Sound — 10
The band has never sounded cleverer, or more bewildering. Is it one huge song? Are there two bars of music alike in whole album?
The sheer impact of this style is incredible, but becomes tiring unless you realise what's going on - this is an album designed as one continuous piece of music. That's right. Throughout this piece, there are themes, various segments that are introduced and gradually change throughout the whole album. A few of them are obvious (there's a tremolo picked theme that plays over the In Death two parter, the intro, all over the place) and a few are not so obvious. The more attention you pay to this, the more impressive and enjoyable the album becomes.
That's not to say there's not killer riffs - Entrapment has some of the gooviest, heaviest riffing on any Meshuggah album, not to mention the single weirdest guitar solo they've ever done - but don't expect anything like a traditional song structure.
Having spoken about how loud (loud!) this album is, can I mention how quiet it is too? Meshuggah have hidden depths - jazz depths and otherwise. There are some phenomenal sections of what sounds like improvisation from Thorendal - delicate, dissonant chords, left hanging in space for long, long seconds. There are quiet, tense sections of delicate, confusing accents that build to massive world crushing riffs. Most stunning and unusual for the "death metal" pigeonhole is "Mind's Mirrors" with silence, a nightmare detuned bass and a chorus of robot angel synth voices. A must-listen track.
As a whole, just the usual from Meshuggah - world class heaviness, innovation and evolution. Not just the cutting edge of modern metal - the bleeding edge
Finally, I must repeat my warning, and encouragement - this album will boggle and challenge you. This means you should listen again, and more carefully!
Lyrics — 8
Wow. Just wow. Dehumanisation and Sum have some of the most incredible screaming I've ever heard - incredible volume and sustain, going on more than 15 seconds. Jen's delivery on this album is in my honest opinion, better than on their most recent (and excellent) album. The range of vocal approaches on the album is suprisingly diverse - we have vocoder (synth/voice mix), whispered as well as the aforementioned brutal screams. One thing I was actually a little disappointed with was the fact that the album didn't use these alternative methods enough - especially when they showed such incredible dynamics instrumentally.
Interestingly, the album's lyrics are written entirely by the drummer (Tomas Haake) - the unifying concept is also his own. He's the guy who delivers the spoken "synth" vocals on Minds Mirrors that I mentioned. One of the main theme's of the album - and Meshuggah's previous work - is contradiction, as you can probably guess by the title. If you can really dig confusing lyrics that defy themselves, then you'll love this. On top of that, obviously, it's a concept album, so the whole piece is linked lyrically from beginning to end. While it's not as easy to decipher as "I" it's still obviously one work lyrically. One other criticism I would have is that there often seems to be little need for the lyrics to be where they are - ie, that you could have simply moved them to another part of the same track and not really have noticed. Some of the lyrics fit perfectly and tie in brilliantly with musical changes, but there overall could have been a little more of the guitar/vox doubling they've done in the past (for example, Perpetual Black Second from Nothing) or a little more space left for the vocals to really shine.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall? A phenomenal tour de force? A mystifying enigma? Why not both? Virtuosic, aggressive, flawless, precise, brutal, inspiring, awe-inspiring, intelligent, beyond comprehension. Confusing, disturbing, mathematical, mechanical, dissonant, strange and definately not catchy. If the second set of words put you off, then this isn't the album for you. If, like me, you like the second set of words, then this is a must own, and unfortunately, it's unique.