REVIEW: MESHUGGAH’S KOLOSS IS A GIANT
Regardless of what the band’s intention were, it is impossible NOT to listen to Meshuggah’s Koloss as a response to the djent trend which has become so prevalent in the four years since the release of their last offering, obZen. It’s not the band’s fault — it is simply the context in which the album is being released. Djent — which is pretty much just a silly word for “sounds like Meshuggah” — is one of the most dominant, if not the most dominant, sounds in metal today, and it’s a sound Meshuggah pretty much created.
This is a unique challenge, to be sure: when you consider some of the other bands who suddenly found themselves in fashion over the course of the past fifteen years — I’m thinking specifically about At the Gates, Pantera, and Faith No More — they were already long broken-up or on their way out the door when their style suddenly became ubiquitous. At the Gates never had to worry about seeming relevant to kids who thought that As I Lay Dying and Darkest Hour invented those tropes. Meshuggah could very easily be entering a world where bucket loads of people care more about Periphery than they do Koloss.
I obviously can’t predict the future, and maybe I’m ill-equipped to discuss the album in this context, given that I am not a sixteen year old whose gateway into metal was Born of Osiris, and that Meshuggah, therefore, isn’t new to me. But in my not-so-humble opinion, Meshuggah have completed this task with flying colors — I don’t know if Koloss is the “best” album Meshuggah has ever made, but it’s by far the most fun, and is surely an early contender for best album of 2012.
Truth is, I can’t remember the last time Meshuggah made an album this accessible. Part of that might be that, by and large, it’s a slow, groovy album — only a few cuts, like the kicks-my-ass-every-damn-time “The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance” and “The Hurt That Finds You First,” are on the fast end of the spectrum. For the most part, Koloss is a head bobber and a fantastic album to listen to with the aid of weed. And they’re catchy as hell, right from the first time you hear ’em. Some fans, I know, are initially put off by the strange, seemingly impenetrable rhythms of Meshuggah’s music, but I can’t really imagine anyone not “getting” Koloss pretty quickly.
That’s not an insult — the album sounds, in every way, like Meshuggah. But the band has streamlined their compositions to a great extent. Again, I have no idea whether or not this was a purposeful decision on the part of the band, an attempt to lure in any young ‘uns who may not understand these mighty Swedes’ place in metal history. But I’m glad they did it — it calls attention to the lack of songwriting skills most of these up and coming bands display. A kid might hear the songs “Demiurge” or “Do Not Look Down” or “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion” and think, “Gee, this sounds like [whatever young band],” but I don’t see how they’ll be able to deny that this is a trillion times better, especially after they’ve had the album stuck in their head for weeks on end.
In short, Koloss is everything it needed to be — a treat for old men like me and a text book for young fans just getting into the genre. The students have not yet outgrown the teachers after all.
(four-and-a-half outta five horns)