In your life you'll probably come across some weird things in music. Long has the experimental genre of music remained underground, elitism's desperate bid for retaining the supposed high quality of their music manifested. Recently, more bands that make inaccessible, completely out of the blue, original-yet-too-weird-to-take-seriously bands have been climbing up the musical walls to greater and greater acclaim, as if experimentality is becoming in vogue these days. One of the names that has gradually risen to fame hails from Umeå, Sweden, has quite a long career already, and they're named after the Yiddish word for crazy. Yes, I'm talking about math metallers Meshuggah.
Meshuggah's latest, Catch Thirty-Three can be accurately described as what would happen when a robot tried to emulate Pantera. The tempos chug rather than race, the riffs are dark, distorted, and repetitive, and the vocals sound like Phil Anselmo without being annoying, in a sort of thrash-growl-gone-death-metal. The drums batter and batter away, they are programmed on this record due to time constraints and the "excuse" of experimentality, but they still sound fresh and organic: 4/4 tempos are combined with maniacal odd-timed polyrhythmic passages that underscore the artificial nature of this album.
The emphasis is not on variety, but on repetition. When Meshuggah coin a riff or a melody here, they don't just play it once or twice, they beat you over the head with it as if they programmed it in some sort of loop: perhaps it's the Mr. Roboto thing about this band. Robots are built to do one thing, and they do it well. Well, Meshuggah sounds like that. They play one riff well, and then batter you over the head with it into hypnotism. Occasionally the band gets tired of playing chugging downtuned rhythms, so they go for ambient effects, with a single note tingling about a million times in the background, and on Mind's Mirrors Tomas Haake even filters his spoken voice in a way that makes you wonder whether this album was recorded in some outrageous science-fiction movie.
Lyrically the band is what all experimental bands tend to be in a way: pretentious. I can still make heads nor tails of the lyrical subject matter of the album, but Jens Kidman shouts some pretty impressive words and a vast array of high-end vocabulary through the mic, so apparently the trend of using big words extends to here as well. Maybe it's about what happens when robots (!) take over the world in 2050 and what's so bad about the dehumanized state of society that would lead to. Or something along those lines.
And then there's the tracklisting. Apparently the album is one 47 minute song, divided into 13 parts: but judging by the indexing, this 13-way split is completely arbitrary. The first three tracks might as well have been one track, as one huge guitar riff batters you all the way through. The frenzied melody line on The Paradoxical Spiral continues for minutes until the ambient "I want to sound like a guitar plonking in an empty prison cell somewhere in the middle of the North Sea" interlude.
So, why would ANYONE like this album? The vocals sound either like a hoarse yelp or the computerized voice of your high-tech quantum lab computers. The music is about as accessible as Mount Everest. The production gives off the feeling these guys were sent from outer space. And on top of that, they milk riffs and melodies and other musical themes till you are totally sick of it. Doesn't this all sound like all the big ingredients came together for a massive failure?
Well, not really. For some reason, the focus on repetition rather than variety works really well. Unlike DragonForce, who are also repetitive, the seemingly random but completely programmed drum patterns hypnotize you to a state of sedation. The chugging riffs will still make you headbang to their ferocity, even if your neck will break due to all the odd time signatures. The album, exactly due to its nature of the reinclusion of similar/identical musical themes, feels as one coherent whole because of it. It may not be instantly accessible to the average music lover, but for the thinking man, the elitists, or just plain pretentious people, this is an excellent album. As long as you remember not to take all the futuristic AI-effects seriously, that is.
Nice review, describing the 'song' fairly well with only a few track descriptions.
Absolutely dig the flow of this one. It has some similarities to 'I'; divided in three parts and starts right on. But the difference is that Catch Thirty-Three is going up and down in itensity and after the long ambient part it builds up to a climax (only to followed by an odd and calm yet disturbing clean outro).
Meshuggah just don't do it for me, I really didn't like 'I', and though this is better, theres still something incredibly 'off' about the music.
I think what throws off some people, is that their dark, hypnotising and uncompromising approach reaches the darkest most narrow corners of the soul, nothing will be spared, especially on this and 'I'.
Nice review, though I slightly disagree w/ your viewpoint. I think the lyrics are awesome, and not just because there are "big words". Without getting into detail, I just dig the abstract viewpoint b/c I have an abstract imagination. Haven't taken drugs that might help me experience my thoughts and see abstractly on levels other than vision and basic feeling (or feelings witnessed on a basic level), but go to somewhere dark where I can be alone, put this on, and close my eyes, my soul spazzes in a way only these guys can make it. I become... popcorn. lolThis Message Edited On 08.12.07
Meshuggah's most experimental release yet (or obZen, perhaps?) and I love it. Been listening to it a lot lately and I'm really really getting into it a lot more.
Mind's Mirrors is fucked up and can't really be considered a "song", but more of an "interlude" of sorts (or at least the first part), but I think it's my favorite part of the album. Tomas' spoken word part in that song is just as hypnotizing as any of his excellent polyrhythmic beats or Fredrik's incredible riffs. Awesome album.
I think all Meshuggah is awesome but I would definately take ObZen over Nothing. I might even go as far as saying I'd take ObZen over everything else they've done - everything just came together so perfectly on that album.
ObZen is loud, quite fast, catchy and easy to listen - so it's so popular and overrated. It's not suprise, that Catch 33 is their (probably) most underrated album between "not serious" listeners. Catch 33 offers more detailed, for impatient and unconcentrated listener, hidden nuances in rhythms and that kind of listener just can't discover it and enjoy it. So for example first 3 or 4 tracks on Catch 33 are just boring and repetitive, because they DON'T HEAR the difference. It's like the case of Lateralus and AEnima by Tool. AEnima is easier to get in = more popular.
Of course, that it depends on a personal musical taste too!