REVIEW: MESHUGGAH – “The Violent Sleep of Reason”
Bring up the idea of extreme metal, and the first band that comes into mind for the most of us is Meshuggah. The Swedish extreme/progressive metal act have come a long way since their early days, and have constantly evolved in their playing and composition. It was pretty hard to imagine the kind of effort it might take to top the wonderful ‘obZen’ and ‘Koloss’, which aren’t just great records, but musical yard-sticks. Enter 2016, and ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ was announced by Meshuggah, much to the endless excitement of the fans. I was super stoked about the new record, and needless to say, all my excitement wasn’t in vain.
Diving straight in, the album opens up with “Clockworks” – a brutal and simply INSANE piece of music. Not only does this song capture everything that the band sounded like in the past, but it presents them with a new zeal. The low guitars, bass and the beautiful work on the drums are out of this world. This is a relatively long song at seven odd minutes, With the vocals sure to bring smiles to the fans’ faces. Despite the heavy distortion and the low tunings, the notes are distinctively heard. “Born in Dissonance” follows, of course, featuring the trademark Meshuggah sounds. I suggest that a listener ought to give this song a little more attention than the others off the record, simply because of the intricacies within the deep tones and the meter changes and arrangements. This song definitely doesn’t sound overdone by any stretch of imagination, nor does it sound like something that is done for the sake of it. Listen well as the song presents this weird vibe that is interestingly loveable. I can safely say that this song is some sort of a gateway drug in a sonic sense.
“MonstroCity” comes up next, and unlike the album so far, this track is a little soft. The focus on this song isn’t merely the Meshuggah aggression, but rather on creating finer harmonies, textures and ambiences between the lead and rhythm sections. Leave it to the band to create a song that is a balance between both traditional and experimental sounds with some crazy underlining. “By The Ton” starts out with a catchy and eerie-sounding intro before jumping into complex rhythms. Personally, I feel that this song is more traditional Meshuggah unlike the others on the record. Taking a cue of subtlety from the previous “MonstroCity”, the song sounds a lot like a build-up in its entirety, unlike a complete song per se with an abrupt ending.
“The Violent Sleep of Reason” comes up next, and all hell breaks loose with this number. The immaculate brilliance of this song is mind-blowing. From the superb work on the drums and bass to the work on the guitars, leads, and extreme vocals, this song is an all-in-one package. It is safe to say that this song is arguably one of the best title tracks in the world of progressive and extreme metal. Even though the song sets a positive first impression, it invites you to listen to and discover more about it. The song creates a massive, dense and heavy atmosphere that has so many tapestries within it. Even if one were to follow just any one of the instruments on the song, one would be star-struck.
As this great song comes to an end, “Ivory Tower” comes to life. Meshuggah has had a history of interesting themes and ideas, and this is no less true on this record. “Ivory Tower” is inspired by the Biblical Song of Solomon (7:4). This song is power-packed with some amazing groovy arrangements while taking in all that is essentially Meshuggah. This number would definitely make a great song in a live setting. This song is my personal favourite off the record, and it might just be yours too! “Stifled” and “Nostrum” are two intense tracks tied by some interesting ambience and arrangements.
‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ comes to an end with “Our Rage Won’t Die” and “Into Decay” – two extraordinarily crushing and destructive tracks. Watch out for the awesome bass and drum work on these two songs. The work on the bass is the best part of “Our Rage Won’t Die” with its versatile tones and playing. With “Into Decay”, the record comes to an end on a softer note.
The band takes their already incredible signature sounds and ups the ante with the new record. Tomas Haake’s mind-blowing drumming doesn’t drown in grotesque technical approaches and tricks, but leans a lot towards creating interesting grooves that work well with the music. Mårten Hagström and Fredrick Thordendal’s guitar work on the rhythm sections and leads are once again impressive. Despite the distortion and low tunings, the guitars are well-articulated and distinctively heard. The music on the record also showcases the awesome bass work of Dick Lövgren. Despite all the crazy arrangements, the bass stands out and does a fantastic job in the rhythm section, creating a sweet texture on the music of the album. It is complete with the brilliant work on vocals by the one and only Jens Kidman. The harsh screams on the vocals add more depth to the instrumental and conceptual side of things. From songs that have found inspiration from Goya’s painting, old Biblical passages and other deep ideas, to the essentially heavy and groovy sound, Meshuggah have created a masterpiece with ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’. Superb production does great justice to everything the band has to offer, and recording the music live has nicely captured their spirit and energy. This makes the album sound very organic and natural, with the essence of live Meshuggah.
‘Intense’, ‘dynamic’, ‘versatile’, ‘insane’ and ‘energetic’ are the best words to describe ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’. Meshuggah’s latest offering is their best one yet. The band has always been renowned for their technicality and musicianship, but this record opens up new and better perspective into the band’s great potential. In the world of extreme and technical music, Meshuggah have arguably been one of, if not the only, biggest trendsetters in heavy music. ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ is here to attest to that, and insist that this part of Meshuggah is here to stay.