Meshuggah - Koloss

Nuclear Blast Records
Produced by Meshuggah

Koloss is the seventh album from Meshuggah, their first new studio release in three years, and the follow-up to the critically acclaimed obZen. As such, expectations for this album were (are) understandably high. Expectations based on past experiences can have a funny way of affecting the experience of something new, however. For example, concurrent with the release of online streaming samples for the tracks Do Not Look Down and Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion, drummer Tomas Haake had mentioned that some of the tracks on Koloss would contain a certain measure of what he described as "groove", which sounds like a bit of a departure for Meshuggah.

Indeed, there are tracks which have a certain (possibly uncharacteristic for Meshuggah) level of groove to them, and to the listener who is expecting another album like obZen, this might be a bit shocking at first. However, the fact is that there is actually a great deal of musical variety present on this album. There are certainly groove-laden tracks such as the two previously mentioned songs, but then there are also several "typical" Meshuggah crushers such as The Demon's Name Is Surveillance, Marrow and the exceptionally catchy Swarm (which is easily this album's analog to Bleed). In addition, there are also some ultra-heavy mid-tempo tracks such as Behind The Sun and Demiurge that are very reminiscent of songs like Lethargica. Finally, there are some tracks that almost completely defy classification - such as the almost thrashy, uber-frenetic spasms of The Hurt That Finds You First. The opening track is admittedly not necessarily a crushing song in and of itself, but it is certainly a very substantial leading left jab to set up the crushing right hook that is the aforementioned Demon. Even the album's closer, which is an uncharacteristically slow and meandering track for Meshuggah, is a valuable part of the whole because it represents a rare - and perhaps even welcome - slice of mercy at the end of an album that otherwise spends the better part of fifty minutes pounding the listener's head to a squishy pulp.

The more one listens to Koloss, the more obvious it should become that there is something here for everyone - which might just make this album, as a whole, one of the best collections of songs that Meshuggah have ever released. Perhaps the primary issue with Koloss may turn out to be that many listeners may have wanted or been expecting an album chock full of straightforward, aggressive songs like Bleed, or replete with mind-benders like Pravus (and by the way - that doesn't necessarily sound like a bad thing), but when they didn't get that, perhaps they were disappointed. After all, Meshuggah is an extreme band with a very unique sound, and most of Meshuggah's fans tend to be extreme people (author raises guilty hand). For fans of extremes, the concept of balance might just be a difficult pill to swallow.

At the end of the day, though, many of the familiar elements of Meshuggah's signature sound are still here. Time signatures such as 4/4 are still rare on this album. Polyrhythms abound as if they are a second language to Meshuggah (basically because they are). The tuning is of course dropped down, filthy and nasty. The production is fantastic - every bit as good as it is on albums such as obZen. The musicianship on display here is, as always, off the charts - and of course, the songs themselves are still some of the heaviest compositions ever set to album by any band on this or any other planet.

And so, while at first listen, things in the Meshuggah camp may seem to have taken a turn into unknown territory, the real truth may ultimately be that, aside from some measure of experimentation - and the organic growth of a band that comes as a result - nothing of significance has really changed at all.

“ dropped down, filthy and nasty ”

Tracklist: I Am Kolossus / The Demon's Name Is Surveillance / Do Not Look Down / Behind The Sun / The Hurt That Finds You First / Marrow / Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion / Swarm / Demiurge / The Last Vigil

Photo(s): Anthony Dubois

Written by Chris Poling
More: 2012, Albums, Death Metal,

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