There’s a saying in the metal community: “Your favorite bands listen to Meshuggah.” It’s a pretty accurate statement, considering that the band has been around for over 20 years. Hell, Tool had them as openers on two of their national tours, with Danny Carey stating that they are a source of inspiration to him.
So when a new Meshuggah album comes out, you better believe that it is seen as more than just a new album from a band. Rather, it’s seen as a crucible upon the metal scene. It is a point when the foundations of metal are challenged. But does Koloss bring this change or does it fall flat upon its face?
Perhaps the best way to describe this album is to discuss the emotion of rage. Pure, blinding, and unadulterated rage. It’s the type of anger that seethes within, refusing to go away, no matter what you do. There are moments when the anger seems to dissipate, its gnarled, filthy fingers loosening their grip upon your soul, giving you a few moments of respite. Then, a few moments later, it comes roaring back, even more furious and vindictive. Those gnarled fingers grip harder than ever before and all you can see is red. There is no foreseeable escape and the only thing to do is let the rage consume.
This is the closest I can come to describing Koloss. Meshuggah has never sounded so upset, so violent. The opening track, I Am Colossus, starts with a furious burst of guitars and drums, before the song turning into a plodding, almost military march anthem but definitely something more sinister. Even without the first line, “I’m the great Leviathan!“, the song feels like some terrifying unholy chant to a Lovecraftian god.
The varying tempos only drive home the point that this album is no short burst of anger. Rather, it builds, permeating, oozing its way into your very pores, staining you. Whereas the first track plods along tortuously, the second, The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance is filled with blisteringly fast double bass drum attacks and syncopated, polyrhythmic guitar riffs. The chorus guitars do a very clever change where the first time the riff is played one-two-three, the second time two-three-one, the third time three-one-two, and the fourth time returns to the original one-two-three. It’s difficult to describe but listen closely and you’ll hear it.
The album sounds incredibly tight. One of the little things I noticed that I loved was how clean the guitars were when transitioning from low, palm-muted chords to piercing high strums. There were no resonating drones or awkward hangovers. Each movement was crisp and clean.
As always, Meshuggah delivers an album that is a tech-metal fan’s dream. Tomas Haake brings unreal drumming while the guitars of Fredrik Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom can be truly terrifying. Jens Kidman’s roars may not have changed much over the years, but asking for anything different would take away such an integral part of the overall sound. Bassist Dick Lovgren manages to find ways to shine in certain moments even though he is battling 8-string guitars.
I feel that particular attention needs to be given to the final track, The Last Vigil, which is probably one of Meshuggah’s most mellow and also most beautiful songs. Sans lyrics, the music speaks for itself. This track serves as the release of anger, the means to attain a peaceful resolve.
The Final Word: Once again, Meshuggah have released an album that redefines the tech-metal genre. Koloss will be undoubtedly reign as one of the best releases this band has offered.
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