Sound — 7
Meshuggah are back with "Koloss", their first album since 2008's "obZen". Meshuggah are a band generally known for innovating with pretty much every album they've put out, and they've been pushing the boundaries of metal since most of us reading this were still eating Play-Doh in Kindergarten. A noticeable trend has been happening with Meshuggah lately, though. They've been innovating less and less with their last few releases. While "Catch Thirty-Three" was an insanely experimental record for Meshuggah, I felt that "obZen" really didn't do anything new or exciting, though I did feel it to be a very solid record. "Koloss" definitely stirs those same feelings of lack of innovation, but like "obZen", still feels like a good, solid record. Opening with "I Am Colossus", the album picks up exactly where "obZen" left off... Almost to the point where the song sounds like it was written for that record. We don't start to see any real change in the band's usual "slow polymetric low-F string tritone chug" formula until the second track, "The Demon's Name Is Surveillance", which contains almost no low-F (or even low-Bb) chugging. In fact, you could play the entire song on a six-string guitar easily. The rhythms in the song are fairly simple in comparison to anything they've released since their early records, and vocally, Jens Kidman really works the higher aspects of his voice, which he's been overlooking since "Nothing". "Do Not Look Down" has a kicka-s opening riff and one of the most conventional sounding Thordendal guitar solos since their thrash metal days. "Behind The Sun" provides us a rare glimpse of Meshuggah writing something a bit simpler and, dare I say it, more conventionally melodic. Though the song is still very much in the vein of Meshuggah's recent formula, the whole of the song sounds like it rarely deviates from 4/4 time. This is actually kind of a recurring theme on "Koloss": Meshuggah is simplifying their sound a bit. Another deliciously thrash-y moment comes on the song "The Hurt That Finds You First", where the whole first half of the song is blisteringly fast and complex. The second half is the most dynamic part of the album, with the band dropping to near-silence for Fredrik's two-note lead. "Marrow" continues with the pedal to the metal, and a solo that sounds like pretty standard Thordendal fare (some have even suggested it to be a rewrite of his solo on Devin Townsend's track "Deconstruction"). "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Give It Motion", besides having a title that would make Brendon Small blush, brings us back to the more mundane "obZen" style, despite having a really cool "solo" moment where we can actually hear bassist Dick Lovgren (this lead is actually played by Marten Hagstrom, for a change), and I feel it to be one of the weaker tracks on the record. "Swarm" contains some of the cooler guitar tracks, but it's another track I find kind of weak. "Demiurge" brings a bit of interesting texture into Meshuggah's recent formula, with guitar tracks that, dare I say it, almost sound like choir voices. The album's final track, "The Last Vigil", is an instrumental comprised entirely of Marten's clean guitars. Though it's a beautiful riff, I find it doesn't have any variation and gets boring. Overall, there's not much innovation to be had here. No real "stinkers" of tracks, but I feel like Meshuggah have become Dream Theater here: they've found a sound that works for them and decided to stick to it. This would be great if Meshuggah were the kind of band that didn't already have a reputation of innovating with every release, but the fact that their recent records have left a sour taste in my mouth lately has been kind of sad. I'm not even asking for clean vocals or a return to some older style here... Just something different for a change would be nice. The one thing about this record that I have no gripe about is the production. It's one of the best-produced records I've heard in a long time... The dynamics come out well, all of the vocals are nice and clear, nothing is too overpowering... It's a wonderfully clean production and yet, it still sounds natural and organic.
Lyrics — 8
Lyrically, not much has changed in the Meshuggah camp. Still very philosophical lyrics about the darker side of human nature. Jens Kidman's vocals on the record are his usual shouts, though he does try to flex his vocal muscles to do different tricks from time to time, like on the track "The Demon's Name Is Surveillance", which almost contains notes in it, and further references to "mechanical compound eyes".
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, I feel that "Koloss" is a wonderfully heavy record that suffers a bit from being a bit too much like "obZen", though it does have some solidly awesome moments. My favourite tracks from the album are "The Hurt That Finds You First" and "Do Not Look Down". Would I buy the album again? Maybe if I got to see the band live some time soon... My overall rating of "Koloss" is 7/10. Good effort, but not great. I anticipate that the majority of readers would be inclined to disagree with me. Let's face it: Meshuggah has one devoted fanbase. I consider myself among them, as they were a musical discovery of mine that actually preceded most of my current favourite bands. But honestly, Meshuggah needs to shake things up a bit to get back on my good side. More tracks like "The Demon's Name Is Surveillance" or "The Hurt That Finds You First", fewer tracks like "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Give It Motion".