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Meshuggah - ObZen CD (album) cover

OBZEN

Meshuggah

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.69 | 232 ratings

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horsewithteeth11
Prog Reviewer
5 stars After almost a year of being a member on this site, I tend to find that in many cases, I have a minority opinion. And in the case of Obzen, that's no exception. This is easily my favorite Meshuggah album, at times it's even more brutal and heavier than Chaosphere, it's chock-full of the technicality one would come to expect from the guys from Umea, Sweden by this point, and it's definitely a great combination of everything that Meshuggah has done to date, from death to thrash to groove to experimental metal, a little bit of everything is in here. We also have the return of real drums versus programmed ones. Sure, this album may be a mix of all of Meshuggah's previous works, but it's certainly not copying off all of them. Now onto the songs:

1. Combustion - We start with a simple guitar line (well, simple for Meshuggah) for a few seconds before being crushed and dragged kicking and screaming into the song. And like a previous reviewer has said, we get treated to what is, oddly enough, an actual song. This is a more simplistic form of thrash metal Meshuggah-style. Great guitar solo in here from Thordendal as well. One of my personal favorite Meshuggah tracks, and one of the reasons I even bothered to keep with Meshuggah, despite my initial reaction. 10+/10

2. Electric Red - We return to some groove metal in this song. And later on in it we get...different types of groove metal. By different types, I mean that the song is generally a groove metal song, but it throws in lots of changes, so it's more of an experimental groove metal. At times, I almost feel like there are actual melodies in this song, although I could just be hearing things. Meshuggah tends to have that effect on me. At 2:55 we have a somewhat lighter section with focus most certainly on the drums, much better now that Haake is physically behind the kit again. Another soft section repeats a bit after 4 minutes. A good track, although this one seems to feel slightly formulaic. 8.5/10

3. Bleed - A deceptively simple song, yet one of the most complex things Meshuggah has ever tried. Haake has stated in interviews that he spent as much time on this song as he did the rest of the album. It's a completely new drum technique that I've never heard Meshuggah use before. This song will likely however take time to grow on you, as it took me several listens to truly see everything that was going on in this song. I couldn't even mention all of them in this one review alone. At 4:10 a soft, almost melodic section comes in. Very dark, and it would fit into a classic horror movie if it wasn't for the distortion. Following this section is another fantastic guitar solo which builds very well. Words don't do justice to this song. You have to hear it first to understand the genius. Easily one of the best songs Meshuggah's ever made. 10+/10

4. Lethargica - Another more groove metal-esque song, although I don't really enjoy this one quite as much as Electric Red. The intro to the song is actually something that one could easily dance to. Another slow and soft, yet creepy section around 2:15. This is probably my least favorite track on the album however, as I feel it isn't developed enough throughout its entirety. 8/10

5. Obzen - The title track, and another gem on the album. Starts with lead guitar playing a complex, ever-changing note. It feels like they were trying to take it apart almost. Rhythm guitar comes in a little bit later and adds some background feeling to the song before Kidman comes in. If you want to know what this album is about, listen carefully to the lyrics here, because they sum it up very well. I LOVE the guitar solo that Thordendal plays on this song. One of my favorite metal solos to be honest. Not insanely complex, but it has a great feel to it. Excellent, excellent track in every aspect. 10+/10

6. This Spiteful Snake - We're back to groove metal again, and really this is the last time we get a good taste of it on this album. The guitars and drums in this song make me think of a snake creeping along and sneaking up on its next unfortunate prey/meal. Great guitar interplay on this song. My favorite of the more groove metal style tracks on the album. 9/10

7. Pineal Gland Optics - Like Lethargica, the intro to this song almost makes me want to dance along to it, yet it's a bit more hectic than that. A very "groovy" song for lack of a better word, but in no way do I mean groove metal. It takes multiple listens to find out what's going on in this song. One of the Meshuggah songs one could actually dance to and it would look, well, fairly normal. No real weak sections on this track. 10/10

8. Pravus - Like the previous song, this one will take multiple listens to understand fully. Around 30 seconds in it goes from Meshuggah high on speed to Meshuggah slowing it down before taking us back to the original intro. At times, it almost sounds like Meshuggah threw atmospheric and very distorted keyboards in the background, even though those sounds are really guitar. A somewhat weirder track, almost RIO-level weird, but very enjoyable. 10/10

9. Dancers to a Discordant System - The last track clocks in at just over nine and a half minutes, but it's a real gem, and easily as good as Bleed. Starts off with an eerie atmosphere before crushing us with an absolutely mind-blowing riff. Kidman actually starts off with growling vocals, which are very death metal-like, before moving on to his beastly, unearthly growls. I picture a very disturbing ballroom era 1750s with very grotesque dancers dancing/waltzing to this song. The lyrics paint very vivid pictures on this song. The guitars have a great deal of subtle changes throughout the first half of the song, so it never feels old. The guitar solo...I can't even describe the feeling behind it. If anything, it has a feeling of being dragged down to the very depths of hell before being brought back up. I could listen to it all day to be honest. Like Bleed, this song must be heard to be believed. 10+/10

Overall, this is Meshuggah taking bits and pieces of everything that they've done and combining it into another original, top-notch album. If you can't stand an entire album filled with very atonal/dissonant guitars and no clean vocals, stay away. But for those who can, at least give this album a try. I think one of the issues some people have with this album is that they haven't given it enough listens. This album is definitely one that takes time to grow, but after about 5 or 6 listens, I finally understood it. It's a very subtly complex album, while still retaining the Meshuggah sound that I have come to know and love. Honestly, I'm not sure if I could call this album a masterpiece of progressive music, but I can't really find a reason not to, no matter how hard I try. Therefore, I think this album is deserving of every star I give it, all 5 of them.

horsewithteeth11 | 5/5 |

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