'Chaosphere' - Meshuggah (4/10)
Meshuggah have been a band whose work has been hailed as being 'ingenious' in nature, and their influence on modern metal is without question. Moreover, the band's sheer talent and skill is legendary, managing to take technical metal to heights where one must be as good a mathematician as they are a musician to match it. However, regardless of Meshuggah's great reputation, one question remains; do they make good music? As far as their third full-length 'Chaosphere' is concerned, the answer remains ambiguous to me. Barring the great amount of acclaim and love others have for them, 'Chaosphere' remains a distinctly unpleasant album to listen to, and not necessarily because I am opposed to extreme or experimental forms of music. Rather, Meshuggah proves to us here once again that they can play circles around most other bands, but their singular approach to making music wears thin after only a few tracks. Although Meshuggah perspires brilliance on the drawing board, the final product emerges rather lukewarm.
Downtuned guitars chug along through endless repetition, layered down with some brilliantly technical and precise drumming. Instrumentally, Meshuggah is more or less a one trick pony with 'Chaosphere', with the exception here and there of some atmospheric guitar textures. Besides that, Meshuggah forces a sonic assault upon the listener, than lends itself to no stop or sense of dynamic. Throughout an entire song, the riffs are not built around melodies, but rather around rhythms. In fact, in the music of 'Chaosphere', it comes as a bit of a minor shock to the listener when a note changes. Suffice to say, Meshuggah focus themselves almost solely around rhythm, and even use the guitars as a means to this end.
The vocals of Jens Kidman also add to the incredibly abrasive texture of this album. Although the lyrics are fairly philosophical and intelligent considering the aggressive nature of the music, the way he shouts through each track rarely feels as if it contributes much to the music, ultimately becoming about as monotonous as the rest of the sound. Through all of this tedium though, Meshuggah's strong points still manage to make it something of a worthwhile listen; although the album generally sounds the same throughout, there are a wide variety of different and unique time signatures being used that would be virtually impossible to fit into some sort of cohesive music in many other cases. Also, the band are very good at creating grooves, some of which becoming fairly memorable to the ear, although this can likely be attributed to the sheer repetition.
Unfortunately, 'Chaosphere' is one of those cases for me where the acclaim and my expectations have been not met, and not by a long shot at that. Certainly not a pleasing or even much of an interesting listen here for me with 'Chaosphere', but the band's talent, uncompromising attitude, and raw aggression do come through intact.