Math metal, alternative metal, avant-garde metal, progressive metal and even calculus metal (yes, it does get that complex), are all labels that have been bandied about for Swedish metalheads Meshuggah. Call it what you will, but make no bones about it, metal it is and easy listening it is not.
While the Swedes have been kicking around for almost 30 years, ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ – which is inspired by a Goya painting – is only their eighth album. Remarkably, despite the band’s penchant for poly rhythms, poly meters and all kinds of other complexities, the album was actually recorded live in the studio to capture the true energy of the band – a move that surely commands respect.
I won’t pretend to understand the technicalities underlying the sound Meshuggah make, suffice to say they are insanely heavy in every department and this is music to be experienced. Opening track ‘Clockworks’ is prime example as an initially chugging riff fuels a track that twists and turns through various time changes and variations in rhythms to assault the listener in a frenzy of sonic overload.
Although not for the faint-hearted, it’s all pretty breathtaking, from the guttural attack of ‘Born in Dissonance and the pulsating ‘MonstroCity’ through to the utter devastation of ‘Into Decay’, this is music that talks to the senses. For instance, the ragged fury of ‘Nostrum’ and ‘Our Rage Won’t Die’ sonically pummel the listener into submission, while the chugging grind of the aptly named ‘Stifled’ evolves into a stark haunting finale that cuts straight to the core of the listener’s emotions; mind blowing.
As metal goes, it doesn’t get much more metal than this; it’s complex, it’s progressive, and it’s not easy to get your head round, but in a time of predictability and comfort zones, there is something pleasantly upsetting about what Meshuggah can do. Enter at your own risk.
‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ by Meshuggah is released on October 7th on Nuclear Blast.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)