Friday, August 24, 2012

Meshuggah - Koloss (Deluxe Edition)

Koloss (Deluxe Edition)
Nuclear Blast Records

I really have to be in the mood to listen to Swedish (Umeå based) outfit Meshuggah at the best of times. When I’m in the right frame of mind, their brand of technical post-thrash metal (Which has since been coined ‘Djent’) can totally blow me away - keeping me enthralled. But when I’m not in the mood, their repetitive grooves and off-kilter timed riff structures and monotone growled vocals can really rub me the wrong way. Although some of the band’s earlier albums have garnished the highest praise from diehard fans, it was 2002’s ‘Nothing’ and 2005’s ‘Catch Thirtythree’ where I believe the band really hit their creative peak (Despite the simplistic nature of the former, and the programmed drums on the latter), with both of the album’s seeing the band remain true to their original sound, but with an added sense of experimentation necessary to keep them from sounding stale and overly repetitive.
Following on from their impressive ‘ObZen’ release from 2008 (Excluding 2010’s live effort ‘Alive’), Meshuggah (Who comprise of vocalist/guitarist Jens Kidman, guitarist/backing vocalist/keyboardist Fredrik Thordendal, guitarist/backing vocalist Mårten Hagström, bassist Dick Lövgren and drummer/spoken word vocalist Tomas Haake) are back with their highly anticipated seventh full-length effort ‘Koloss’.
Given the band’s lengthy existence and vast body of work to date, nobody would be expecting Meshuggah to stray too far from what they’ve always done in the past on ‘Koloss’. And sure enough, the Swede’s latest effort remains true to the familiar template of old. The only real question is whether or not the songs themselves are strong enough to make the album stand out as a whole.
In answer to that question, ‘Koloss’ is a worthy follow-up to ‘ObZen’, and one of the band’s more consistent and enjoyable efforts.
The album opens up with ‘I Am Colossus’ (The first single from the album), which is a track that relies heavily on the band’s trademark strong stop/start groove patterns delivered in a slower brooding pace. The production is notably more organic sounding than some of the band’s former albums (Which is something the band was clearly aiming for with this album), which undoubtedly allows the song to sound a little more open and spacious than anything from ‘ObZen’.
The faster paced ‘The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance’ rivals the speed and intensity of ‘Bleed’ (From ‘ObZen’), and takes the aggression another notch up through Haake’s relentless drum work, while on ‘Do Not Look Down’, the band have managed to turn out a track that’s surprisingly stripped back and infectious, without losing any of their trademark sound.
The slow and calculated groove of ‘Behind The Sun’, ‘Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion’ and ‘Marrow’ boast the kind of sound and direction Meshuggah have been mastering for the better part of the last twenty years, and they’re the kind of songs that will either have you sucked in with their ongoing repetitive groove, or switching off midway through in sheer boredom.
‘The Hurt That Finds You First’ is another fast paced effort that easily stands out amongst the album’s ten tracks, with the catchy guitar riffs and Haake’s onslaught on the drums bringing to mind the band’s pseudo-thrash sound on ‘Chaosphere’ (1998).
‘Swarm’ is quite a dynamic track that combines the band’s strong groove delivered with plenty of menacing aggression and passages of pure experimentation (Especially throughout the solos), while the keyboards within ‘Demiurge’ add a haunting atmosphere to the track that overall gives the song a completely new angle. Finishing up the album is the instrumental piece ‘The Last Vigil’, which closes the album on a somewhat ambient note.
The deluxe edition of ‘Koloss’ comes with a bonus D.V.D., which comprises of a twenty-five minute ‘Konstrukting The Koloss’ and a twenty-six minute documentary of ‘Meshuggah In India’.
The documentary (Put together by At The Gates/The Haunted guitarist Anders Björler and Nocturnal Rites drummer Owe Lingvall) is a fascinating insight into the making of ‘Koloss’, as well as revealing a side to the individual members of Meshuggah that has otherwise been rarely seen before. Much like The Haunted’s ‘Road Kill’ film, the documentary is quite stark and sparse, which only emphasises the story being told that much more.
As ‘Meshuggah In India’ (Which was again put together by Björler for his At The Gates Films production company), the documentary follows the band’s short stopover in India in December 2010 while in support of ‘ObZen’. Again, Björler’s approach is stripped back and minimalistic, but incredibly well done. Although various bits of live footage of the band performing can been seen throughout the film (Including ‘Rational Gaze’, ‘Mind’s Mirrors’, Sum’, ‘Electric Red’, ‘Bleed’), there are sadly no complete live tracks. Despite this, the D.V.D. is a worthy addition to the deluxe package.
Meshuggah haven’t reinvented themselves one bit on this album, but if you liked the direction the band were heading on ‘ObZen’, then you’ll definitely enjoy this latest effort. Overall, ‘Koloss’ is another solid Meshuggah album.

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© Justin Donnelly

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