Meshuggah - _obZen_
(Nuclear Blast, 2008)
by: Jackie Smit (
It may firmly deposit me among a very niche minority saying this, but with the exception of _Destroy Erase Improve_, much of the hoopla surrounding Meshuggah has been largely lost on me. Sure they're technical as all get-out, but I can comfortably think of at least a dozen other musos who could quite comfortably recreate their schizophrenic staccatos. As for their much vaunted inventiveness, albums like _Nothing_ and _Chaosphere_ simply veered toward being mind-numbingly narcissistic far too often to truly live up to their potential. Even _Catch 33_, which was preceded by the thoroughly invigorating _I_ EP, fell short of expectations.Not so on _obZen_. Meshuggah's sixth full-length makes a concerted effort toward more tightly constructed and contrasting fare, and the approach works like gangbusters. "Combustion" presents us with a leaner, more stripped down Meshuggah than we've seen in aeons, an adrenalized take on traditional thrash riffing getting proceedings off to a thoroughly invigorating start before being deftly complemented by "Electric Red"'s heavyweight mid-tempo pummelling. "Bleed" dips its toe into more obscure territory, if only slightly, underpinned with a chugging groove that packs enough punch to smash through a concrete wall with minimal effort. The absence of Thomas Haake's much-vaunted digital "drum kit from hell" means that each track sounds distinctly more organic, while vocalist Jens Kidman's performance in particular stands out as a career-best turn.Flexing their progressive muscles on "Dancers to a Discordant System", some might argue that the tail-end of the record is a tad bloated compared to the rest of the record, and at nearly ten minutes in length, it doesn't have quite the same amount of impact as earlier numbers. When the dust has settled, one fact upon which there can be little debate however is that _obZen_ easily takes top honours as the Swedes' finest hour on every level. Not to imply that it would have ever been a concern for them, but if ever there was a time for this band to step up to the big leagues, that would almost certainly be now.
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