After 2004’s single-song EP, I, and 2005’s follow-up, the single-song-split-into-13-tracks full-length, Catch Thirtythree, it was any wonder what the avant-garde-minded Meshuggah were going to write next. Well, it turns out it’s a collection of songs. Way to blow my mind again guys.
It isn’t as if all their previous material is full-length opuses. In effect, their true stylistic disparity started with 2002’s groovy, eight-string guitar-dominated Nothing, a rather drastic change from their previously faster, more lithe songs on the earlier albums Destroy Erase Improve and Chaosphere. I took on the characteristics of the “lithe” Meshuggah, and Catch Thirtythree more fully explored “groovy” Meshuggah.
So now, with obZen, Meshuggah are both. Sort of.
It’s actually the logical step, this coagulation of their two halves. It’s not a homogenous mix—the furious, unimaginable-before-it-existed single “Bleed” being perhaps the closest the Swedish quintet comes to a natural equilibrium here— but both elements are showcased throughout the album: the groovy “Lethargica” against the maddening title track, “Combustion” versus the more laid-back approach of “Electric Red.” Even within those very songs, however, aspects of each half of the band’s persona is at work.
Thus, there are a few possible reactions: Why didn’t they do another experimental record? Or why isn’t it more like Chaosphere/Nothing? Or what’s up with the three-armed dude on the cover?
Of course, those answers are: They did, it is, and because it’s cool. Oh, and this album rules.