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The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019, #18: Meshuggah, Koloss

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MetalSucks recently polled nearly 180 prominent metal musicians and industry insiders to determine The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019! (You can read all about the voters and the methodology behind the poll here.) Over the next few weeks, we’ll be counting down the entire list, one entry per day.

The countdown continues today with Koloss (Nuclear Blast), the 2012 release by Meshuggah!

In the four years it took Meshuggah to follow-up their massively successful 2008 slammer, ObZen, djent happened. Periphery, Animals as Leaders, TesseracT, Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris and others exploded upon the metal scene, introducing a whole new generation of metal listeners to the bouncy, down-tuned riffs Meshuggah pioneered while introducing layers of atmosphere and melody that would come to define an entire genre.

How, then, would Meshuggah respond? By showing everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, who the fucking boss was, is, and will always be. (I mean no disrespect to the aforementioned bands, all of whom wrote tremendous albums during that period, too).

On “Do Not Look Down,” the album’s explosive first single, it’s as if the band said, “You want groovy? We’ll give you fucking groovy,” and then proceeded to write the grooviest riff known to man, woman, everything in between, extra terrestrial being and all manner of life form in the entire universe. What’s more, they did so without chasing trends or sacrificing their distinct Meshuggah-ness, maintaining the band’s trademark tone, knack for polyrhythm experimentation, spinning off a mind-bending guitar solo and landing on a 4/4 chorus that allows for easy letting loose. “Marrow,” “Demiurge” and “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion” follow in that track’s footsteps, making for some of the most memorable, headbang-worthy songs of Meshuggah’s career.

Indeed, groove is the name of the game throughout Koloss, which deftly out-grooves anything any so-called djent bands did up until that point or have done since, sitting mostly in that nether region often referred to as “mid-tempo.” But that’s not the only game Meshuggah play here. On the breakneck-paced “The Demon’s Name is Surveillance,” the Swedes turn in an absolute banger, propelled by Tomas Haake’s (who else?) marathon-like performance with relentless double bass from start to finish. Behind the Sun” slows things way down and puts the focus on atmospheric guitars (“You want atmosphere? We’ll give you fucking atmosphere.”), which had always been a specialty of Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström’s two-pronged attack, but was pushed to the forefront on Koloss.

To be fair, I don’t necessarily believe Koloss was a direct reaction to djent, as if the five Meshuggahmen were sitting around shaking their heads at “kids these days” and decided a lesson needed to be taught. I think it just happened anyway. There’s no way djent didn’t cross their radar and seep into their collective consciousness, and on some level I have to think the genre’s rise to popularity informed the direction of Koloss. Whatever the case, Koloss proved Meshuggah were the kings of the domain, a throne they haven’t relinquished since.

The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019:

#25: Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas, Mariner (2016)
#24: Triptykon, Eparistera Daimones (2010)
#23: Pig Destroyer, Book Burner (2012)
#22: Yob, Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)
#21: The Black Dahlia Murder, Ritual (2011)
#20: Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (2014)
#19: At the Gates, At War with Reality (2012)

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