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Meshuggah: obZen

In 1994 I worked for an affiliate of the radio station Z-Rock in upstate NY. One of my record reps from Nuclear Blast records called me up ask me what type of bands I was into. He asked me if I like Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Metallica, I of course said YES!! He said that he had a new band that I would love that was from Sweden and they were called Meshuggah. I laughed and said "Meshuggah"? I though he was speaking Yiddish to me and told him to send it to me so I could check it out. I was pretty skeptical, but played it anyway, totally expecting to hate it & toss it aside. But to my eternal happiness, this was Meshuggah's None EP and a Meshuggah Head I have been ever since.

Jump forward to March of 2008 and the CD of 2008 has arrived, obZen, the type of record that will have all other bands step back & listen to what the future of Metal sounds like. The bar once again has been raised by the only band that continues to move forward and leave a path for all others to follow. That band is the finest Swedish export, the Mighty Eight Stringed Meshuggah!!

obZen the first new studio release since 2005's Catch 33, and finds Meshuggah pulling out all of the stops and going for nothing less than your jugular vain. The eight stringed fury that is unleashed within is down right frightening. The opening ominous riff of CD opener, "Combustion" lays the groundwork of the devastation to come. This 9 track disc is best described for Meshuggah Heads as a direct mixture of the speed and complexity of the CD of the millennium, Chaosphere and the grinding riffing found on the opus, Nothing. Could there be a better mix? I think not!! obZen is 9 songs of pure brutality, unheralded musicianship and simply 'goose bump' inducing mayhem.

Is there a drummer on this planet that can stand on the same stage as Tomas Haake? He has continued to redefine what precision drumming is about. The polyrhythmic drum god is in his usual untouchable form on obZen. How can one man manage to do the things he can do with the same 2 arms & legs as everyone else? Can you say air drumming? Haake has been "The Man" for the past 14 years since I 1st stumbled on to them and he has NEVER disappointed. Gone are the digital "Drum Set from Hell" and back is the more organic, acoustic Haake. Don't get me wrong, the "Drum Set from Hell" stuff on Catch 33 is some of the coolest drum riffing that I've ever heard, but a complete Haake bashed Meshuggah song, is simply the shit! The drumming on obZen is worth the price of this CD alone, not to mention his continued lyrical mastery of the intensely intelligent and complex and did I mention the CD cover art and concept were also Haake's?! If this was a sport, Tomas Haake would be league MVP!

The controlled chaos that makes Meshuggah well…Meshuggah, has been even more focused with Headbanger's from Hell results. Check out the mesmerizing "Pravus" or the dare I say, Tool-ish vibe of the amazing 9 & ½ minute, "Dancers to a Discordant System" or the pummeling lead single, "Bleed". The groove of the title track, "obZen" and the psychotic punch of "Lethargica", make this the most intense Meshuggah record since Chaosphere. Progressive, Death, Thrash, or what ever you want to call it, just Strap in, Sit down & Shut up!

Meshuggah, which now consists of Haake, singer Jens Kidman, guitarists Marten Hagstrom, lead guitar genius Fredrik Thordendal and new bassist Dick Lovgren, have crafted a perfect CD. Thordendal continues to push the envelope with his Allan Holdsworth style of lead guitar work, that is still so awe inspiring and so one of a kind as it was 10 years ago! Thank god guys like Steve Vai & Zakk Wylde have given him some much due respect in guitar magazines over the years! Jens Kidman also delivers his best vocal performance to date on obZen.

I understand that this form of Metal will never sell in the millions, but this IS the CD that Meshuggah fans have hoped for, the record that should put Meshuggah on the map for good. There is something for every type of Metal fan, without ever losing one ounce of what has made Meshuggah the band that others have been following for years. A perfect record from a band that has been a trailblazer for years and has yet to disappoint with any release to date, Meshuggah are and have been in a class by themselves and with obZen have again widened the gap between themselves and ANYONE else.

Behold the CD of the year for 2008, obZen by Meshuggah! 112 Stars out of 5!!!!

Track Listing

  1. Combustion
  2. Electric Red
  3. Bleed
  4. Lethargica
  5. obZen
  6. This Spiteful Snake
  7. Pineal Gland Optics
  8. Pravus
  9. Dancers To A Discordant System

Added: March 28th 2008
Reviewer: Butch Jones
Related Link: Meshuggah's My Space Page
Hits: 4016
Language: english

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Meshuggah: obZen
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-03-28 15:06:19
My Score:

In a time where originality in music seems to be fading thing thanks to the likes of American Idol and other "talent" shows of that ilk, and a time where bands are consistently releasing cover albums, symphony albums and unplugged adventures; I am glad that 2008 has offered up new and once again startling music from the mighty Meshuggah. The Swedish quintet have returned to a scene that was quite in need of a visit with their latest studio effort "obZen", and if you are one of those Metal fans who for some reason have yet to be exposed to the band in all their complexity and genius then the delivery of this one could not have come at a better time. The second that "obZen" begins with "Combustion" we are taken on a roller coaster ride of proportions that one rarely comes off of unscathed and I feel that this is exactly what Meshuggah wants to leave happening in you. If you're a fan of that which is heavy, "obZen" will work for you. Should you enjoy technical movements that appear to go in dozens of directions all at once only to return to a single starting point, "obZen" will work for you. Have you a high brow appreciation of deep musicality and idea as it applies to Metal music, "obZen" will work for you – am I making some sense here? This all might seem a bit much to comprehend and if you realize this then you are not alone. While the album on the whole is something that will take you a little bit of time to appreciate and absorb, I need to direct you over to "Bleed" as one of your main tracks of focus because its one of the best examples of what the band is all about. The tune possesses superhuman polyrhythmic drumming by Haake and the Alan Holdsworth guitar style of Fredrik Thordendal, and if you think that these two interpretations of music don't often go together, well you are absolutely correct – unless it's Meshuggah who is doing it. There are some readers who don't know what polyrhythmic drumming is all about and while books have been written about it, very simply put it's the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent rhythms. Needless to say drummer Tomas Haake seems to be one of the gurus of this when it comes to its application in Metal. These patterns are held together by some low end bass that will rumble and quake your stereo with its ominous deep end care of Dick Lovgren. The album comes at the listener hard and fast and there is not a radio single or guest appearance to be found on it which is something we should be thankful for because despite that being a popular occurrence, the guys in Meshuggah probably have little interest in radio play. Besides, who outside of a select few could make this music any more interesting than it already is? Perhaps Mozart or Frank Zappa, but they are in no way available for such input outside of cerebral inspiration. I think most fans will enjoy the way the two guitarists play off of each other as while Fredrik solos, Hagstrom keeps the razor sharp riffing on the constant attack.

Growling his soul out is their front man Jens Kidman who is also a performer who pulls no punches. His wrenching lyrical experiments bringing to life another favorite of mine on the album "Lethargica", which will consistent with the vibe on the main core of the album even slows down a little and reminding the listener of some David Gilmour Pink Floyd riffs as far as atmosphere is concerned. "Pravus" is another goodie and more of a straight ahead tune with the lads delving into some Thrash Metal interpretations. This might be the easiest song for the new Meshuggah fan to examine since it also offers up tastes of their different approach but it remains a little more subtle than the rest. It would be safe to say that this is a perfect follow up to the bands historic "Destroy Erase Improve" in terms of technical brutality. The group's last album was a single contiguous track called "Catch 33" and just after that they delivered up a remixed and remastered (but thankfully not re-recorded) "Nothing". If this is your first Meshuggah release you now have a list of some of the others that need looking into. The album closes with an epic number of definite Tool-like proportions, the nine plus minute demonstration of thinking man's Metal – "Dancers To A Discordant System" and when the album concludes you will find yourself giving it another go to see if you can better appreciate what just went past you. The albums nine tracks are housed in a very interesting cover of an apparently wise meditating figure who is somewhat drenched in blood. He appears to be doing this on a sacrificial altar so I would love to know the story behind this one. Clearly Meshuggah has once again stepped up to the game for the fans but also more importantly continue to show why so many people are impressed at that which they do. This is a Heavy Metal Thrill Ride from start to finish. If you have got an appetite for the difference that Metal like this offers, come taste the Meshuggah.

Meshuggah: obZen
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-03-10 18:03:15
My Score:

Great to hear the Mighty ones back and laying down their unstoppable metal force on the masses once again. obZen is Meshuggah's first release since the awesome Catch Thirty ThreeobZen is a force to be reckoned with, a bubbling cauldron of muscular fireworks that is impossible to ignore. One thing this band always excelled at above all was their DEEP sense of groove, which, no matter how complex the music was, that groove has always been present, shaking the very foundation of the mix. Hearing the opening 1-2 punch of "Combustion" and "Electric Red", not much has changed, with the 8-stringed guitar wizardry of Fredrik Thordendal & Marten Hagstrom providing the crunch, new bassist Dick Lovgren the thump, and drum God Tomas Haake, well, everything else, these songs just pulse and pummel like the arrival of a meteor storm. Listen to the opening barrage of "Bleed", frenetic rhythms bashing you over the head while Jens Kidman screams & growls in a truly menacing tone (and overall obZen is one of the singers best performances ever) that is enough to send shivers up and down your spine. That ridiculously heavy bottom end again pops up on "Lethargica", and the band shows that they are truly a one of a kind progressive metal machine on tracks such as "This Spiteful Snake", "Pineal Gland Optics", and the ultra complex "Pravus". The band even throws in a near 10 minute epic at the back end of the CD, the powerhouse "Dancers To a Discordant System", a real tour-de-force for the band, complete with crazy off-kilter arrangements, symphonic passages, and plenty of Allan Holdsworth styled legato solos from Thordendal.

When the last sequence ends, you'll want nothing more than to hear the whole album all over again. obZen is absolutely brilliant from start to finish, and honestly, it's going to be hard for any release in 2008 to top this one.

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