Review Summary: The sweet spot between intricacy and accessibilty.
There’s a reason why Meshuggah is part of the curriculum at Berklee College of Music. There’s a reason why they’re the topic of published articles in music theory journals. And there’s a reason why their influence has permeated through hundreds of bands who continually try to emulate their style. Meshuggah aren’t just a fantastic band, they’re a band that has simultaneously pioneered and mastered an entirely unique approach to rhythm and heavy music. They’ve been releasing consistently excellent and innovative material since 1995, and Koloss
is yet another superb addition to their truly impressive discography.
This is definitely a comfortable and confident release from the band. At this point, they are well aware of the impact they have made on the metal community and rather than push their sound in any new direction, they have elected to deliver an album which essentially celebrates the sound that they invented. All of the beloved qualities of the band are here in full force – the thunderous, shuddering 8-string guitar tones, the dizzyingly complex and mechanical drums, the oddly-cycling riffs that seem to lack beginnings or ends, and of course the supremely nuanced and unbelievably groovy rhythms. Koloss
is definitely an ode to the trademark Meshuggah groove and is yet another convincing argument for their rhythmic prowess and virtuosity. But what’s always been most impressive to me about the band isn’t their virtuosity. Their music definitely does succeed on an intellectual level with the all of the polyrhythms and odd, off-time riff cycling. The true success of the band though is their ability to turn all of that complexity into something visceral that can be enjoyed regardless of your understanding of what’s going on under the hood.
And on no album is that more true than Koloss
. Rather than trying to top their last release and greatest technical achievement, ObZen
, the band has dialed things back and focused on making an album that is just as fun to listen to as it is to think about. The increased immediacy of this record relative to their past material is mainly a consequence of two things: track diversity and sequencing. Unlike previous releases which have typically found Meshuggah exploring a single facet of their sound in long-form detail, Koloss draws from many of the different iterations of the band over the years: the frenetic, thrashy sounds of Chaosphere
("The Hurt That Finds You First"), the gigantic, lumbering grooves of Nothing
("Do Not Look Down", "Break Those Bones..."), the speedy triplets and double bass of ObZen
and "Bleed" ("The Demon's Name..."), as well as relatively unique explorations of the band's sound ("Swarm", "Behind the Sun"). Moreover, the improved track variety is further enhanced by excellent sequencing which creates an album with an arc and flow that Meshuggah have never quite been able accomplish with past albums.
This is the true success of Koloss
. It manages to strike a balance between complexity and listenability that has previously eluded the band. They definitely haven't sacrificed who they are musically - all of the nuance and intricacy of their music is just as present here as it ever was. But it's executed with an increased focus on immediacy and album structure that has ultimately delivered the most approachable and accessible release in their catalogue. And for music as intricate as this, approachability is a feat greater than technicality.