If you can dance to this, you've got skills.
Meshuggah has come back after the great Catch-33 with obZen, a more thrash-based than "jazz"-based album. Here you'll find just constant bombardment of heavy guitars and fast drums throughout the album. Each song can hold its own, but overall the album can easily fall into "monotony" and overbearing continuity, with some more creative and "refreshing" sections. Everything typical of Meshuggah's signature sound can easily be found within the album, with crazy guitar riffing, crazy polyrhythmic drumming, and some wacky solos that really make no sense whatsoever.
Combustion opens the album on a smashing note, opening just 13 seconds in with an intense thrash metal riff, bottomed out by 8 string guitars. The song doesn't let up, but just keeps going, and going, and going, and going, until the 4 minute song ends. The song is good, but can be a little tiring after a while.
Electric Red is similar to Combustion, with a more djenty riff going on then just constant chugging. The song is a little more creative, with some cool rotational tom-filling backing the djenty guitars. Most oft he instrumental sections lack creativity, and the riffing can get a little stale. At points the song picks a certain inventive charm, but it's lost rather quickly by the return of the verses.
Bleed is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It opens immediately with a triplet-based riff at an intense speed. The song is over the top intense and a massively intense ride. The instrumental section is highly experimental and creative, making for an exceptional track.
Lethargica is another intense thrash metal riff based track. For a creative aspect, the song does include a very experimental discordant and dissonant "solo" and instrumental section that makes the song an interesting addition to the album.
Obzen is also one of my favorite tracks on the album, with another triplet based thrash riff with some really cool dissonant guitar melodies backing it. The song is intense the whole way through, keeping a head band worthy polyrhythm throughout the whole song.
This Spiteful Snake drops for the most part the intense insanely fast tempo for a slower more deliberate approach to the djent. The song features a more steady attack of guitar and drum that the others, making an overall good and different track.
Pineal Gland Optics continues the intensity of the thrash metal, this time with even more bopping djent influence. At this point the music is getting a little tiring and my interest plummets until the advent of the last track. The rhythms and riffs seem to be repeated and ideas become stale. Overall, the individual track is great, but running through the whole album the track is very boring.
Pravus is actually a fun track. Rather than gust a chug-chug-djent-chug pattern of riffing, they throw in some more creative riffs with some really cool dissonance and discordant elements. The inventiveness of this riff only lasts for a short time, however, as the song soon slips back into the world of overbearing thrash and djent nonsense (at this point).
Dancers to a Discordant System is no doubt my favorite track on the album. Nearly 10 minutes long and full of pure epic progression and spite, the song is near perfect. This song is a just reward for listening to 50 minutes of virtually the same thing. The intro is a purely fantastic discordant and dissonant polyrhythm, that breaks into a dynamic show of thrash, djent, discordance, rhythmic mastery, and all that good stuff. Here we have the return of Meshuggah to their more "jazzy" influences, with crazy time signature changes, odd rhythms and groupings, and an overall fantastic ride. Overall, the song has everything you could possibly want from a Meshuggah song, packed into a 9 minute long capsule of evil joy.
ALBUM OVERALL: The album is a mixed blessing. Just like I said in my review of Carving Desert Canyons by Scale the Summit, song to song the album is fantastic. But to listen to the whole thing through and through, it gets incessantly boring and repetitive. A few bright spots on the album can keep you tuned to the music, but long passages of constant bombardment by the same djent and thrash metal riffing. Overall, the album is good in places, bad in others, and overall just an average album. 3+ stars.