As the Swedish metal juggernaut Meshuggah approach their 30th anniversary, it's a good time to reflect on just how influential they've been over the years, and what better way to appreciate all they've done to spearhead the whole 'djent' movement (whether that's ultimately a good thing or not) than a new album that shows all the young guns how it's really done. The Violent Sleep of Reason is their latest bulldozer of an album for Nuclear Blast, featuring 10 brain melting songs that bring everything to the table that Meshuggah are all about. Now eight studio albums into their career, the band haven't actually been very prolific, but they'e made every release count, with a consistency that you don't normally see from metal acts these days. Truth be told, as exceptional as The Violent Sleep of Reason is, I don't see it converting the non-believers, as there isn't anything here that will make someone who hasn't been into Meshuggah till now say "OK, I finally get it!", but for those who have been on board, it's perhaps their strongest release in years, and that's saying something considering the strength of Koloss, ObZen, and Catch Thirty-Three.
While it might be a stretch to say that The Violent Sleep of Reason is completely on par with classics like Nothing, Chaosphere, or Destroy Erase Improve, the truth is it ain't far from it. It's easy to say for some that most Meshuggah material has a certain similarity to it, whether that be due to Jens Kidman's thoaty, gravelly bark, or the thunderous grooves which permeate all of their songs, but here on The Violent Sleep of Reason, there seems to have been a decision to inject some variety on this new material, as there is a different flavor as you move from track to track and experience all that there is to offer. Drum god Tomas Haake puts on a clinic on the opening blast of "Clockworks", a rumbling, boiling stew pot of complex progressive extreme metal. Just listen to the churning guitars of Mårten Hagström & Fredrik Thordendal snaking and weaving around each other, with the acrobatic leads from the latter occasionally flying about the mix, all the while Haake and bassist Dick Lövgren rampage underneath, all of this creating some of the heaviest bottom end you will ever hear. "By the Ton" is an even better example of just how monstrous & crushing the groove is, as the band slow things down a tad for the albums slowest yet heaviest track, while the title track, "MonstroCity", and especially "Ivory Tower" just pummel the senses, the riffs lethal, the grooves devastating, and Kidman's tortured growl just seeping into your very soul. "Stifled" has a completely addicting yet intricate rhythm that twists around the riffs, another chance to hear Haake at his very best, while the atmospheric, almost doom-laden "Nostrum" again sees the band throwing in some different elements to make sure the listener is still paying attention to all the details, as Thordendal lays down a jaw dropping jazz-fusion styled solo and the band rampages to a thrashy climax. Lövgren's massive bass riffs collide with those crushing eight string guitars on the booming dirge that is "Into Decay", the monstrous closer to this equally monstrous album.
While Koluss and ObZen, Meshuggah's two most recent releases, were both damn impressive and near perfect examples of what this band does best (well, truth be told most of their albums are of ridiculously high quality), there's something about The Violent Sleep of Reason that tips the scales a bit more, and it's not hard to see that this one is going to score high on a lot of people's Best of 2016 lists when it's all said and done. Between this and the recent Opeth album, you have two strong contenders for album of the year, and wouldn't you guess, both are Swedish bands. Not surprising at all.
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02. Born In Dissonance
04. By The Ton
05. Violent Sleep Of Reason
06. Ivory Tower
09. Our Rage Won't Die
10. Into Decay