Review Summary: A lack of new ideas make this album feel like another step sideways, but a more concise and physical approach make Koloss Meshuggah's most accessible album.8 of 9 thought this review was well written
Meshuggah's latest album, Koloss
, is another step sideways by a band with a history of pushing forwards. After a string of innovative albums, the band peaked in 2005 with Catch Thirtythr33
, a single song which displayed a near-classical mastery of large scale structure in addition to seeing the band at their most texturally and harmonically experimental. However, since they were unable to play the entire song live, they responded with 2008's obZen
, an album largely tailored towards live performance and gaining new fans at the expense of experimentation. Koloss
takes this same principle even further - every song on this album is live ready (even the instrumental outro apparently had its origins as an introductory piece for their live show), and the music will likely inspire mosh pits thanks to its immediacy and increased accessibility.
This approach is evident right from the start of Koloss
. The first song, I Am Colossus
, has the shortest intro of any Meshuggah opening track yet - a brief riff excerpt is immediately followed by Jens Kidman's ferocious bellow. This track has a monstrous groove which may take a few listens to wrap your head around, but there's not much here to surprise anyone who listened to the band's previous album, obZen
- the verses consist of a tritone chug at a slow tempo, straight out of the verses of Lethargica
(and on the same chord), while the chorus consists of an ascending chromatic riff, a Meshuggah trademark. This is followed by a fast bridge lifted straight out of obZen
's closing track, Dancers to a Discordant System
. The song's one surprise follows in the form of a terrifying sirenesque lead.
The next song, The Demon's Name is Surveillance
, is the only song on Koloss
penned solely by lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal, and it shows - on first listen, it will sound to many like an extension of Bleed
. But don't be fooled by the simple pop structure and a solo which is taken straight off of Chaosphere
- between the six string guitars, a groove in 3, and some novel uses of a rhythmic motive, this song actually has the most new ideas of any song on Koloss
Do Not Look Down
, on the other hand, returns to the 8-string guitars, and between its funk-inspired groove which approaches a nu-metal bounce and a joke solo, the song sounds like a self-parody. It will make you want to move in ways that you wouldn't expect a band like Meshuggah to inspire, for better or worse.
Behind the Sun
will instantly hypnotize you with its heavily layered intro - so much so that you may neglect to notice that the first half of the song is in straight 4/4, with no polymeter of any sort. The slow introductory section is soon replaced by tremolo-picked odd time guitars and the most aggressive vocal performance on the album, leading the song to feel a bit like Gojira or Strapping Young Lad at times. This is the only song on the album with music written by vocalist Jens Kidman, which is somewhat surprising, as it is the album's best track.
The Hurt that Finds You First
is rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström's response to Thordendal's thrash tribute, Combustion
. While this song has the same hammering thrash drum beat as Combustion
, it is a more interesting song thanks to its odd time signatures and a reverse build-up ending which makes up for the song's highly repetitive first half.
is remarkable for its drum part - while many of the drum parts on the album sound near-programmed due to their minimalist approach, this song has a very active, fill-heavy drum part. This is the first time on a Meshuggah release since the I
EP (2004) that the drums have felt like they're being played by a real person. The second of the song's two solos is quite interesting, and the middle of the song is filled with riffs that may remind older fans of Corridor of Chameleons
On the off chance that you hadn't gotten enough of Hagström's chugging tritones on a low F in Lethargica
, and I Am Colossus
, he provides another 6 minutes of them on the awkwardly-titled Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion
, in addition to more semitone and octatonic leads. These elements in combination with the way polymeter is used here practically make this song one giant Meshuggah cliche, but it nonetheless manages to be appealing thanks to an incredibly violent groove. As the longest and most repetitive song on the album, it overstays its welcome.
This album may not present much in the way of new ideas, but it is Meshuggah's most accessible record due to its increased physicality. Where Meshuggah's previous recordings were highly intellectual, even in their most groove-oriented moments, this album is focused on inspiring movement. To that end, it succeeds, which means the album will likely appeal much more to those who weren't previously interested in the band than to diehard fans.