Sound — 10
From the opening notes of the first track Combustion, obZen is a trashy, high-energy affair. This song features something seldom heard in Meshuggah's catalog: a guitar solo that actually sounds like it was written by a metal guitarist and not a jazz fusion guitarist on a heavy dose of hallucinogens (the solo on This Spiteful Snake is a prime example of the latter). The title track is signature Meshuggah. Staccato, palm-muted guitars set to a time signature that you just can't quite headbang to. This song might just be heavy enough to cause a bowel movement, if played loud enough. My personal favorite from this album is the song Bleed. The drums are reminiscent of Alex Van Halen's Hot for Teacher gallop injected with a cocktail of PCP and steroids. The five Swedes (drummer Tomas Haake, guitarists Marten Hagstrom & Fredrik Thordendal, vocalist Jens Kidman and bassist Dick Lovgren) spent a grueling six months recording obZen, three months on the vocals alone. Kidman compared the experience to The Twilight Zone. All of the hard work has paid off, resulting in an album that is complex yet accessible, and has charted much higher than any previous release.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics on this album convey a message of not only self-loathing, but a disdain for all of mankind. Haake writes the lyrics and believes that we have achieved zen in our current state of political unrest and moral degradation. He makes his point particularly clear on the title track: Decay, disgrace, disgust, our state of zen. The negative picture that the lyrics paint goes hand in hand with the punishing instrumentation found on obZen.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall, this album is heavier than a ton of bricks, and would probably be a fitting soundtrack to the World's Strongest Cyborg Competition on ESPN 2. Beyond the heaviness, there is a certain energy and freshness found on these nine tracks that is reminiscent of earlier albums such as Chaosphere and Destroy Erase Improve. Perhaps they have been inspired by some of the younger bands that they have influenced. (see Periphery) Whatever the inspiration, I'm glad the album turned out the way that it did. From start to finish it is an unrelenting, (not too) technical metallic juggernaut that demands to be played again and again.