Review Summary: Meshuggah have taken a different approach with Koloss. For better or worse is subjective, this album is undeniably HEAVY.
If you have been a fan of extreme metal for the last ten or fifteen years, you really don't need an introduction as to who Meshuggah are, but just in case you don't know, they are a Swedish band who formed in 1987. These guys are considered heavy hitters when it comes to extreme metal, and there really is no pidgeon-holing them into any one genre. Every fan of Meshuggah has their own way of describing and interpreting their unique style, and to say this band is influential is an understatement. To look at the vast amount of new bands on the metal scene that have adopted Meshuggah's apporach is testament to the benchmark they have set. After the 2008 release obZen, fans have been eagerly awaiting forthcoming album Koloss...
The two pre-leaked songs, Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion and Do Not Look Down both showcase Meshuggah's - somewhat unexpected - approach to Koloss. The mix is a lot more 'raw' than previous albums, which seemed more synthetic in production. Koloss for me is all about the metal, and the heaviness and groove that encompass that, so if you are expecting a 39/16 over 4/4 polyrhthm here, you may be a little disappointed. To put it simply, Koloss marks a different direction and possesses less of what made obZen a technical masterpiece. However, I definately think Meshuggah have executed a well-rounded album here, and there is something to please everyone.
Some fans may have been worried that the slow vibe in the leaked tracks (Break Those Bones is actually reminiscent of a doom metal song for me) would reamin present throughout most of the album, carrying little variation. Well, rest assured, Koloss is the complete metal experience we've come to expect from every Meshuggah release. This is arguably Meshuggah's heaviest release too, and credit has to be given to the recording and profuction. Every riff has a certain thickness and heaviness; never before has an 8-string guitar been given this much justice. In terms of solos, they have been cut to a minimum, with the only real solo - which sees Thordendal tapping the hell of of the fretboard - is in Marrow, other than this, they are very minimalist. Jens Kidmans vocals cut straight through, and are truly menacing on tracks like I Am Colossus and Behind The Sun in particular, showcasing the signature montonous style of Meshuggah's vocals. Thomas Haake's drumming is tasteful as always, and does a great job of locking everything together. Meshuggah definately don't restrain from showing their virtuosity though. For example, The Demon's Name Is Surveillance is comparable to Bleed; the relentless barrage of double bass and tremolo picking is incredible, especially with good speakers/headphones. Behind The Sun - which Jens Kidman actually wrote - is the only track on the album that holds a progressive element throughout. I especially like Thordendals ambient guitar work on this song, and is one of the stand out tracks on Koloss. In addition, the track after, The Hurt That Finds You First, sees a nice return to the roots of Meshuggah. The tradional thrash groove (or skank beat) is used throughout the song, and I felt this was refreshing in the midst of a lot of slow and thick grooves. Another high point on the album for me is Marrow, and if there was one word I would use to descrbe this song, it would be 'hectic'. It is definately one of the more syncopated tracks on Koloss, and it reminds me of Chaosphere, which i'm sure is good news for many Meshuggah fans. Demiurge opens with an eery effect, and explodes into an intensely satisfying groove. I think this track defines Koloss as a whole with simplistic, yet extremely heavy instrumentation, and is definately one of the more 'punchy' songs on Koloss, alongside I Am Colossus, which I like to visualize as Jens Kidman leading an army of evil undead to world domination. The last track, The Last Vigil, shows that Meshuggah can branch off into other styles, and the effect of this mellow instrumental against the fury on the rest of Koloss is very welcome for me. If I could pick a weak point to this album, it would be the track Swarm, though many would beg to differ (to each their own right?). I thought the song lacked a certain something compared to some of the other - quite frankly - awesome moments on Koloss, and it never really strays too far from the simple dotted pattern set at the beginning.
Overall, Koloss is an album which - like other Meshuggah albums - has a unique tone and theme to it, while not compromising the style that have defined Meshuggah as metal greats. I recommend every Meshuggah fan, and metal fan for that matter, to check out what Koloss has to offer.