Meshuggah - Obzen
Ask any fan of Meshuggah which of the band’s albums is their favorite and most will point to 2002’s masterpiece Nothing. It’s a perfectly crafted work of very real genius. Focused, esoteric, and brutally tight, Nothing was Meshuggah at their optimum. Their latest release, obZen, revisits that flawless formula.
I remember listening to that album (Nothing) for the first time and it going completely over my head. The abundant off-time signatures had my unsophisticated neck not knowing which way or direction to bang my head. It wasn’t until much later, when the metaphor of man versus machine was introduced into the Meshuggah discussion, that I finally got them.
“Got them” is the wrong term. I finally “had my mind systematically dismantled and reassembled to resemble something so far from human you could call it artificial” is more like it.
I saw the Metal genre in a whole new light, I really did. Because, when you think about it, most of the band’s in Metal are trying to be as brutal as possible. Many succeed in sounding aggressive and can turn your heart rate up to an unhealthy level but few achieve the sound of adversity. That essence of hardship, and the struggle to overcome it, is what lies at the core of all great Metal music. Sure, for a long time the criteria of “Metal” hinged on an obsession with evil, alcohol, women, or a combination of all three. But bands like Metallica and Pantera used their positions at the forefront to help change all of that. Subject matters turned from blood worship and wizardry to everyday oppression and the conquering of personal demons rather than mystical ones.
And this is why Meshuggah is so great: aside from sounding like the singer is battling the rest of the band somewhere in a cybernetic future, their albums’ subject matter is incredibly profound. For Nothing, the band explored existentialism and the madness that can be caused from the deliberation of one’s purpose. On obZen, the band addresses society’s Zen like relationship with the obscene. These are intense philosophical ideas and their portrayal through such hostile music defines what Metal music can be at its apex.
Not only does obZen match Nothing for prowess in subject matter, it also competes on the level of instrumentation. This album assaults. Just like every Meshuggah album should, the songs chug along in a rhythmic pounding, filling your head with that all important sensation of oppression. Then, after the atmosphere is adequately set, Jens Kidman’s enraged barking vocals, the imperfect voice amidst the perfect perpetuating machine, enter the fold. You now bear witness to the slipping grip of humanity.
In summation, obZen is every bit as good as Nothing, if not better. The machine has been upgraded and fine tuned to a faultless siege apparatus since Catch 33. The man inside is just as mad, in both emotion and mental condition. Look for what many will consider Meshuggah’s best album to date on March 7th in Europe and on March 11th everywhere else.
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on 2008-04-16 SolitaryMan Said:
"Chaosphere" has a special place in my heart and is still my favorite Meshuggah album, but Trismus got it dead on with his review...a masterpiece of an album.
on 2008-04-11 dscanland Said:
Finally have gotten around to giving Obzen a dedicated listen and I have been converted to a Meshuggah fan! This album is fantastic. It has that thick, chunky guitar of Tool mixed with a much heavier, more aggressive vocal. Just the way that the band is so friggin tight makes this album all that much better. I think I may have my hand up as one of the best metal albums this year. Indeed, one of the more original ones.
I am now a Meshuggah fan. Find me on SoulSeek looking for the rest of their catalog. How did you stay out of my ears for so long?
on 2008-03-20 big brekfest Said:
This is definitely their strongest release since Nothing and you're right. It could be the better album. It fills me with sadness, though, to know that they may have reached they may have reached to top of what they're trying to achieve. Can't imagine they can take it any further than this.
on 2008-03-04 dscanland Said:
Trismus! That is an amazing first review. "had my mind systematically dismantled and reassembled to resemble something so far from human you could call it artificial" That's priceless. I love it when a review is written so passionately that I have to HAVE the album.
Oh, for those of you who didn't know, Trismus is the newest member of our editorial team. Please take a moment and welcome him on his profile. Add him as friend. I think he's going to bring a lot of great music to ME.