Review Summary: "Disassemble this machinery, re-program these eyes and undo this design."
The surgical accuracy of the riffs, the polyrhythmic arrangements, the abrasive and technical lyricism; all repeatedly hammered into your brain at once until your consciousness is penetrated to the point of mental submission… This is the crux to Meshuggah’s success.
What this Swedish quintet does is pioneer a genre, that few bands can replicate, but expanded their own territories, which consequently means that any band who manages to sound alike is still aeons away from the level of originality that Meshuggah set. Yet each of their albums is still traceable back to their signature off beat sound and after three decades, Meshuggah have earned the title of being an evolutionary band in terms of their own ascending career and the genre they belong to.
As mentioned, Meshuggah have always had a special creative arc with each album they release but on “The Violent Sleep of Reason” the difference is not the technique that they play. There are still the uncompromising melee of grooves that bludgeon their way through your skull, like on ‘Born in Dissonance’, the cascading crush of ‘Ivory Tower’, and the aptly titled: ‘Our Rage Won’t Die’. There are no surprises with the technical ability of each member or the complex themes that are sung about on this album; these songs are just typical Meshuggah doing what they do best. The clear difference with their eighth album is the overall character- for the reason that it was recorded live.
Unlike any of their past albums, Meshuggah haven’t deconstructed each of their songs by scrupulously layering each instrument atop each other, and the outcome of this change on “The Violent Sleep of Reason” is a more raw and honest experience. All the tracks therefore sound like there is a freer sense of controlled chaos rather than the systematic aggression that was present on 2008’s “obZen”. When the band slides into a pulverising breakdown or a multidimensional solo on songs like ‘By the Ton’ and ‘Nostrum’, the section sounds far more organic and less synthetic.
Due to the live recording of “The Violent Sleep of Reason”, the spotlight is shared equally around the members of Meshuggah. Jens Kidman’s vocals have never sounded more lucid yet no potency is lost, particularly on the title track where his distorted growls mimic a distant voice penetrating your nightmares; and ‘MonstroCity’ features one of the most catchy choruses the band have manufactured. The nucleus of Meshuggah’s technicality is of course Tomas Haake and fans will not be disappointed to know that he remains as consistent as usual on the album. It almost seems clichéd to talk about his technicality on drums but right from the beginning, on ‘Clockworks’, he displays his dizzying polyrhythmic approach that may well render you cross-eyed for the remaining 50 minutes.
Meshuggah was the inadvertent matrix for Djent and are still leagues in front of any band spawned from this unplanned conception. “The Violent Sleep of Reason” destroys your mind, rearranges the cogs to generate a new, malformed creation, and then destroys it over again.