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Meshuggah - ObZen CD (album) cover

OBZEN

Meshuggah

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.65 | 219 ratings

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JLocke
Prog Reviewer
4 stars When I first heard the opening riff of ''Combustion'', the first track on ObZen, I knew that I was going to hear a different Meshuggah than had been chugging away in my headphones over the past few years. With the album Chaosphere, they showed how fast and technical they could get; with the albums Nothing and Catch 33, they slowed down the pace a bit and focused on the odd rhythms and grooves they pull off so magnificently; with ObZen, they have gone in the other direction almost entirely, dropping the super-random, odd rhythms for a more straightforward, consistent aggressiveness. They've also gone back to implementing a little more variety in the notes of their riffs. While calling anything on this record a full-blown 'melody' is still a bit of a stretch, it's obvious that the direction of the music has gone ever so slightly into more traditional territory.

Now, that's not to say that this album isn't just as technical or complex as always (and fans of the band need not be concerned, believe me. This is still the Meshuggah you know and love), but it DOES mean that rather than the type of wild, frantic rides the last few releases have conditioned you for, this album will challenge you once again to accept Meshuggah as they mix things up and guide you down foreign corridors. The listening experience is still fun, but if you go into this expecting the same exact experience as before, you might at first find yourself a little disappointed.

However, what is so great about ObZen is that it reveals its genius over time to the cautious listener. Sure, the immediacy of my appreciation for past Meshuggah releases wasn't there this time around, but I did learn to enjoy this album based on its own rules once I realized that the intent here was not to continue in an old direction. In fact, this record is so simple at times (well, by Meshuggah standards, at least), it makes you wonder if perhaps the guys were still reeling from the monster that was Catch 33. While that album still stands as my favorite Meshuggah release, I now find myself enjoying ObZen almost as much. This is a whole different beast, but it is still a beast.

So the playing is still technical and rhythmically sound, and the music grooves like always, but the song structures themselves don't sound nearly as calculated or meticulous as what you might be used to. The songs are a bit looser, and more free. The rhythms are more traditional more often, and the overall mood of the music gives the impression that this release may be something of a slightly less-involved younger brother to its predecessor.

The music itself is just as enjoyable as ever, though, and just because you won't be scratching your head as often or thinking to yourself 'how did they do that?' as much doesn't mean ObZen is inferior-- it's just a little different. There are still some truly memorable moments to be heard, such as the explosive opening riffs to ''Combustion'', the otherworldly guitar solo during the middle of ''Bleed'', the strong, chugging ''The Spiteful Snake'', and many others. Rather than that machine-like rhythmical puzzles Meshuggah has become known for, the songs here tend to have a more ferocious, smooth flow that is still just as unforgiving and brutal as ever, but perhaps not quite as mind-numbing as on the previous few releases.

It took a little bit of time, but I learned to love this album for its own strengths, and once I stopped comparing to other Meshuggah albums, any pre-conceived expectations I may have had dissolved, and my enjoyment of ObZen increased considerably. It's just as good as any of the band's previous masterpieces, and I now consider it one of their best. it's clearly more straightforward in its delivery, but the stuff that makes the band's music great is still there, in my view. Give it a shot, even if at first you wish it 'had been more like (insert favorite Meshuggah album name here)'. It's one of the most aggressive Meshuggah releases, but the rhythmic games aren't quite as impressive this time around. That still don't make the album weak at all. It still rocks, above all else, and that is enough reason to listen to this one than anything.

Happy listening.

JLocke | 4/5 |

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