Remember the good ol’ days? The industrialized ones accompanied by maniacal and mechanic riffs that were at first entirely too difficult to comprehend? Remember? Upon first listen to the alien entity that is Meshuggah, you were forced to destroy, erase, and improve your ability to interpret. You were forced to pry open your tunnel vision, forced to take a wrecking ball to your small world rife with fake food, fake heroes, and fake dreams. Everything changed the moment you put the needle to the vinyl and heard the first riff of the rest of your life. Yeah…it changed you. It changes us all.
I still remember my first mind fuck like it was yesterday. A close friend and bass mentor recommended the band after a lesson one day long ago. He told me not to expect anything except for a proper life-altering experience. He also explained how he couldn’t listen to it in big doses, but when he was in the mood for it, there was nothing better. Statements such as those made if very difficult to not have high expectations. So, my dad and I went to the record store as soon as we possibly could and picked up three different Meshuggah albums. Destroy Erase Improve, Chaosphere, and Catch Thirtythree were my choices after pulling the straws at random. Once back at the car, the latter album was thrown in and “What the fuck is this shit?” instantly came to mind. At first I had no idea what to think. Was I even supposed to think? Of course I was supposed to; how else would any of it even begin to make sense? How else would I find my way back in the shit storm I had gotten myself into? To this day, I still don’t know why I stuck with any of the albums at that point. Something in me made me continually return to the albums. My curiosity in the unknown and my nonconformist attitude, maybe? I mean, I wanted to understand the wholly non-understandable. Thank Satan I stuck with ’em though. Thank Satan I kept returning to Destroy Erase Improve and Chaosphere, because if I hadn’t, I would probably still be listening to “Corn” and “Limp Biscuit.”
That was 2005. I was 15. It’s 2012 and I am now 21. A lot has changed. Not just for me personally, but for the band as well. 2008 produced an almost perfect album. Obzen was an incredibly complex and progressive affair that was not only brilliant and trying to listen to, but was hard for the members to recreate live. I had always hoped to see “Dancers to a Discordant System” live, but to my dismay, the song was never even attempted. I digress…
Today, though, today marks a special day here in America. Their first album in four years has finally been released, and boy, is it…is it…different.
Koloss is unique, as is all of their other albums, but this one is even more so. Something is different, something has changed. The thrash tempos and completely complicated nature of past albums is no longer readily apparent. It’s not that the album is more simple, it just seems slower and less mechanized. Before, they acted as a machine producing gut-wrenching and mind-spinning riffs that took a few listens to fully wrap one’s head around. Now, they’re producing more organically brooding songs that seem to drone more than pummel, torture more than kill. Not to mention, Haake’s drumming was something otherworldly, now, it’s something oddly familiar.
Gone are the obscure and elaborate drum beats Tomas Haake was and is known for (he’s like the Neil Peart of the metal world, if you didn’t already know). What remains is an incredibly strong, groove oriented rhythm section that provides a wholly unique and unyielding plane for all of the other band members to find comfort in and thrive on. His blast beats and wave-like cymbal riding allow the others to naturally produce some of their best material since 1995’s Destroy Erase Improve. Thordendal is still as ferociously avant garde as ever, shredding in ways nobody has shredded before, and Haake’s lyrics (yes, he writes them also) are as mind-opening as ever.
Koloss is a more mature Meshuggah, if one could ever exist in this reality. Their sound and theme is the same, their execution though, is slightly different, slightly more curious, and slightly more wise. This is new ground for the band and for you, the listener, to fully comprehend all of it’s nuances, your mind needs to be as open as the day you first listened to them. Ingest whatever you need to, just don’t expect anything.
4 out of 5