Sunday, January 8, 2012

Meshuggah - obZen

This was my first Meshuggah album. I actually got it a month or so after it came out when I unintentionally got caught in the middle of all the hype that was going on about this record. Most of the people that I’ve talked to have said that obZen is Meshuggah’s best album; which is a statement that I fully agree with. There is one problem I have with this album and Meshuggah in general, and that is that they’ve been doing the same exact thing for almost 20 years. I hate to break it to you guys, but even though these guys possess some of the most amazing technical and instrumental skills, they are one of the least creative metal bands I have ever heard.

For those of you that aren’t super familiar with deathcore, I would suggest that you listen to some bands from that genre like All Shall Perish, Born of Osiris, and Veil of Maya. The thing that those bands have in common is that their version of that sudden drop in tempo commonly known as a breakdown is extremely complex and technical. Meshuggah is like that, except that’s all they are, one big breakdown that changes into another breakdown. Here’s the problem I have with that; the best breakdowns have a really fast part that leads into a buildup of tension that then drop in tempo going to the breakdown. The problem I have with Meshuggah is that there is no buildup at all (with the exception of a weak buildup as the intro in a couple of songs); it’s usually just a breakdown from beginning to end. It may sound awesome, and it does; it’s awesome! But it gets old and repetitive very quickly.

There is a small group of people that consider this constant breakdown style its own genre, giving it the name “djent”, which is a term that I haven’t come to accept or use. Although more and more bands are using more breakdowns in their music, Meshuggah still dominates them with the amount of them used; being considered by some to be the “inventors” of what we consider today to be a metal  breakdown.

Now that I’m done whining, I’d like to say that although these guys have next to no creative abilities, they are some of the best metal musicians I’ve ever heard. Their songs are so technical and abstract that I can’t tap my foot or bang my head in time with the song because all the abstract and off-beat riffs this band does throws me off. Of course once I pulled out a metronome, it was proven that these guys are actually keeping perfect time throughout the song. Those of you musicians out there that have tried to play or write stuff like this know that it’s not easy at all and that the stuff Meshuggah pulls off is nearly impossible for everyone except Meshuggah (ever wonder why no one has ever covered a Meshuggah song?).

The best musician in the band is one of the best metal drummers I have ever heard. Those of you that know anything about a band should know that the drummer is the motor of the group that keeps the band on-tempo. Not only that, he has one of the best set of legs in the world. If you don’t have a perverted mind, you should be able to figure out what I mean by listening to the song Bleed off of this record. When most people hear the name Meshuggah, they think “I love their drummer!” which is what made me listen to them again after I was minimally impressed with them when I first heard them in 2008.

I will admit that their vocalist makes one of the best faces I’ve ever seen (click the link at the bottom of the review to see it). He doesn’t growl, he doesn’t sing, he doesn’t scream, he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t belch, he doesn’t even “Trollololo”. The sound that you hear flowing out of his mouth is the unfiltered sound of rage and anger from an unknown being. In other words, there’s no way to verbally describe the sound of his vocals, they’re that unique.

Overall, this album sounds no different from any of their other albums. The only thing that makes this album stand out to me the most is that there is more variation in tempo and technicality throughout the record. But otherwise, it’s just one long breakdown that drags on and doesn’t have any build-up, eventually disappointing your expectations for something bigger to happen. There isn’t any low point, it’s all at the highest point; the tension is literally unchanging throughout, therefore making this an album that is extremely addicting and enjoyable to listen to once, but will sound dull and boring after the first listen. So I only listen to Meshuggah like once every other month because of that. I would give this album 13/20.