By Andrew Bansal
Swedish metal titans Meshuggah have laid low for the majority of the past three years, as they were busy working on the follow-up to the 2008 release “obZen”. To say that the band’s seventh studio album “Koloss” is one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year, is already an understatement. The band has constantly evolved throughout their career, and have always come up with something different on each of their albums. Before “obZen”, they kept moving farther away from the thrash-oriented sound that characterized their first couple of albums, but with “obZen” they achieved the best of both worlds, with a fusion of their thrash sound and the experimental elements they are known for. When I got a chance to listen to “Koloss”, I was most curious to find out what direction they’ve taken this time.
“I Am Colossus” is a brutal beginning in every sense of the term, and the power of the guitar riff is its most enjoyable aspect in this slow, evil tune. “The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance” picks up the tempo and intensity even further, and the entire band sounds cohesively solid on this one. The album then settles back into the dark and heavy down-tempo riff-oriented sound it started out with, until the fifth track “The Hurt That Finds You First” speeds things up again and grabs the listener by the throat. It winds down into an eerily quiet ending segment, leading into “Marrow”. This one is characterized by an extremely heavy bass sound, and consists of the first real occurrence of a guitar solo. Up to this point, the music is all about the riffs, the vocals and the rhythm, but Marrow offers a good change-up in the form of this solo.
“Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion” is in tune with the majority of the album, and revisits the exact same musical approach I just talked about. But “Swarm” is most definitely the standout tune on this album. It hits the perfect middle ground between the rather simplistic style of this album, and the technicality that one would expect from a band like Meshuggah. The brutal assault of the album continues with “Demiurge”, after which the haunting instrumental piece “The Last Vigil” brings it to a thought-provoking end.
Overall, Meshuggah’s “Koloss” is a set of tunes on which the band has employed a very organic songwriting approach, wherein the focus is on the riff and the groove rather than complexity or technicality. The album’s production ensures that it sounds extremely solid with all the layers cohesively arranged together, doing complete justice to this songwriting style. Even though the band has become massively popular in the heavy metal realm in recent years, it’s fantastic to know that they did not make any cheap attempts at rising in popularity further, and did not move into a commercial direction with their music on this new release. In terms of the musical progression in their overall career, this album is definitely a step back, but as fans and critics will discover, it’s a positive step.
Meshuggah have influenced an insanely large number of bands that form the so-called Djent movement, but in my opinion, that scene has become overly mainstream, and has turned into something Meshuggah has very little to do with. For this reason, I must applaud Meshuggah for coming up with an album like “Koloss” which well and truly separates them from their imitators. While it will certainly not alienate fans of their previous material, this album has the potential to garner a new fan base for the band, consisting of people who wouldn’t necessarily have embraced the complex and experimental side of the Meshuggah catalog.
Perhaps the only shortcoming of this album is that some of the songs sound a little too similar to each other because they have the same structure and tempo, but then I’m sure a lot of people will actually enjoy this aspect, because the album quickly settles into a rhythm and creates a comfort zone for the extreme metal fan.
Finally, I must mention the artwork. The cover atwork for “obZen” simply blew my mind, and ever since I saw it for the first time, I have considered it as one of the best covers of all time. So I was eagerly waiting to see what appears on the next Meshuggah album cover. The image, named “Gateman”, was created by the Luminokaya Lab, and was worked on for as long as nine months. There is an incredible amount of detail in the 3-D image, but unfortunately I can’t quite make a judgment on it based on the 2-D version I’m seeing on my computer screen. Oh well, as if the music wasn’t already enough of a reason to purchase an actual physical copy of the album, here’s another one.
“Koloss” is an audacious effort destined for greatness.
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
European Release Date: March 23rd 2012
US Release Date: March 27th 2012
01. I am Colossus (4:43)
02. The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance (4:39)
03. Do Not Look Down (4:43)
04. Behind The Sun (6:14)
05. The Hurt That Finds You First (5:33)
06. Marrow (5:35)
07. Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion (6:55)
08. Swarm (5:26)
09. Demiurge (6:12)
10. The Last Vigil (4:32)