Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN - 26/4
The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Written by: AP on 14/12/2016 19:04:34
Despite closing in fast on their 30th Anniversary, not once has Umeå, Sweden’s premier metal outfit, Meshuggah, felt dated or worn. The band’s unflinching vision has bred a style so original that an entire genre was conceived from the mere tone of a particular kind of palm-muted note that the two guitarists like to deploy. The irony is that to this date, none of Meshuggah’s understudies in that onomatopoetic ‘djent’ movement have succeeded in actually replicating the fractal amalgam of industrial, progressive and death metal that the maestros have spent the best part of three decades constructing. Somehow, Meshuggah manages to stay ahead of the curve, always sounding like the future. And regardless of the fact that for this eighth studio album, “The Violent Sleep of Reason”, the five musicians were inspired by the raw energy of the bands that influenced them during Meshuggah’s formative years in the ‘80s and ‘90s — they still do.
Unlike past Meshuggah offerings, “The Violent Sleep of Reason” was recorded live in studio (not in one take, mind you) and, believe it or not, is only their second to feature actual drumming by Tomas Haake. As such, it has an organicity unheard of since 1991’s “Contradictions Collapse” — you can hear the push-and-pull, the small disruptions in the synchronisation that make the music sound less like a bludgeoning by cyborgs, and more lifelike. To describe the onslaught as ‘human’ would be stretching it, however. The miasma of complex, mechanistic polyrhythms laid down by Haake, the brutal tone of Fredrik Thordendal & Mårten Hagström’s eight-string chug, and the intermittent eruptions of eerie, discordant melodies in songs like “Clockworks” and “Born in Dissonance” still has Meshuggah sounding absolutely terrifying, like some sinister entity not born of this world.
As ever, the unorthodox methodology toward songwriting means that lasting value comes in disguise. Neither of the aforementioned tracks, nor those that follow, reach beyond the lowest five frets very often, with much of the guitar and bass arrangement composed of ones and zeros played in a variety of muted/unmuted patterns. Such has been the philosophy of Meshuggah since the band’s inception in 1988, and “The Violent Sleep of Reason” does little to innovate on the formula. But what Meshuggah has always mastered, particularly in the wake of 2002’s landmark “Nothing”, is groove. Once Haake, Thordendal, Hagström & bassist Dick Lövgren settle into a jazzy swagger, there is no escaping it; it flows through your veins and triggers a strange instruction in your motor cortex — not so much headbanging as a horizontal movement of the head accompanied by a cavalier face expression. And in “MonstroCity”, the four musicians have found what is possibly their finest groove yet, evolving from booming KoRn-style notes to a bending, Pantera-esque chug, which then quickly twists out of a 4/4-signature to rain cascades of arcade-y tapping upon the listener.
Out of that same drawer, “Ivory Tower” captures your imagination with one of the most distinctive riffs you will have heard this year, dropping several octaves in the space of a few bars, again and again. Elsewhere, “Stifled” pummels you with a randomised system of notes, threatening to unravel the very concept of a song with its sonorous waveform and broken toy guitar solo — yet ironically, the one minute and thirty seconds of chiming ambiance at its rear end is the only respite Meshuggah is prepared to offer across these ten tracks. The faster, thrashier charge of “Nostrum” meanwhile should be to the satisfaction of any connoisseur of 1995’s “Destroy Erase Improve”, and indeed very conducive to the argument that “The Violent Sleep of Reason” neatly condenses most of what Meshuggah has done to date into one hour-long opus.
Admittedly, the record does feel somewhat prolonged. On the one hand, Meshuggah continues to push the boundaries of what is musically possible and delivers a host of terrific tracks that are sure to become live staples in the process. But at the same time, the group misfires more than usual, digging themselves into a number of ruts over its course that by Meshuggah’s own standards sound rather indistinctive. Be that as it may, “The Violent Sleep of Reason” still trumps everything 2016 has thrown at us in terms of sheer intensity, heaviness and sensory punishment. Challenging and altogether brutal, the album furthers its creators’ proud tradition of reinventing what the future of music sounds like.
Download: Clockworks, MonstroCity, Stifled, Nostrum
For the fans of: Car Bomb, Fear Factory, Gojira, Vildhjarta
Release date 07.10.2016