Review Summary: For me, their most accomplished, atmospheric and unique effort to date.
Meshuggah has come along way since the debut album 'Contradictions Collapse'. Not exactly a landmark in metal music, the follow-up ‘Destroy Erase Improve’ most definitely was and still is, containing fan-favourites such as ‘Future Breed Machine’ and ‘Soul Burn’. Since these times the band have progressed and refined their sound into a more experimental, but extremely heavy form of metal.
Catch Thirty-Three, being the experimental album that it is, has been described by Meshuggah as “one song” in a similar vein to previous release ‘I’. I guess the difference being that this album has been divided into sections with clusters of them making one “mini song”. Pretentious? A little bit, not that this really matters though as the musicianship on display is of a considerably high calibre.
Like the EP ‘I’, Catch Thirty-Three insists on repeating the rhythm sections until you can think of nothing else. The repetitive nature of the album will leave the listener hypnotized and immersed in the dark, heavy, artificial atmosphere created, making the album completely memorable as you’re repeatedly pummelled by this truly intriguing music. You can visualise the scene of production; a bleak, barren factory which just fits the almost mechanical, empty feel of the album. The emotionless, robotic screams courtesy of vocalist Jens Kidman, stop-start crushing guitar riffs, rumbling bass and off-beat drums all contribute to making this album their most accomplished, atmospheric and unique effort to date.
Guitar duo Fredrik Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom have really come together in this album; that’s not to say they haven’t been great on previous albums but ‘Entrapment’ really demonstrates what they’re genuinely capable of. Hagstrom keeps the rhythm section going, while Thordendal introduces an incredible, although short, erratically played solo. It just fits the album so brilliantly and when complete with the rest of the album, it’s some of Thordendal’s best guitar work yet.
Vocally, Jens is very one-dimensional on this album. That’s not to say his strained screams are weak or that they don’t work well with the sound Meshuggah are striving to achieve, because they do, it’s just it would be nice to hear a little variety. He does include some spoken word (well whispered parts really) like on previous albums but I think to have made this album truly experimental, he could have been more adventurous/imaginative with his choice of vocals. Even if his voice was not suited to clean vocals or if the clean vocals weren’t suited to the type of music Meshuggah play, it would’ve been interesting to hear him trying something new and to see him expand on his current talent. It was surprising though however, to hear Haake’s spoken word in ‘Mind’s Mirrors’. It fits the mood of the album perfectly with its abstract lyrics and computerised voice, bringing a calming half time break from all the musical mayhem.
The drums on this record are as expected, technically proficient and well executed but this isn’t because Tomas Haake is a fantastic drummer. It’s because they were programmed. Not that this really matters because it adds to the detached vibe of the album and most music fans will realise that Haake himself could have probably played these complex drum patterns if time permitted. For those who are unaware, the album was rushed for release.
The most impressive section of the album has to be the two part mini song ‘In Death - Is Life’ and ‘In Death – Is Death’ that displays everything in which Meshuggah is really about in just thirteen minutes. Essentially a two part song, you’re hit with fast thrashing guitars, slow and heavy, mammoth like riffs and crazy lead work. The ending to the song is fantastic, with Thordendal utilising his instrument to create a creepy, suspense filled atmosphere. Slowly the guitar fades out whilst an alarm sound fades in, getting louder and louder until the you’re hit with a terrifying scream which begins the albums single, ‘Shed’.
Overall, this album is enjoyable. The only criticisms I can honestly make of the album are the lack of variation in the vocals and the fact that it can be difficult to listen to this album the entire way through, despite it being only forty-six minutes long. The sheer weight of the album is skull crushing and can be easily compared to being hit by a musical sledgehammer. Some listeners may also find the album repetitive and half-arsed although if you were to look at this album in a completely different light you’d be able to distinguish the true charm of Catch Thirty-Three. To put it bluntly, you’ll either love it or hate it but I for one, love it.