Review by Mark Montgomery for MPM
I have Covid. And I feel like shit. I have been in bed wondering if I should listen to the new Meshuggah album, the 9th from the Swedish innovators.
It is going to be one of the best albums of the year, that’s a given. And that is my opinion this side of the audible journey as I am a big fan of the band.
I have a headache. And the thought of tarnishing the experience worries me. I don’t want the joy of listening to this for the first time be dampened by the fact I am utterly joyless at present. I don’t want to turn it off because my head can’t take it. Or if I get too excited and can’t breathe….
I have many memories of seeing Meshuggah live. One of my favourite photos I have taken at a gig was seeing Meshuggah on their Obzen Tour when they stopped in Bristol. I was on an upper level and watching the seething crowd on front of the lights.
My brother Steve was in the crowd somewhere, I took a photo just as the lights illuminated the room, and my brother, they only guy in a white Tee turned around at the exact moment. So, I have a perfect photo of Steve, the only face in a crowd, in front of Meshuggah.
Meshuggah were also the last live band I saw before the Covid Pandemic when I covered the ArcTanGent Festival for a Radio Station.
So now I’m feeling sorry for myself, do I put it off. Or take some pain killers and suck it up?
Do I need to write about the way Meshuggah generate their music? It does seem that every article about the band like to reveal that the band doesn’t jam. And they start Drums first.
So probably not. I don’t like writing carbon copies (you may have noticed, check out my other reviews……).On my radio show we (Jam, Sometimes Dan and myself) had discussed in great length what Meshuggah do, so it would feel like going over old ground. Ditto poly rhythms and the maths of awkward time signatures. We know what they do.
I have written previously about the evolution of Metal, and the Family tree metaphor, and I am now thinking that I should have saved all that up for this album and not for a cheap way to call Sebastian Bach a Dick (in a roundabout way of course).
What do you expect from a Meshuggah Album? Intriguing patterns, hard heavy riffs, sharp edges. Something that sets Meshuggah apart from EVERYTHING!
This Album did take me by surprise. Because the first track made me feel……Comfortable! The intro to Broken Cog was leading into something, I don’t know, because you can’t expect anything really. But when the track falls into place I felt a relief.
That’s not a bad thing, and it wasn’t because I felt like we have Meshuggah doing what we want them to do. It felt new, but not aggressive, it almost had fewer sharp edges. The Vocals are new, in a way, but familiar. It may well be the fact I was expecting to be audibly beaten up and bracing myself because I am still a bit fragile. But this was a pleasant opener.
Has anyone ever written “a pleasant opener” when describing a Meshuggah Album before?
Track 2. The Abysmal Eye. All the yes. Now I think the opening track was a little joke on their part. They made me chill out. I was sat back in my armchair with my massive headphones on and my eyes closed. I almost put my slippers on.
Then they crept up on me and smacked me in the face with a Scaffolding plank of a track. All the sharp edges that were left out of Broken Cog have been wedged into The Abysmal Eye. This is what I needed. This is what Meshuggah do better than anybody else. Its understandable why this was chosen as the single to be released before the album dropped (or released, depending on how old you are).
As I listen to the rest of the album, its noticeable that they have produced this differently. It has all the energy as before, heavy riffs and the Meshuggah signature solos are there too, but somehow made it sonically softer to the ear. Its hard to explain. Its as heavy and awesome yet enters the brain easier….
The vocals were done separately at the home of Jens Kidman in his own studio, so the songwriting primarily was done by Tomas Haake, the drummer who can do actual magic, Dick Lövgren (Bass) and Guitarist Mårten Hagström.
With the usual process of drum mapping on a computer with riffage ideas. Fredrik Thordendal had taken a bit of a step back for a while (he is still there and will of course be touring with the band). This meant there were 3 people in the studio, not 5. And Jens could spend more time on his vocals, and that shows. The 3 voices in the room made for a different sounding product.
Also, as this album was recorded mid Covid Pandemic, and Meshuggah are not an album every two years kind of act, they took their time with the postproduction. Overrunning their own deadline by 4 months. Why would you rush this? It has resulted in an album that is great to listen to.
Not just because the tracks are great, but the music is fed to you in a way Meshuggah have not done before. This is very subtle, but the audiophiles amongst you will notice.
Lyrics are always amazing, and this album throws out some absolute gems, check out the lyrics for Armies of The Preposterous.
There are some genuinely outstanding parts I need to highlight. Phantoms 2:54 in. A Crushingly simple riff that has echoes of earlier works but is perfect for screwing your face up and pointing at. The outro for Ligature Marks is wonderful.
It won’t crush you but will make you wish it lasted longer. They Move Below is a masterpiece. One of three instrumental tracks. This, at over 9 and a half minutes grows into a soundscape you can build worlds on.
There is a thing fans of Meshuggah suffer from, I’m going to give it a name; Meshuggah Syndrome. Once you become a fan, any other band doing a similar thing just doesn’t do it for you. And even when you switch gears and listen to other “nOrMaL” bands. You can’t help but think “………this is all very nice………but it’s not Meshuggah is it?” Think Kellogg’s Frosties versus cheap Supermarket frosted flakes.
With a Polar Bear.
Not a Tiger.
Meshuggah are an important band, they are true innovators of Metal. If you haven’t listened to much of their works, go back and listen to the back catalogue. This is a great album, take the time to listen to it properly. Wear some good headphones and immerse yourself, just don’t put your slippers on.
01. Broken Cog
02. The Abysmal Eye
03. Light The Shortening Fuse
05. Ligature Marks
06. God He Sees In Mirrors
07. They Move Below
09. Black Cathedral
10. I Am That Thirst
11. The Faultless
12. Armies Of The Preposterous
13. Past Tense
MESHUGGAH is:Jens Kidman | Vocals
Mårten Hagström | Guitars
Dick Lövgren | Bass
Fredrik Thordendal | Guitars
Tomas Haake | Drums