Review Summary: A return with nothing ground-breaking for their sound, but a return that reminds you of why their sound is worth returning to.
In the 4 years that have passed since Meshuggah’s sixth album obZen was released in 2008, it seems as though everyone have forgotten what Meshuggah was really about with the rising music scene that was based off the sound of their riffs, “djent”.
The majority of the bands in this scene (with the exception of Periphery) seem to be missing the point. The big deal about Meshuggah wasn’t just the sound of their riffs, and all these artists have been doing with the inspiration of this sound is playing the same generic metalcore everyone has heard before in how it’s constructed, but just replacing their old riffs with the riffs of Meshuggah. In any other aspects of pacing, composition, and vocals, they are just as faceless now as they where when core bands first became over-saturated.
The big deal with Meshuggah is how they’ve proved time and time again that carefully calculated groove, and devastatingly shattering audio slugs can be heavier than every band trying to play so fast that their music becomes an impossible to grasp blur. It’s their experimentation, how it’s very rare to find a chorus in a Meshuggah song, how when listening to Meshuggah you aren’t just impressed at how talented it is that Meshuggah can play their music so crazily, you’re also impressed at how uniquely and ingeniously they’ve composed this music to begin with.
With this album, Meshuggah returns with a justification of how when it comes to great quality, Meshuggah are the most consistent band in metal with each album. If you loved obZen, you’ll love Koloss because it has everything you loved about obZen and any preceding Meshuggah album. Koloss implements a lot of sludge and doom like riffs, and also many soft and gentle acoustic elements that play a bigger role here than they did in the pre-breakdown interludes of songs on obZen, and by doing this Meshuggah proves yet again with Koloss that they know how to retain their trademark sound, not have it sound like the same old thing on every album, and also push their music into new directions. Their method is simple, while most other bands give themselves a complete overhaul when they want to experiment and bring their music in new directions, Meshuggah does everything very slightly. They make slight tweaks and adjustments to their sound that make a difference and are noticeable, but don’t completely dominate. So that with each album they progressively move into new territory instead of all at once, and also improve upon their past attempts, slowly but surely perfecting what has becomes staples of the Meshuggah sound will expanding with additional ideas.
One of the things that hasn’t, and will thankfully never change is Jens Kidman’s classic vocal delivery that he as perfected even more so on this album like he has on every other record up to this point. A towering guttural yell that strikes a fine medium in between the two death metal vocal styles of high pitched screams and low cookie monster growls. While bands typically pick one the two and scream their heads off at an insane rate, Jens paces himself to that of a steamroller slowly crushing ones bones, as he alternates between elongated yells, to growled talking as if reading the testament of the universes Armageddon. Either way he is booming and jabbing, and is just understandable enough for listeners to be intrigued by the always interestingly inspired themes and world-play, (the track title for “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion” came from a quote about revenge said by German theologian Albert Schweitzer) and all without any need of profanity to convey its brutality. It is so unlike any other vocals in metal, complimenting and emphasizing upon the mathematically composed grinding grooves backing them, while giving Jens and the band a distinguished and unmistakable voice, which is hard to come across.
It’s hard not to find appeal in the instruments. They manage to be not too fast, but fast enough to incite adrenaline rushes, and slow and drawn out, but not so much that it drags and ends up being doom metal. This is heavy music that is the best of both worlds of fast and slow, where listeners can grasp and identify the grooves and riffs, and also get caught up in their intensity, and all while changing the sound and style of the riffs multiple times during each track along with experimentally incorporating surprising features to each track. Such as the tapping section of “The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance”. These songs aren’t songs that are set up where one can hear a minute or so of the song and get caught up in the energy and then not have to listen to the rest of the song because the first minute displays the gist of what listeners will get for the rest of the song. These songs have different elements to them at every turn, and draw the listener in and immerse them into the tracks as they climb to their ultimatum.
Of course, this is consistent, meaning just as excellent for the same reasons as Choasphere and obZen. This is impressive because of how good this sounds and how this sound does not get old because of the retained core with assets that make it both a different and familiar experience and satisfying all the same. This isn’t anything groundbreaking for Meshuggah’s sound like on Nothing where they took all of their past experience and impressively matured and solidified the sound they always wanted for the new millennium, or when they first introduced their trashy vehicle with avant-garde integrity on their debut Destroy, Erase, Improve.
But music with experimental intentions doesn’t have to be genre-changing on every album to be amazing. Meshuggah show yet again on this album that they are the type of band where one can equally marvel at the smarts and talent of the music while still enjoying the music itself. They always pay close attention to the technical side of things but never lose their main priority of being heavy, always aware and mindful of the difference between impressing and pleasing. And this is another batch of music that is mind bending in its creation, and mind blowing in its execution.