Meshuggah are back with an answer to 2004's EP I, which was a 21 minute single track metal masterpiece that saw the Swedish kings of technical extreme metal taking their sounds to new progressive levels. Catch Thirty- Three is one long 47-minute piece, broken down into 13 sections, yet differs greatly from it predecessor I in many ways. On the EP, Meshuggah took complexity and intensity to a new level, with spiraling arrangements and brute force that took their guitar playing and drum work to new levels of technicality. Here, the band has decided to add heaping amounts of groove and repetitive rhythms to their heavy riff based arrangements, moving away from the linear guitar lines and solos (there are no Allan Holdsworth inspired solos from Fredrik Thordendal anywhere on this CD) to a more chunky and bottom heavy sound.
For the first half of the CD, the band centers on a main theme and really pounds you over the head with plenty of meaty riffs and the screaming vocals of Jens Kidman, who you will notice also plays some guitar and bass alongside Marten Hagstrom and Thordendal (the band has still yet to fill a permanent bass position), so the music is very guitar heavy with lots of bottom end. Long time drummer Tomas Haake however is listed only as the performer of spoken vocals, and the drums were actually programmed by the entire band, which I found to be a curious decision, as the results are slightly mechanical sounding but no less powerful. I wonder how Haake feels about programming his drums rather than actually performing them? I thought it was a strange decision for such an amazing player, but believe me this takes nothing away from the music here.
There are some chilling and atmospheric instrumental moments on the 13-minute section "In Death-Is Death", featuring reverbed and sustained plucked guitar chords and liquid melody lines, something new for Meshuggah, which add an almost King Crimson feel to the music. These tranquil moments segue into the bashing sounds of "Shed", which is slated to be the bands next video, perhaps the most commercially appealing song on the CD, and one that comes close to the style of Tool with its intricate rhythms and haunting vocals.
It's on the back half of the CD that the band springs into hyper-drive and moves from the more plodding direction of the first half, here opting for traditional Meshuggah frenzy with wild guitar riffs and breakneck rhythms. Manic tracks like "Personae Non Gratae", "Dehumanization", and "Sum" are furious examples of extreme progressive metal, as the three- guitar army melts the speakers with shards of complex guitars while Kidman screams his heart out. The final moments of "Sum" actually come to a screeching halt, and after a moment of silence the band finishes out the CD with some more lilting and jazzy guitar chords and melody lines that simply fade into the sunset.
To say that Meshuggah are one of the most important bands in metal is a severe understatement. Not only are they delivering sophisticated yet extreme music for the metal crowd, but thought provoking and complex stuff that appeals to the prog-rock fan base as well. Catch Thirty- Three is one of those albums that pulls you in and intoxicates you with its sheer power, groove, and intricate nature, never failing to get better with each listen. This is sure to be one of the most talked about, and ultimately, important albums of 2005.
01. Autonomy lost
02. Imprint of the un-saved
04. The paradoxical spiral
07. Mind's mirrors
08. In death - Is life
09. In death - Is Death
11. Personae non gratae