Koloss, the highly anticipated new release from Meshuggah picks up where Meshuggah left of with Obzen, though darker and more sparse, the frenetic madness is there in a more spare form. Koloss is like stripping something to it’s marrow to reveal what makes it tick from the inside out. The new album, from start to finish, explores this aspect of what progressive metal giants Meshuggah have become in this latest offering from the band. This is very much Meshuggah, but the subtle differences are there and will be detected by the longtime listener, whether they like it or not is a different story. The spares aesthetic is a choice Meshuggah madethough either way it’s a very well done album.
Koloss starts with I Am Colossus, which is a technical grind from start to finish, sparse, deep and intricate rhythms but not layers, it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Jens is right where he always is, he seems to be one of the few vocalists in metal who doesn’t change all the much. The Demon’s Name is Surveillance has them up to speed, Fredrik playing complicated, chugging, but again sparse rhythms. It seems as though Koloss is much more about overall feel and subtle mastery than overt shredding. This is not a surprise given the last few offerings from Meshuggah. The Demon’s Name is Surveillance is notable as it’s probably the most old school Meshuggah in terms of guitar solo, which is really more of a complex melody that fits with the frantic nature of the track. Do Not Look Down almost sounds like an extremely heavy Tool for a moment, and before you light the torches and look for my address I’m not suggesting they are borrowing from Tool, only that the riff has a Tool like pace in the beginning. DNLD is quickly deconstructed and spread out. I like to think of it in the same way my cat deconstructs a mouse when he kills it and spreads it’s insides over the kitchen floor, like a brutal science experiment goen very wrong. The minimalist aesthetic remains with Behind the Sun, and if your not into that aspect this album may be a slight letdown for you. Behind the Sun is another slower track with those deep bends Fredrik is known for doing. The heavier melodic element at the end in place of more technical elements is awesome, but it’s not quite exactly the same as the Meshuggah you might be used to hearing. Time will tell if it holds up in the same way. Things speed back up with The Hurt that Finds You First. Technical and fast this is one track that were it to have an angular solo might sound a lot like something from earlier Meshuggah. Note to Lars and Bob Rock, this is how you mix a snare drum. This track has a middle section that contains some of the most thrash-y and least technical parts as well though. The melodic bridge over the off time riff with that hollow sounding guitar melody over it is rather amazing. Marrow, perhaps appropriately, starts with the most stripped down intro on the album. It quickly jumps into what one would, at this point during listening, a technical sparsity that only Meshuggah does really well. Marrow also has a guitar “solo”, all angle and virtuosity here. It’s sort of a two part, one hyper-drive section, some vocals and one which is like a super technical call and response. Marrow has one of the heaviest and sickest endings on the album as well. Break Those Bones Whose Sinew Gave It Motion has perhaps the most classic Meshuggah beginning, but it brings in those spares elements again, and adds some slow angular melodies. The beginning of Swarm actually does sound like a swarm, fast technical riffs over frenetic syncopated drums. Swarm has one of the coolest guitar solo like parts at about half way through, it seamlessly integrates into the riff. A Demiurge is “an artisan like figure responsible for maintaining the Universe….” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demiurge – Thanks Wikipedia! Demiurge, though still in that sparse style, has some unique melodic effects and sounds over the technical riffs. The closer, The Last Vigil is slow moody instrumental that sounds exactly like what it’s titled.
Overall Koloss is very much Meshuggah, a little more sparse and stripped down, and if possible a little darker. Longtime fans will want to check this one out. Where Koloss stands in the pantheon of Meshuggah albums will depend on how you feel about the changes they have come up with on the album. I would say, as with all Meshuggah albums, that it requires more than a few spins before you make up your mind.