Saturday, March 24, 2012

Track By Track Album Review: Meshuggah- "Koloss"

The Swedish legends have finally released a new album, the first since obZen back in 2008. I have been anxiously anticipating this album since I preordered it a few months ago (a.k.a. checking my mailbox every day since they said they shipped it), and now that I have it, I'll go through and post my thoughts on each track, then the album as a whole.

1. I Am Colossus

This song starts off by kickin my ear drums in the ass. I'm listening to this through good headphones plugged into a headphone amplifier, and I have not heard many albums before that sound this good. The production is fantastic. Back to the track though, there is a definite groove here. The transition around 2 minutes in is awesome, and kicks up the pace a little. I can't stress enough how high the production values are here. The guitar work starting at 2:36 is top notch, and each note comes through clearly even in the low registers.

There is a siren like wail at 2:54, and it might just be because I'm staring at the album cover while listening to this, but I feel like it's almost awakening the Colossus on the album art. The brief moment where everything drops out, is very effective, and makes it that much heavier when everything kicks back in. This was a great introduction track, very heavy and groovy as I stated, now to see if they kick up the speed on the following tracks...

2. The Demon's Name Is Surveillance

I wanted speed, and I got it with this track. The drums sound like one of the drum beats I would've written into a drum machine back in high school with complete abuse of the double bass drums, the precision is that intense. The guitar part sounds exhausting as well, with what I'm assuming are crazy pullofs (you'll have to excuse me, I'm not a very good guitarist). This song is almost damaging my psyche right now, and I feel like I might have nightmares if I fell asleep to this. The key change at 2:37 is the highlight of the track, I've never quite heard something like it before. Then the guitar solo starts at 3:05, adding to the chaos that already existed in this track. Cymbals are cracking everywhere, the rythm guitars are playing some insane riff, while the solo wails in the higher octaves, all over brutal double bass madness. This is one of the heaviest songs I've ever heard, hands down.

3. Do Not Look Down

Alright so we start off with some weird subdivision of 4/4 + 4.5/4, which already sounds awesome, but nothing that Meshuggah fans haven't come to expect. Then they take it to the next level at 24 seconds, mixing up the drum pattern. The notes drop a little lower at 36 seconds in. I already feel like this song will be a staple of future live shows. This main riff is so awesome!
At 1:48 the lead guitar comes in over the main theme, to great effect. This is some fantastic guitar work, understated as always due to the tone they use, but the combined effect of everything is spectacular.

The intermission part they have from 3:00, until around 3:47 has a great variety of notes played on guitar, but then the song kicks back in, reminding you what track you're listening to as Kidman growls "Do Not Look Down!"

4. Behind The Sun

This track starts off with some clean guitar, but kicks into a heavy droning rythm pretty quickly. Then the first half of this track goes by without a real standout moment, which is a pretty long time since this track clocks in at over 6 minutes. Right around halfway through, at 3:12, the song becomes much more interesting. The double bass pedals compliment the guitar perectly, and the song gains more melodic variation at this point as well. 3:52 really saves this song though, as the open hi hats sizzle, kicking into a faster section, with awesome guitar parts, full of fast picking, bends, and melody. Throw some vocals over this, and you have yourself a rocking track.

At 4:38 things become epic, wow this song really saved its energy for the second half. 5:28 moves into another new passage, maybe the best one yet on the track.

This track is like a steam powered locomotive, it takes it a while to get going, but once it hits about the halfway mark, you best get out of the way because it does not slow down.

5. The Hurt That Finds You First

This track starts off fast with a typical thrash beat over surprisingly high register guitar shredding. The thrash madness continues, and its actually cool to hear this beat in a Meshuggah song. I don't know how these guitarists memorize their parts, but there is so much variety, it really is impressive.

The guitars just engage in madness at 1:34, all over the extremely loud and powerful thrash beat that has been going for the whole song. The part starting at 2:52 has almost a march feel to it, with the snare alone accompanying the higher notes on the guitar. The end is pretty mellow, but man does it sound good! This is one of the most dynamic songs I've heard from Meshuggah, and it definitely works to great effect.

6. Marrow

The opening riff is sweet, starting with a hard pan to the left, joined later by the right side, and then drums that tie the whole crazy rythm together. 1:42 kicks in with some crazy guitar slide work, all done in the crazy rythms Meshuggah is known for.

2:33 kicks off one of the best guitar solos I've ever heard in a Meshuggah song. Then good luck head banging in time with the part that follows the solo. It amazes me how these guys write their music. The lead guitar kicks back in, just as insane as before. This song is definitely an exercise in maneuvering across the fretboard.

7. Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion

This track has been out for a few weeks, and it is definitely still one of the best tracks on the album. The opening guitar part is perfect in the background of Meshugga's violent fury. This is one of the longest tracks on Koloss, clocking in just shy of 7 minutes.

One of my favorite parts is the almost tribal sounding part from 3:48 to about 4:48. The drumming on this album is top notch, and there is so much variety, much more than just accentuating the odd meters and crazy rythms used throughout the song. This is a great example of a new style being utilized to help this album sound fresh throughout.

Also, I have to commend this track for coming up with one of the most original titles ever. How many of you even knew that sinews and tendons were the same thing? I know I didn't.

8. Swarm

Another fast track! And I mean really fast! The drums start off understated, sticking to the bass drums, and low toms, but more parts are layered on as it progresses. Then at 1:22, one of the coolest guitar parts ever comes in. Combined with the roiling low notes, the higher guitar parts sound really cool. The part at 2:04 rises up into another passage with interesting drum work, and fantastic guitar riffs. I really like all the use of pitch bends on this track.

At 3:22, the guitar part literally sounds like a swarm of locusts moving in. They definitely picked a spot on title for this track. This song is infectious, I dare you not to bang your head along.

9. Demiurge

Listen to 22 seconds in, this mix is so powerful! This song outlines everything Meshuggah does so well, namely midtempo groove metal, heavy as lead. I want to say this is the best mixed track on the album, everything sounds so perfect, especially the way it all fits together. I couldn't really pick individual parts to point out, but that doesn't mean that it's not a good song, in fact it's a great song all the way throughout.

10. The Last Vigil

This clean, melodic song serves as a period for you to reassemble your mind after just having it blown apart over the course of the last 9 songs. If nothing else, it displays how great of musicians these guys really are.

All right, so there it is. I just went through the album for the first time, jotting down my thoughts along the way, so what you see written above are my initial impressions. Meshuggah albums always take some time to grow on you, or maybe to comprehend would be a better term. All in all though, my first listen left a very good taste in my mouth, and I look forward to discovering all the nuances present in each track.

The album is very heavy overall (as expected), with all the things you expect from a Meshuggah release, but it brings top notch production value to the table as well. Listen to this through the best audio equipment you have, and you will not be disappointed.

Overall Score:   9/10


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