Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Album Review: Meshuggah - Koloss

I like to imagine that if Godzilla had a soundtrack to his crushing Japan, it would be Meshuggah's seventh and newest album, Koloss. No album could deliver the same sense of impending doom for the terrified people of the collapsing city or be more fitting for the 100 meter-tall monster as his lumbering rampage tears down skyscrapers and crushes civilians underfoot than Koloss.

Koloss is their most atmospheric album to date. It's as dark and thick as molasses, but every bit as harsh and biting as a face full of riot-grade pepper spray. When they promised us 'dark and sinister' by God, did they ever deliver. One important thing to note is that this is not another rhythmically technical mindfuck like Nothing. Nor does it feature the physically demanding playing styles the likes of which made obZen the ferocious back breaker of an album that it was.

Furthermore, this is not the album does not follow the djent format or sound that they have been credited in recent years with creating. It is almost as if they wanted to separate themselves from bands like Periphery or Animals As Leaders, who have warped a straightforward brand of heavy technical music and transformed it into some sort of core-fusion featuring bands that sound absolutely nothing like Meshuggah who somehow looped them in with the whole lot. Or, it could have been just another creative leap like Catch 33 or I. Regardless, the album does not sound like djent, but what's important is that it DOES sound like Meshuggah.

It kicks off weakly with I Am Colossus and The Demon's Name Is Surveillance. They aren't the greatest songs, and I'd even go as far as to say that they are two of the worst songs Meshuggah have ever put out, but luckily the album improves drastically from there. Do Not Look Down brings us some of those good ol' djent-y grooves Meshuggah is known sowell for, and Behind The Sun starts off with eerily clean ringing guitar riffs similar to that of Dancers To A Discordant System and moves on to some pretty doom-inspired riffs. The Hurt That Finds You First is one of the thrashier numbers on this album, and almost seems like a throwback to the Destroy Erase Improve days. Marrow is my personal favourite song on Koloss, and reminds me most of a slower cut from Nothing and features both a shredding solo and a sweet little back-and-forth tapping riff that the album is more or less unfortunately devoid of. You may remember that Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion was the first song that they released for previewing purposes in early February, and it got me pretty excited for the album but it pales in comparison to the songs that follow on the album. Next to Marrow, Swarm and Demiurge are two of the strongest songs on the album, and the closest thing to previous-era Meshuggah you're going to find on this album. This brutally unforgiving album closes with The Last Vigil, which is hands down the most unearthly mellow song Meshuggah have ever written. Wholly clean and unsettling: The perfect closer for an album this dark.

Another thing to be said about Koloss is that it features vocalist, Jens Kidman's, strongest performance to date. He screams more powerfully and coherently than ever and sounds like the colossus itself, barking commands at us mortals from on high. Tomas Haake, however failed to bring the thunder he's renowned for on the drums and I found myself a little bored by his conventional approach this time around. But that is certainly not to say that he did not perform solidly.

Fans of obZen and Nothing may dismiss the importance of this album in the band's development. Even though it's slower, slightly less technical and focuses more on creating a massive sound and sinister atmosphere than it does showing off their musical prowess every second of every song (something that over their last four albums should have been proven a thousand times over and pounded into all of our heads by now anyways) the songwriting has reached an all new height.

Meshuggah have indeed outdone themselves once again, creatively. But is that to say that I would accept another Meshuggah album like this? My answer would have to be, 'no'. Why? Because it comes off a lot like the Catch 33 album did; like a concept they'd toyed around with to the point that not turning it into a full-length record no longer seemed an option, a purging of sorts. But who knows? Maybe this is what they've always wanted to sound like. And maybe Periphery and the rest of those other djent bands wanted to as well. They were just, as usual, waiting for Meshuggah to do it first.

We here at the Hardcore & Metal Times give Meshuggah's stripped-down, doom-laden masterpiece, Koloss 7.5/10

Track list:
1. I Am Colossus
2. The Demon's Name Is Surveillance
3. Do Not Look Down
4. Behind The Sun
5. The Hurt That Finds You First
6. Marrow*
7. Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion
8. Swarm
9. Demiurge
10. The Last Vigil

*Recommended Track

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