Meshuggah - _Koloss_
(Nuclear Blast, 2012)
by: Dan Lake (9 out of 10)
Is it coincidence that the _Koloss_ cover art returns to the shadowy color palette and serpent-centric figures of the Swedes' venerated/reviled second crack at long-form experimentation, _Catch Thirty-Three_? Maybe so, but this writer is only too happy to envision some creative tissue between Meshuggah's latest slugger and that 2005 roller coaster ride, tissue that winds wide and away from 2009's _ObZen_ obstruction. Not that the bald 'n' bloody Buddha and his accompanying soundtrack were in any way unworthy, but the result hewed so closely to well-worn polyrhythmic specs that the overall impact was somewhat reduced. No longer. Meshuggah could have carved no better name into this massive monstrosity. _Koloss_ drops with the force of a thousand stone-skinned giants sporting jackhammers for legs and nuclear warhead-lined knuckles.

You know that fluttering moment of anticipation/hesitation right after the CD slides into place but right before the music starts, when elation and outright disappointment balance on an agonizingly sharp fulcrum? Yeah, "I Am Colossus" crashes through that brittle second like a deranged 40-ton grizzly snapping redwoods like toothpicks. The sickening lurch refuses to give in to speed; even when a relentless double-time riff thunders out of the middle of the track, the song retains its malevolent, plodding nature.

But you say you -like- speed? Then cozy on up to second track "The Demon's Name Is Surveillance", or you know, don't, since it's likely to tear your head from your neck without so much as noticing your existence. It's here that we're treated to the first blazing Thordendal solo, and one of the very few. _Koloss_ is brutal in its density and its near uniform darkness, which swallows most of the flash normally provided by Fredrik's fearsome fireworks displays. On the whole, _Koloss_ wraps the listener in a kind of inverted firestorm in which the center rages with superheated shadows while the dusky reds and scorched yellows flicker timidly at the edges, as if the evocative cover image of Anaal Nathrakh's _Domine Non Es Dignus_ sprang into savage, flesh-searing reality.

It would be irresponsible, though, to describe a single atmosphere and pretend that the songs somehow relinquish individuality in service of the whole. "Behind the Sun" shimmers in with a gauzy arpeggiated melody that is quickly consumed -- but not obliterated -- by a churning thud-fest of a riff. "The Hurt That Finds You First" batters ears and souls with painfully raw percussion; "Marrow" and "Break Those Bones..." crackle with brief clean guitar beauty in their midsections; "Swarm" races feverishly forward as Thordendal succeeds in mimicking all of its title's implications.

Does _Koloss_ have any weaknesses? Sure. This lumbering beast is unlikely to draw a chorus of ah-ha's from anyone unmoved by previous Meshuggah outings. A few song intros feel like exciting but unexplored couldabeens when the familiar eight-string crunch locks down around them. Jens Kidman's gravel-gargling monotone brings up a bit more blood than before, though only a super attentive listener would notice a difference. "The Last Vigil" airs an uncharacteristically delicate, meditative guitar piece by Mårten Hagström that is... um, nice... but delivers very little movement over its four-and-a-half minute run time. But these imperfections are only noticeable in a high profile band who have defined -- and remained -- a genre unto themselves.

[Note: It's fucking Meshuggah. If you stuck around to read this, uh, colossal review and still haven't bought the thing yet, then you'd better be either a) locked in a basement with only the Internet to sustain you, or b) a friend of mine who's just reading to be polite. I hope it's reason a), because if it's reason b) then I'm down one more friend.]


(article published 6/5/2012)

7/31/2004 J Smit Meshuggah: From Nothing to Number "I"
2/25/2008 J Smit 8.5 Meshuggah - obZen
4/19/2005 J Smit 7 Meshuggah - Catch 33
7/12/2003 J Smit 6 Meshuggah - Nothing
10/19/2001 C Flaaten 5 Meshuggah - Raretrax
1/16/1999 A Bromley 9.5 Meshuggah - Chaosphere
1/1/1998 A Gaudrault 6 Meshuggah - The True Human Design
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