MESHUGGAH hasn’t been in heavy rotation in any of my play lists for years now. When the band began moving further into their own Progressive tendencies and leaving behind their Post Thrash roots is when I began to lose interest. As far as I was concerned, “Catch Thirty Three” was an ego stoke too far for these very talented men. So when I began reading interviews and pre-release notes about how “Obzen” was a true return to form for the Swedish tech masters, I had to find out.
“Obzen” is indeed a return to MESHUGGAH’s older days. Fans of “Chaosphere” or “Destroy Erase Improve” are going to find this release to be superbly satisfying. The band still retains its complexity to the point of being annoying but now instead of indulging in this urge they supplement it with focused song writing and (here’s a shocker) individual songs!
Of course the band will never lose that intense complexity in their song writing (something that gets them dubbed Math Metal more often than not) but this time it feels that there a more defined goal with it. Although the album sounds less complex on first listening (their down tuned guitars generally hide the true complexity of their music quite well) it’s really not. Their odd structures and longer tracks still are intermixed with some spare melodic moments (check out “Lethargica” for that one) and for the first time in a very long time…REAL DRUMS. No more programmed drumming, the talented Tomas Haake finally steps back behind the kit for this recording and it adds a lot more depth that the band has been missing for quite some time.
“Obzen” still gets a little repetitious as the album wears on (as most MESHUGGAH albums do) but it’s not quite as bad as it has been for the last few albums. The fact that the band uses such heavy guitars and vocalist, Jens Kidman, never varies his patented barking style doesn’t help the situation too much. Although the last track, “Dancers To A Discordant System” does have Kidman opening the track a little differently than normal which was nice.
In the end, I was still glad that MESHUGGAH has returned to their prime with their music. I was getting very tired of the one song per disc method. There is some great feeling on the record although it does get slightly repetitive. Not quite their best yet – but the best in a long time.
Songs to check out: “Combustion”, “obZen”, “Pineal Gland Optics”.
(Online April 11, 2008)