Meshuggah

ObZen

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On first listen, the sound on Obzen, Meshuggah's sixth full-length, is startling, not for its trademark rapid-fire key and tempo changes, or for the intricate, insanely knotty riffs that careened over 2002's Nothing or 2005's Catch Thirty-Three. Instead, it is the rampaging charge that leads off the set on "Combustion," a balls-out sprint that recalls the band's earlier catalog albums like Contradictions Collapse, Destroy Erase Improve, and even Chaosphere. Power, focus and attention to the bone-crushing power are at the center of Obzen. That said, it loses nothing in terms of the band's keen focus of musical or technical innovation or drummer Tomas Haake's songwriting. What it does leave behind is some of the mathy quick-change-for-the-sake-of-it annoyances that were more a show-off of athletic prowess than actual compositional tropes. The melodic orchestration of Catch Thirty-Three has all but disappeared, and in its place is a direct, almost machine-like sense of communication. What's most remarkable is the live drum kit work by Haake. He's constant and startling -- the completely crazy bass pedal work on "Bleed" would leave most drummers in the dust. You have to wonder, since the last album featured so many triggered laptop tooled drums. Again: power, compositional ethics, and musical acumen are all tied to one thing, building a foundation that just gets wider, deeper, and more intense as the album wears on. Check the frenetic slash and burn ethos in "Pineal Gland Optics," where both guitars stagger their rhythmic attack keeping vocalist Jens Kidman on the money the whole time. It gives way to the unwound pummeling drum and guitar solo riff that introduces "Pravus," with its sense of taut dynamics, hair-trigger tensions, and an explosiveness that is literally unequaled. This is sheer attack metal, played by a band that has run from simplicity to excess and incorporated them both into a record that is on a level with anything else they've done, even if not all the elements marry perfectly yet. Just get it.

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