I defy you to find a melody in a Meshuggah song. Whatever melodic tendencies the Swedish death metal outfit has on their 1991 debut “Contradictions Collapse” had been crushed and thrown to the wind long before the release of their seventh studio album, “Koloss,” last month. The aptly titled album is a colossus of brutal, heavy metal at its best.
Right from the opening number, “I Am Colossus,” listeners know exactly what “Koloss” has in store for them. Singer Jens Kidman belting his vocals like a rabid dog on a chain over abrasive, precise and pounding rhythms that never let up.
In fact, little has changed on “Koloss” since Meshuggah’s 1998 album “Chaosphere,” and quite frankly there’s nothing wrong with that.
Even during the new wave of American heavy metal circa 2004 no band came close to doing what Meshuggah does. In headbanger and metal culture being “heavy” and “brutal” are badges of honor, and Meshuggah are Eagle Scouts.
While other bands from the middle of the 2000s like Shadows Fall or Mastodon have tweaked or even overhauled their sound Meshuggah’s crushing style remains as resilient and unforgiving as ever.
That said, if volume and dissonance aren’t your cups of tea you’d do best to stay away from anything Meshuggah ever does. I promise you, you will hate it.
While “Koloss” may be more of the same from Meshuggah, it is decidedly more focused and easier to swallow then some of their past efforts.
Gone are the days of the single 21-minute song EP “I” and the single 44-minute song album “Catch 33.” While some of the songs on “Koloss” stride beyond the six-minute mark, the album is as a whole a more streamlined and focused effort and one that is far less daunting then Meshuggah’s more adventurous discography.
Underneath Meshuggah’s brutal exterior there have always been a number of surprising influences, most notably jazz and fusion. “Koloss” is no different.
Jazzy guitar solos and nuanced drum rhythms still abide though they may easily go unnoticed amongst the bedlam. On several occasions Meshuggah take pages from the books of some of their heavy metal peers, shredding their way through guitar solos in “Do Not Look Down” and locking into a Pantera-esque grove during the breakdown of “Demiurge.”
However, Meshuggah has always been at their best when they lock into a solid rhythm, find a groove and ride it.
As heavy as the aforementioned “Do Not Look Down” is, and as eerie as the guitar drones in “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion” are, it’s hard not to get caught up in the bands dogged adherence to precise and offbeat rhythms.
“Koloss” does occasionally take a break from thudding, chugging rhythms to find its way toward more spacious moments, such as the epic opening to “Behind the Sun,” but the album never loses its chaotic backbone.
By the time “Koloss” ends with “The Last Vigil,” the tracks creepy arpeggios seem like a walk in the park after the nine previous head-pounding tracks. “Koloss” isn’t for the run of the mill radio junkie, but if you’re already a fan of Meshuggah or progressive death metal it might just be your album of the year.