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Meshuggah - ObZen CD (album) cover

OBZEN

Meshuggah

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.69 | 188 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Pnoom!
4 stars Rating: A-

With Meshuggah, you never really know what you'll get, except you do know it will be extraordinarily heavy. That's still true on Obzen, but you still can't expect much beyond that. This isn't like the more recent releases, such as I and Catch 33, in that it's a set of unrelated songs, whereas both of those CDs were one song (in the case of Catch 33, the song was split into 13 parts). It's also not really like Chaosphere and their more explicitly thrash releases. Sure, the insane riffs are still the key element of the music, but the riffs here aren't quite as "chuggy" as those on Chaosphere. In fact, the riffs almost approach believable melodies at times, albeit seen through the filter of the relentless industrial complex that is Meshuggah.

So Obzen is different from their other releases. It's also just as good. With real drums again (Catch 33 had programmed drums), and more importantly with some of their best songs, Obzen is a fantastic statement and perhaps the band's best. "Bleed" is probably the best Meshuggah song yet, never compromising over seven minutes as it blazses through inhuman riffs at lightning speed. "The Spiteful Snake" is also noteworthy for managing to play a guitar solo pretty close to monotone (every note is the same space apart timewise, for one thing) and still have it sound utterly fantastic.

Of course, what's most notable about this CD is there isn't a weak song on it. From the catchy (!) bass line that opens "Combustion" to the nine-minute odyssey that is "Dancers to a Discordant System", there isn't a weak moment, let alone a weak song, on Obzen. Listen to "Pravus" and try and explain how it's even possible to play that riff. Listen to "Lethargica" and marvel at Meshuggah's ability to make this soulless, emotionless music speak to the listener. Listen to the entire CD and be wowed that it never feels remotely same-y, despite every track working from a similar sonic palette.

For new listeners, doing that last might not be immediately possible, as Meshuggah doesn't sound very varied on any of their releases on first listen. After all, what they do is churn out mechanical riffs with monotonous screaming vocals (not that the monotonous vocals are bad), and they do this on every song without fail. The real variation here lies in the nuances, the subtleties, and that's actually part of why Obzen (and all of Meshuggah's work, really) is so good. You truly have to devote yourself to it as a listener to "get it", much as you would devote yourself to a good book. If you skim it at face value, it's all the same, but careful listening reveals a multi-layered, multi-textural world that's absolutely enchanting.

There's really no way to ease into Meshuggah, and this is no exception. However, given that this CD is quite possibly their best yet, and certainly an extreme metal masterpiece, it's as good a way as any to get into the band. Of course, if you're an old fan, all I can say is, "what are you waiting for?" This is a highlight of Meshuggah's catalogue, of 2008, of metal music- this is just a flat-out highlight of music in general. Extreme(metal)ly recommended.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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