The Scandinavian monster that is Meshuggah deliver their seventh album, four years after the previous one, “Obzen”. I do not expect them to have mellowed much since then so I put “Koloss” on and brace myself.
I am not disappointed.
Opening track ‘I Am Colossus’ pounds directly at my temporal lobe in a way that feels terrifying but necessary.
With Meshuggah perhaps more than any other current metal band there is nothing to be gained by describing the songs in terms of what is going on technically. That would take away the magic and wonder. You can only describe how listening to Meshuggah makes you feel.
And that doesn’t mean simply saying it makes you feel like you want to rip your own head off.
Track 2 ‘The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance’ hammers at you, the bass drums, a relentless barrage, the guitars doing all sorts of craziness. It makes me grit my teeth and clench my stomach muscles as I listen. I ask you, what other band can make you do that?
‘Do Not Look Down’ does not sound like an order. It sounds like a warning. It sounds like looking down would just be the worst thing I should do, so instead I keep my eyes firmly facing the front, my head nodding as I do my best to follow the unnervingly odd time signatures laid down by one of the great metal drummers of our time. ‘Behind The Sun’ continues the pummelling but the guitars in the background offer beauty like a rose on a battleground.
‘The Hurt That Finds You First’ is an absolute face-melter and is my favourite after the first play of “Koloss.” It is fierce and wild and the extra layer of guitars makes its even heavier than Meshuggah usually are, if that is possible. There is also one of those quiet passages which Meshuggah do so brilliantly. It is haunting and finishes the track in an understated way. Understated is not a word you often associate with Meshuggah.
‘Marrow’ kicks off with a classic off-kilter guitar riff before crashing into a marvellous Meshuggah groove. For a band renowned for being so tight – and they still are, don’t get me wrong – there is a rather wonderful louche, loose feel to this track and “Koloss” in general. There is a real organic feel to the material and I wonder if it is this that makes Meshuggah stand out from the rest. There simply is no other band quite like them.
‘Swarm’ positively gallops towards you like a desert wind howling across the Sahara. The guitars are ferocious swarming scarabs eating everything in their path. ‘Demiurge’ not only has a great title but is heavy as all hell. By now I actually do want to rip my own head off but Meshuggah have made that sound like a good thing.
Final track ‘The Last Vigil’ is a cross between 70s Berlin-era Bowie and Oceansize in one of their ambient moods. Its a gentle end to what has been a ferocious 45 minutes, yet still has the capacity to unsettle. I’m reasonably confident that its not a pointer to a next, completely ambient, Meshuggah album but it closes “Koloss” in an unexpected but nevertheless satisfying way.
It is nigh on impossible for such an anticipated album to totally live up to expectations but Meshuggah set the standards for what metal is in the second decade of the 21st century.
Meshuggah is “Koloss”.