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Meshuggah - ObZen CD (album) cover

OBZEN

Meshuggah

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.73 | 180 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
4 stars A combination of "zen" and "obscene", this album, like much of Meshuggah's output, to me works best as a sort of meditative piece, similar to what that character on this album's cover is undergoing. The music is so rhythm-based, that to capture the genius of what this band can accomplish, one should relax and let all these crazy polyrhythmic structures wash over you. Yes, it's loud as hell, and consistent at that, plus there's also vocals giving the impression of some chained pitbull being taunted by a bunch of kittens just out of reach. Still, after a bit, ObZen as a whole reveals itself as this musical shifting machine that fascinates with its tight yet insanely off-kilter pacing.

Looking for catchy melodies in a Meshuggah release is like looking for unbridled guitar solos in a Renaissance album. Melody isn't their thing. But it's not to say that some of the basic riffs utilized aren't cool sounding. If you're in the right frame of mind for this sort of thing, the polyrhythmic patterns are astonishing and even a delight to focus on.

ObZen is a heavy as their immediate prior material, but there is also a nod to their earlier thrash-influenced days, particularly regarding opening cut "Combustion", which begins things on a high and furious note. Man, it was nice to hear something like that from them after such a long time wallowing in mid-tempo-ville. Other highlights are the propulsive, heavy "Bleed", the energetic "Pravus", and the album's best track, closer "Dancers To A Discordant System", which may be my favorite tune by them. There are vocal variances to start off with, which are much appreciated after such relentless high-registered toneless barking by the vocalist, and the tune's epic nature allows for a good scope of what this band represents in one tune, with some real heavy riffing combined with amazingly complex time- signatures. Again, don't expect a slew of fretboard histrionics, although theirs some layered atmospheric melodies and rather unusual guitar soloing.

This album and their breakthrough release Destroy, Erase, Improve usually trade off as my favorite by the band, with this album's overall heaviness and cold production giving ObZen a bit of an edge in achieving this monolithic factory-from-hell aura. Not every song works, as "Lethargica" does somewhat put me in a state of lethargy as it channels Nothing's more banal moments, but for the most part, when the mood arises for some chugging fury, ObZen is one of my main drugs.

Prog Sothoth | 4/5 |

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