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MESHUGGAH The Violent Sleep Of Reason

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Thursday, October 6, 2016 @ 2:03 PM


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MESHUGGAH
The Violent Sleep Of Reason

Nuclear Blast Records




When you've been doing something for 30 years, it certainly can't hurt to change things up a little bit every now and again to keep things interesting – or at least try. So Sweden’s MESHUGGAH, which has been honing and perfecting its sound for so long it has essentially established its own genre – if one considers “djent” or “math metal” an actual thing and not just a convenient term – took a few steps out of its comfort zone for its eighth and latest full-length The Violent Sleep Of Reason, much like it did with Catch ThirtyThree a decade ago.

For this go-round, the band recorded the album live – albeit in a studio setting. The hope was to give it a more natural, less mechanical and confining feel. Drummer and creative director Tomas Haake also worked on the compositions almost exclusively with bassist Dick Lövgren – instead of his usual co-conspirators, guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström – apparently to provide more swing and groove to the band's trademark thunder and thrum.

And, for the most part, the old dogs trying new tricks proves to be a winning formula. Reason doesn't feel quite as rigid or meticulous as Obzen or Koloss, nor as experimental as Catch ThirtyThree with its high-tech hue and album-length suite split into 13 movements, offering a middle ground option of sorts instead. But it does take a little while to find its groove.

“Clockworks” starts the album out in familiar MESHUGGAH fashion, with its frisky, off-kilter tempo, quaking bottom end, concussive riffs, elliptical leadwork and the atonal bellow of frontman Jens Kidman that acts almost as another instrument as it faithfully bird-dogs the rhythm line. But the magnificent, swaggering hooks and jammy flair that emerge over its back end signal what's to come – though a bit later. “Born In Dissonance”, with its music composed by Hagström, beats a quick retreat back to the band’s more signature sound before things start to get more interesting.

Like the loping bounce of “MonstroCity” which feels almost like industrial-strength funk, and harks back to Catch ThirtyThree’s “In Death - Is Death” as its mammoth heaviness plays against a limber rhythm and Kidman’s more fluid vocals. It’s also half as long as “In Death”, and brings the swing and then some for its duration – and really commands your attention. “By The Ton”, co-written by Thordendal, keeps it with its intriguing, seemingly bluesy vibe, at least early on, in its brooding pace and quivering licks – though its heaviness, again, cannot be denied.

Indeed, that is never an issue here – which I guess should come as no surprise given how punishing MESHUGGAH can be in a genuine live environment. The title track and “Ivory Tower” - which was entirely scripted by Hagström – deliver their dive-bomb riffs over a shrill, shimmering sheen of background guitar that transforms the songs into something truly gigantic. “Stifled” doubles down on the low-end rumble, but is just spry enough to not induce you to crap your pants, and finishes in ambient flourish of “Frippertronics”-like guitar effects.

“Nostrum” rides a feisty jog and sprint pace and boasts an especially incendiary solo from Thordendal, as do “MonstroCity”, “Stifled” and “Ivory Tower” - what he may lack in songwriting credits here, he makes up for in the vigor and panache of his performance. “Our Rage Won’t Die”, by contrast, sees its rivet-gun drums and angular hooks giving way to a determined, weighty trudge. “Into Decay” delivers a steady drone of distortion – the buzzing, bass-heavy intro recalls MOTORHEAD’s “Orgasmatron” – and ragged riffing, giving Reason a rather cacophonous finale.

At the very least, The Violent Sleep Of Reason is looser and less turgid than its immediate predecessors – and I don’t mean “turgid” in a derogatory sense in MESHUGGAH’s case, since the “complicated” and “bombastic” aspects of its definition are part of what has made the band so unique and, at times, awe-inspiring. Reason just feels more “human” and not quite so perfect, with a few welcome rough edges here and there.

That said, it’s still very much MESHUGGAH and as such is certainly capable of boggling the mind with its compositional physics and instrumental prowess. Reason hasn’t been dumbed down for anyone. The songs aren’t necessarily crafted in such a way as to be more listener friendly – indeed, I wouldn’t describe any them as overtly catchy - they are merely delivered in a manner that feels less intimidating, at least by recent comparison.

3.5 Out Of 5.0 Grab your copy of The Violent Sleep Of Reason in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.


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