I have given this album a 4.5... obviously. I'm sure if you're intending to read this review, you can interpret a simple number.
My reason for such may puzzle some who are skeptical of the album's quality, who see it as a steaming pile of randomized manure. Frankly, I understand why one would think that. However, the fact of the matter is, "Catch 33" grows on you, and it grew on me especially fast.
The track listing runs as follows:
1. Autonomy Lost 1:40
2. Disenchantment 1:36
3. Imprint of the Unsaved 1:44
4. The Paradoxical Spiral 3:11
5. Re-Inanimate 1:04
6. Entrapment 2:28
7. Mind's Mirrors 4:29
8. In Death - is Life 2:01
9. In Death - is Death 13:22
10. Shed 3:34
11. Personae Non Gratae 1:47
12. Dehumanization 2:55
13. Sum 7:18
By looking at the durations of each track, you may immediately notice the first 3 tracks, all within a 8-second difference from each other, and all under 2 minutes in length. Why? What the Hell is up with the durations? Was there a misprint or something?... Those were my first thoughts.
Silly me, having heard scarce bits of Mesh's material before this album, I was unfamiliar with their originality.
"Autonomy Lost" opens with a rather confusing riff, at a broken tempo, like many of their other songs - a strange, but refreshing touch. The rhythm guitar is joined by a rapid tremolo, changing between 3 notes every few moments, at the accord of the broken beat. The two lines of lyrics enter about 1:20 in, somewhat leaving a first-time listening thirsty and begging for more.
The track change is unnoticed. The same riff continues, with similar background trem, into "Disenchantment." The words appear about half way through, Jens Kidman's gut-wrenching vocals wholly intact, and by now the riff begins to feel tedious, if it hasn't already. This may be a turn off for many. Relief comes, so fear not.
Again, the track change is undetectable, as really there isn't one. "Imprint of the Unsaved" continues that samme riff, words beginning and continuing from beginning to nearly the end. Half way through the verse, the riff changes up (finally) though only a bit. However, for a moment, the entire ritual quiets, and the focus of the universe leads to the demonic tone, reciting a final line: "The struggle to free myself from restraints, becomes my very shackles." The riff resumes. A single note is struck in tremolo, held even as the rest of the instruments cut off as the bands guides the listening into "The Paradoxical Spiral."
For several moments, the trem continues aimlessly, rattling the mind with confusion. The organic Satanic high is impending... A new rhythm riff commenses, the continued and slightly altered off-beat hurling you down what is a spiral, apparently of the paradoxical sort. The gate to psychological Hell welcomes those who survive the spiral with yet another gut-wrenching verse and a new variant of the previous riff. The rhythm guitar begins your initiation, warping all comprehension with simple blaring of seemingly random yet repeated notes.
This riff repeats, sparing some chord movements to allow the dragging out of others, as "Re-Inanimate" seamlessly begins from the last track. The tour through the depths of the mind commense with what may well be an introduction. The riff takes some nasty twists and turns, throwing the mind off from the percieved straight path, leading smoothly on despite.
"Entrapment" is rightfully named, as now the rhythm is at its most complex part thus far. The mind is then entirely engulfed with what may considered a short solo from the lead guitar... the contents of which are utterly and delightfully manipulating and confusing. The riff slows, only to cut off abruptly into "Mind's Mirrors" - the turning point of the album.
Track 7 is ultimately silent at first, save some sudden string rattles in a blaring detuned power chord... Shortly thereafter, the lyrics commense, now with what I interpret to be a flanger effect, among other tech effects. The guitars continue to rattle discretely in the background, the beat held only by their rhythmic advances from the shadows and the harmonic yet creepy vocals. The two verses of this section are among the most philosophical I've been so blessed to read. I will post them for you:
"The feeding frenzy of my starving soul,
Gnawing voraciously at the bones.
The exo-skeletal patchwork,
Protecting my own reflection within.
The twin-and-same engaged
In the mirrored act of chewing away
At the shell of my attacking self,
The paradox: unseen.
Treacherous, this deceit;
To make no choice matter,
To have and yet lose yourself,
Until finally all reasons why are forgotten.
To live through one's own shadow,
Mute and blinded, is to really see.
Eclipse the golden mirror,
And the reflection is set free."
Soon after the lyrics, guitars kick in with mid-pitched groans, conflicting each other with the same solo progressions, though each delayed behind the other. A very awkward feeling insues, though in a good way. Toward the end of the song, the rhythm guitar drifts in, picking up with a sudden and refreshing start in "In Death - is Life."
The track almost seems upbeat at first, compared to the former. However, that notion is quickly knocked on its ass. A new trem progression is heard in the distance, contrasting the riff nicely until the usual screaming insues, to a more intact tempo, leading pleasantly into the sister track, a minute and a half later.
"In Death - is Death" continues with a variant of the riff from "- is Life," though not for long. The 13-minute epic stores a drastic tempo change at its middle, marking the 2nd quiet part of the album. The new tempo is maintained as the heavy kicks in again. By now, the listener's either going insane, or is betting that he/she knows someone who would be. The soloing is exquisite and way far out from anything ever heard. The tempo gradually shatters into one more typical of Meshuggah, only 2 minutes into the epic. There is then a 5-minute fit of instruments doing what they do. At 7:10, the instruments cut off, leaving a single guitar doing some slow sliding with ever-fun effects, marking the tempo and mood change. At 9:48, little has changed, though a new, distinguishable progression begins, massaging the weak traveler who were so brave to embark this journey in the first place. This continues with well-placed additions and variations until near the song's end, when the slowly rising guitar volume in the background begins to peak, only to drag the listener mercilessly into the next track, starting the final labrinthe of the album.
"Shed" opens with Jens' lovely voice... smacking you in the face with a 15-second outright scream, the guitars blaring in their new tempo. Then, a tribal drum beat commenses, some intriguing progressions accompanying the whispery vocals that take charge of the lyrics. A new round of heaviness insues after the first couple lines, only to return to the previous state as the next verse begins. This track so far is the most like a regular album track on "Catch 33," though still, there is no chorus, and there won't ever be. Don't get your hopes up. This track's eeriness continues from start to finish, encouraging you to "stare down the abyss" the whole way. The final seconds involve a much louder couple of lines, followed by a brief pause, and then a pick-up louder in the next track.
And into "Personae Non Gratae" we roll, continuing the tempo and riff in a much heavier fashion. There's little to say of this track, except that it acts like an interlude into "Dehumanization," and it's quite entertaining.
Track 12 changes things up from the last tracks, the drums picking up, vocals spouting words of contradiction. After the lyrics, a truely amazing lead guitar part commenses, driving the fangs into the throat, training the listener to love only the music. And the embrace releases, a new tribal beat accompanying the tempo. Zombie-esque vocals explain the orders of the dead to their new minion.
The perfectly-named final track, "Sum," sums up the album in 4 short sentences: "Vision will blind. Severance ties. Median am I. True are all lies," with a new mind warping riff and lead. The change up from this to lead the album to its closure are the highlight of the album, mesmerizing and beautiful in its very darkness, Jens' final elongated scream perfectly touching the sound for the better. And just when you think it's over, and the instruments cut off, a new, different sounds hits you like a hammer made of... feathers. A slow, quiet, jazz-like solo cradles the CD to its end, at which point the listener says peacefully, "I think I just died..."
Ultimately, the album feels pretty tedious at times, and it is undoubtedly Meshuggah's most experimental album ever, even in their eyes from what I've read. There are pleasant changes and transitions that relieve this, however. And, one thing I've heard about and noticed myself... After listening through "Catch 33," you're best sleeping it off or just going without music for a while, because if you try and listen to something else afterward, no matter what it is, it seems to suck... It leaves you demanding more. Meshuggah rips a void that only they can fill with this near masterpeice.
The only reason I didn't give "Catch 33" a 5 is because of those pockets of tediousness. This is definitely worth picking up for all of my fellow metal heads.