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MESHUGGAH Immutable

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Tuesday, April 5, 2022 @ 10:46 AM


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MESHUGGAH
Immutable

Atomic Fire Records




As if the pandemic wasn’t misery enough, MESHUGGAH drummer Tomas Haake recently revealed that he has been dealing with a persistent case of eczema on his hands that has seemingly defied treatment over the past two years and forced the band to delay its planned first U.S. tour in three years from this spring until fall. Life can sure be cruel sometimes.

Luckily, he was able to make it through the recording process for Immutable, the band’s new ninth album, with his usual legendary aplomb. Equally fortunate for the band, lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal, who stepped away from MESHUGGAH for four years, returned to not only contribute to the new album – albeit in a limited role - but to tour with the band as well. Not sure if that adds up to a “glass half full” scenario given all the COVID disruptions and Haake’s unfortunate condition, but any good news is, well, good news these days.

Released on April Fool’s Day, Immutable is definitely no joke, even its title - defined as “unchanging over time or unable to be changed” - seems to be the band taking the piss at its own expense. The album is kinda long, and can get a bit ponderous, but it also brings some variety and downright friskiness that is refreshing to hear from a veteran band with a sound that is so well established it has become the signature for an entire subgenre – if one considers “djent” an actual thing and not just some convenient nerdy tag.

First things first, though. At nearly 70 minutes, Immutable is a behemoth indeed. Too much so in fact. Of the three instrumentals that span some 17 minutes here – or one-quarter of the album - only “They Move Below” is that compelling or necessary. “Black Cathedral” pretty much just sounds like rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström playing scales or checking his tuning, and “Past Tense” is an entire track of the eerie, sparse shimmer we’ve heard punctuating MESHUGGAH tunes before and closes the album out with a whimper instead of a roar.

“They Move Below”, though, is genuinely monumental. In the same Rolling Stone interview where he revealed his eczema diagnosis, Haake referred to the song as MESHUGGAH’s “Orion”, and rightfully so. It is everything an epic instrumental should be, with a slow build to towering, jagged peaks precipitous drops to serene, sweeping valleys, and loads of undulating grooves in between – just like the classic he referenced from METALLICA’s Master Of Puppets, only without the bass solos.

As for the rest of the album, let’s start from the start! Immutable opens with the methodical thrum and crashing riffs of “Broken Cog”, which itself seems pretty standard MESHUGGAH pummel, save for frontman Jens Kidman’s eerie, whispered vocals – a brief, shouted chorus near the end excepting. But the band opens the aperture a bit from there, with the “The Abysmal Eye”, which rides Haake’s double-kick gallop, Hagström’s roiling riffs and a spirited solo from Thordendal to lighten the air, at least in a manner of speaking.

It is one of but four tracks where Thordendal does his thing, but the band gets its money’s worth from him here with the quirky, spider-walk lead work he provides amid the thunder. “Light The Shortening Fuse” offers even more swagger and plenty of heaving melody in something that approximates what others might consider “normal” song structure. The same is true to a somewhat lesser degree with “I Am The Thirst”, which is more complex but still on the catchier side of the ledger.

MESHUGGAH has built its formidable reputation on its mathematical precision and almost mechanical delivery. But the often elliptical nature of its music, guided by Haake’s poly-rhythms, Thordendal and Hagström’s stutter-step guitars and Kidman’s seemingly extemporaneous vocal delivery, requires some degree of rigidity – or “immutability” - to keep it from sounding like so much progressive twaddle. With “Fuse” and “Thirst” you can feel the band loosening the binds just a bit.

A couple other tracks take this even further. “God He Sees In Mirrors” is spunky and lively, indeed almost whimsical with it crackling rhythm and Dick Lövgren’s spry, grinding bass lines bringing more than a bit of funk – no surprise, perhaps, given that he wrote the music. Here again, Thordendal chimes in with a shrill, skittering solo. Later, with its fearsome thrash/death metal cascade, “Armies Of The Preposterous” is one the most full-frontal songs the band has done. Again buoyed by the jarring rhythmic thrust of Lövgren and Haake, who wrote the track, it would have provided the roaring “Damage Inc.”-like finale I alluded to earlier, were it not for “Past Tense”. Oh well, an opportunity lost.

Elsewhere, “Phantoms”, “Kaleidoscope”, “The Faultless” and the dive-bombing drone of “Ligature Marks” deliver the sort of turbulent, but meticulously focused bombast that has made MESHUGGAH what it is. But when played against the more dynamic, melodic or genuinely “fun” – again, relatively speaking – numbers noted above the band proves itself as anything by “immutable.” And at this stage of the game, 35 years into a career during which it essentially created a sound, that really speaks to MESHUGGAH’s genius.

4.0 Out Of 5.0


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