardly any shifts in dynamics (this record is a bit more of an exception to that, but still much less than most music), most of their records work with a relatively constant texture/atmosphere, there's no melody at all (and not only that, different notes are pretty much ONLY used to accent the rhythm), and even their "riffs" aren't so much "riffs" as they are rhythmic phrases and cycles.
So yeah listening to Meshuggah is basically all about feeling the pulse and just appreciating how the band is able to arrange and organize rhythms around that pulse and then develop them throughout the song (resolving them/throwing them off cycle/adding different syncopations and accents etc). It's really just feeling that rhythm and appreciating how they're able to morph and shift it so beautifully and naturally while still maintaining a groove. That's just my experience anyway (and I have no idea how this post turned into an essay... I have a bad habit of doing that haha).