obZen Review

artist: Meshuggah date: 03/11/2008 category: compact discs
Meshuggah: obZen
Release Date: Mar 11, 2008
Genre: Djent, Progressive Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast
Number Of Tracks: 9
"obZen" is ridiculously tight, ridiculously intense and as always, some of the most headbangable music you will ever come across.
 Sound: 9
 Lyrics: 9
 Overall Impression: 9
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overall: 9.3
obZen Featured review by: UG Team, on march 11, 2008
6 of 7 people found this review helpful

Sound: So here we are, Fredrik Thordendal and co. emerge once again with a new album. Meshuggah lovers and haters alike have come to expect certain things from Meshuggah, horrendously catchy drop-Z chugs, awe-inspiring drumming and a total wall of noise sound being just a few of them. While obZen certainly does not lack these characteristics, there is a something a little different here from the Meshuggah norm. It is immediately noticeable that album opener 'Combustion' is actually fairly straightforward, considering the puzzling complexity that normally comes with a track from this band. However, it still possesses that incredibly intense atmosphere that shrouds everything the band has ever done. As mentioned by drummer Tomas Haake, 'obZen' really draws on the band's entire back catalogue. There's very thrashy and aggressive riffs reminiscent of 1991's 'Contradiction's Collapse' and at the same time it is blended with the incredibly complicated rhythms of their most recent material from 'Catch 33'. There is the added dimension of the eight string guitar, providing Fredrik Thordendal and Mrten Hagstrm with a low F string (you heard me, it's a semitone off of E standard, but an octave lower) with which to pummel your ears into submission. Another nice fact is that the drumming machine Tomas Haake has returned to the kit after simply programming the drums on their last effort, 'Catch 33'.

This album is ridiculously tight, ridiculously intense and as always, some of the most headbangable music you will ever come across. Every member knows what they are doing, and all of them pull it off with extreme finesse. Fredrik Thordendal and Martin Hagstrom are still laying down insane grooves and spicing them up with overdubbed jazzy leads that add another layer of atmosphere to the Meshuggah sound which might otherwise be getting stale. The sheer intensity of the band's delivery is astonishing, and even songs which do not immediately stick out, such as 'This Spiteful Snake', possess a power which compels the listener to listen to more despite their relentless attack utterly confounding their brain functions. Crushing. // 9

Lyrics: In a band like Meshuggah, where the entirely dominant forces of the guitar and the drums hog the spotlight, it can be difficult to get any sort of poetic meaning across. However, I have always felt that vocalist Jens Kidman is just as vital a part to Meshuggah as Thordendal or Haake, and on 'obZen', his incredibly aggressive shouts retaining the same power they have had since day one, 21 years ago. As far as lyrics go, Kidman manages to bring forward another full text of philosophy and brutality all described with such rich imagery that you can almost see the lyrics unfolding to the ever-changing pulse of music. Even though the messages behind the lyrics of Meshuggah have never been incredibly interesting, they are delivered in such a powerful way that they speak to you without you even knowing exactly what they're about. Coupled with what has to be Jens Kidman's best performance yet (especially on the closing 'Dancers To A Discordant System'), this set of lyrics is, once more, just plain badass. // 10

Overall Impression: Love 'em or hate 'em, you simply cannot deny that Meshuggah are one of the most gelled units in western music. The interlocked chemistry between each one of the band members is astonishing, and the constant quality of their output despite their moderate experimentation from album to album is very respectable. 'obZen' as an album, however, is business as usual. This is not a problem as Meshuggah's business as usual is the sort of music that most bands could make one record of in their entire career, but yet again I was disappointed that the pure genius of their magnum opus, 'Chaosphere', was not matched. Perhaps this would be a good introduction album to Meshuggah, encompassing everything that is the band's niche, but even for long-time Meshuggah fans, tracks like 'Bleed', 'Dancers To A Discordant System' and 'obZen' alone make this album an essential purchase. // 9

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overall: 9.7
obZen Reviewed by: CoreysMonster, on february 09, 2009
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: Meshuggah's latest effort is a return to their roots, with faster and more thrashy songs and the use of the *gasp* 4/4 time signature in "Combustion" and solos that play melodies instead of painting surreal, manic soundscapes. My only problem with Frederick's solos on this album is that, while they're good solos, they're not the kind of insane, psycotic-robot-on-a-mass-killing-spree awesome stuff he did on DEI, Chaosphere and Nothing. seriously, the solo in "Neurotica", "Rational Gaze" and "Stengah", pure brickshitting awesomeness. I mean, they're not even hauntingly beautiful like in Straws Pulled at Random and the last song on DEI, the name of which I always forget. They're kinda, too normal. Too sane. But I digress. Meshuggah have perfected their ultra-deep sound with their custom made Ibanez guitars, and Thomas Haake is back behind the drumkit on this record. Jens' voice still has the same strength it had 15 years ago, due to his excellent screaming technique. The recording is very clear, very pronounced, and very heavy. 01.Combustion: really like it, but I have to say it doesn't sound very Meshuggah-ish, as there are not too many weird time signature changes, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this song rocks 02.Electric Red: the black sheep of the record. I listened to it maybe 4 times, including the time I saw the 'shugg live. It was the only song on their setlist that I didn't enjoy. Boring. 03.Bleed: listened to it over 300 times, it never gets boring. it's awesome, one of the best metal songs ever. 04.Lethargica: awesome song, brutally heavy. I can honestly say it's the only song I've ever heard that has actually scared me. 05.Obzen: aaaah yes, ObZen. to quote someone else "it sounds like an insane architect is destroying and building a house at the same time" 06.This Spiteful Snake: very interesting song, the break into a completely different tempo in the middle was really surprising, pretty cool, but kindof meh at the same time. 07.Pineal Gland Optics: IMO, the first of the only two truly insane songs on this album. awesome, followed by 08.Pravus: without a doubt the most bat-shit mental song on this album, this song is like having your city torn down by a giant robot from outer space. 09.Dancers to a Discordant System: pretty cool song, and a good way to end the album, referring to the lyrics bellowed out in Bleed before. All in all, the sound gets a 9 from me. What's missing for a ten is a better second song and more freaky solos. // 9

Lyrics: Like always, the lyrics are hardly understandable with Jens' screaming voice, but after having read through the booklet of the CD, they're pretty deep. I know with Meshuggah people hardly care about the lyrics, but I really recommend it. My favorite lyric: "Bleed they say, and bleed you will". // 10

Overall Impression: Overall, I have to say that this album is the perfect start for people getting into Meshuggah. It's not as wild or weird as Cobustion or Catch 33, and it's faster and thrashier than it's younger brother, Nothing. The easily most impressive song on this album is Bleed, followed by Pravus. I have yet to meet someone who can play Bleed all the way through, and while trying to learn Pravus on the Bass guitar I got muscle pains in my fingers for the first time in a long while doing all of the crazy pull-offs during the intro. So in the end, this album is a solid piece of art (except Electric Red) and further proves that Meshuggah are a band that will not be forgotten any time soon. If it were stolen I wouldn't care because I have it my computer, but eventually I'd buy it again. // 10

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overall: 7
obZen Reviewed by: troyponce, on march 11, 2008
1 of 9 people found this review helpful

Sound: The album is more of a return to their older style, very much like Chaosphere. Heavy rhythms, lots of time signature changes, and the occasional smooth lead from Thordendal are the main things from the album. Haake returns on drums after sitting out on Catch 33 for programmed percussion. Good stuff from him as always. Unfortunately, even with him back on the throne, there isn't a whole lot new to be offered on the album that the band hasn't done before. // 8

Lyrics: I'm rarely too focused on lyrics, especially with a band like Meshuggah. Since I don't feel like bothering to listen carefully to each song just for lyrics coupled with the fact that they aren't available online, I'll just throw down a 6 based on absolutely nothing. Hoorah. // 6

Overall Impression: I wasn't blown away by this one. It's technical, has some crazy rhythms, and the band is tight as hell, but it's nothing groundbreaking for Meshuggah. If I was introducing somebody to the band, I certainly wouldn't direct them to this album. If you're a big fan, then it's totally worth checking out, but don't expect anything new. I'll give it a 7 for being good, but it's just a reiteration of stuff we've already heard from them. I'd recommend checking out Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects instead if you haven't heard Sol Niger Within yet. // 7

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overall: 9.3
obZen Reviewed by: ZyklonDoom, on march 24, 2008
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Sound: Redefining the technical corner of the metal universe and destroying the opponents, Meshuggah are known around the world for their unique display of ingenuitive polyrhythms and absurd time signatures. One might find it difficult to headbang to such music but in time the trained ear can catch the beat, deep in the core of the brutal onslaught of "obZen". An album that is ripe with quality performance and skill that is unparalleled. Truly a CD to be reconed with, and it's still early in 2008! obZen beats you senseless with pounding drums and quick guitar work to send your brain into a sound induced hallucination of multidimensional proportions. Okay, maybe the last few lines are a bit of an exaggeration, but I am honest in my words. This album is truly a great CD, drawing from their old "Destroy Erase Improve" sound, as heard in "Combustion" and then bludgeoning you with their newer sounds from "Catch 33" as in songs like "This Spiteful Snake" or "obZen". Everything about this CD is reeking of power. Now, this is not the perfect CD, by no means. One problem that I've had with Meshuggah is that you find yourself in a droning vortex of boring. Aptly titled "Lethargica" definitely displays the endless rhythm. Also, "Electric Red" has this unappealing quality. // 9

Lyrics: Jens Kidman is a beast behind the microphone. You don't even need to be face to face with him to know his personality. He is a loud, abrasive and deafening vocalist with few peers. On the top of his game at all times, he really comes through on this CD and lets loose the demons and rips the spatial fabric, unleashing hell unto your ears. The lyrical themes stay the same, the mental journey of space and time, mendaciousness and death. The whole shebang. // 10

Overall Impression: I found this album to be a sonic maelstrom of unrelenting power and unstoppable brutality. This CD gives the listening party an out-of-body experience and leaves you dizzy with bruises and broken bomes, a victim of math metal. This is a must have CD. Although you may want to spike your coffee with a few sticks of uranium to stay awake through the more boring parts. Undoubtedly you must take a grain of salt with every gold mine you may stumble upon, but osmetimes that salty grain is a mean that justifies the end. A brutal ass kicking. // 9

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overall: 9.7
obZen Reviewed by: Patricircadia, on march 31, 2008
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 10

Lyrics: 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. // 9

Overall Impression: 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. // 10

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