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Album Review: MESHUGGAH Koloss

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When you really think about it, Sweden’s Meshuggah is extreme metal’s answer to Tool. Both bands have some of the most supportive and staunch fanbases in their respective genres, both remain enigmatic and reserved despite almost universal critical acclaim, and both take their sweet time in-between album releases. Oh, and they’re both rhythmic as hell. Now that Meshuggah has solidified itself as one of the premier bands new metal groups rip off (rivaled only by At the Gates), what would the group do to keep things fresh and exciting? What could they do to remind listeners why entire goofy subgenres (see: Sumeriancore) were made to  just steal riffs from Nothing and Chaosphere? Though it’s been four years since the release of their previous album, obZen, Meshuggah hasn’t lost any steam, sacrificed any creativity, and still remain as the best group to ever pick up an 8-string guitar. 

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Koloss is essentially a melting-pot of the group’s back catalog, and also comes with its own fair share of curveballs. The album is, of course, chock-full of down-tuned, syncopated riffs that should snap the spinal column of anyone daring to check out songs like “Do Not Look Down” and “Marrow”. For fans of the older, faster side of Meshuggah, “The Demon’s Name is Surveillance” and (my personal favorite) “The Hurt That Finds You First” offer unrelenting double-bass and thrash inspired beats from drum-demigod Tomas Haake. And for those who prefer the more progressive/mechanical style, ala Catch 33 and I, “Behind the Sun” and “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion” conjure up some of the darkest melodies and terrifying atmosphere to date.

Darkness is one of the foremost qualities that come to mind when describing Koloss. The riffs and more ephemeral guitar leads sound much more bleak this time around. If the subdued, almost somber ending of “The Hurt That Finds You First” doesn't send chills down your spine, I don’t know what could. And even though the album’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor-esque closer, “The Last Vigil” may seem obviously more timid than the nine previous tracks, it closes the album wonderfully. This simple, instrumental song complements the power-driven, polymetric onslaught with a bit of time to reflect on what the hell just happened to you. It’s a roaring success, and shows the band's enduring willingness to experiment.

Lead axeman/Norse badass Fredrik Thordenal certainly shows an excellent sense of restraint on many of his more ambient leads, but also knows when to play like Holdsworth on LSD in sections of “Marrow”. Anyone else also think it sounds like a reinterpretation of the solo in Devin Townsend Project’s “Deconstruction”? Haake also seems to be playing more in the pocket this time around (but really, what else does he need to prove?), keeping the band’s three stringsmen securely locked in at all times. That’s not to say Haake still isn’t absolutely dominating his instrument. Excluding Koloss' two fast numbers, Haake would rather lay in on a more memorable groove than remind you that he has the chops to contend with the best of them.  Jens Kidman’s vocals also seem exponentially more anguished than they were on obZen. The production of the vocals on Koloss is also the best they’ve ever been, and help provide a bit of extra clarity to Kidman’s token mid-range scream. Kidman sounds absolutely menacing in the middle section of “Behind the Sun”.

This will undoubtedly go down as one of the year’s best metal albums, and is only bested by their previous masterworks, Nothing and Catch 33. If anything, Koloss shows once again how consistent this group has been over the years. Just take some advice from the band, and do not look down. That’s Meshugah’s job.

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Rating: 8.75/10

You can download the opening track, "I Am Colossus" at Scion AV.

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