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MESHUGGAH - obZen cover
3.42 | 46 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 2008

Filed under Groove Metal


1. Combustion (04:08)
2. Electric Red (05:51)
3. Bleed (07:22)
4. Lethargica (05:47)
5. obZen (04:24)
6. This Spiteful Snake (04:52)
7. Pineal Gland Optics (05:12)
8. Pravus (05:10)
9. Dancers to a Discordant System (09:36)

Total Time 52:25


- Jens Kidman / vocals
- Fredrik Thordendal / rhythm & lead guitars
- Mårten Hagström / rhythm guitar, leads on "Electric Red" and "Pravu- s"
- Tomas Haake / drums, spoken vocals
- Dick Lövgren / bass

About this release

CD released 7th March 2008 on Nuclear Blast Records (NB 1937-2 / 27361 19372) / Icarus Music (ICARUS 436) / Irond Records (IROND CD 08-1430) / Nesen Entertainment (NECD-1019 SDP-0108) / Scarecrow Records (SC08377-0) / Avalon (27th February) (MICP-10692).

2LP 12" grey vinyl album released 11th March 2008 on Nuclear Blast Records (NB 1937-1), limited to 2000 copies.

2LP 12" red vinyl album released 2010 on Back on Black (BOBV079LP), limited to 1000 copies.

Recorded and mixed at Fear and Loathing Studio in Stockholm, Sweden.
Mastered at Cutting Room in Stockholm, Sweden.

Thanks to UMUR, bartosso, Bosh66 for the updates

MESHUGGAH MP3, Free Download/Stream


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If there's anything a band like Meshuggah's especially known for, it's how consistent they've been with their sound over the years. Much of their work has used their second effort Destroy Erase Improve as the general template, subtly evolving in different ways with each passing record. Unfortunately, one negative aspect of such a strategy is the band's tendency of sounding a touch too repetitive and sometimes resting on their laurels. Their 2005 album Catch Thirtythree, while boasting hints of jazz fusion, was a good example of the group's sound starting to become somewhat stale. So what did the Swedish metal legends unleash with 2009's Obzen? Absolute trash.

Meshuggah have always been a highly regarded group in terms of the instrumentalists' talents, but that does have the occasion of backfiring on a band; unfortunately, that is exactly the case with Obzen. Everything sounds too calculated, too artificial, too cold. While this style is present in other genres/bands (obviously technical death metal is generally infamous for such an approach), almost all of Obzen sounds as if it wasn't recorded by a band, but rather an assembly line of musical parts. The semblance of passion and general energy of previous records is replaced by robotic, by-the-numbers extreme metal that's almost completely devoid of any surprises or stand-out moments (or stand-out tracks, for that matter).

Fortunately, the shining light leading the darkness is the opening number "Combustion." The track is reminiscent of older Meshuggah records such as Contradictions Collapse or the aforementioned Destroy Erase Improve, opting for an extremely thrash-esque method of starting the album. Jens Kidman's voice sounds as angry as ever, and the musicians play with an exceptionally commanding presence. The solo is also a nice aspect, highlighting Frederik Thordendal's agility while also showcasing a nice sense of variety in his playing. Unfortunately though, the song only lasts four minutes. The album that follows is an overly homogeneous trainwreck that is only saved by a few choice moments.

While the band members do nothing particularly offensive to get such a low rating, my biggest criticism comes right down to the songwriting itself. Much of the album appears to be on autopilot, right down to the riffs that these songs revolve around. Let's take the title track, for example; while the doomy nature of the opening A-tuned riff is promising, the first "verse" section is completely uninteresting and leaves a lot to be desired. Jens' vocals sound too aggressive for what's being played, and lack of any embellishments to add to the precise riff make the portion sound unfinished and even unneeded. Moments like these are littered about the album, perhaps reaching a peak with the biggest travesty on the album, "Bleed." "Bleed," considered by many to be one of Meshuggah's greatest songs in their most recent work, leaves me completely baffled about why it is so revered. While repetition can be done extremely well in music (see: Opeth, Earth, Lightning Bolt, etc.), "Bleed" preys on one's boredom much more quickly. The main motif is very bland and leaves little to the imagination, and while Thomas Haake's drumming is usually a highlight in the band's music, it's tough to get invested in his drumming on this one. Even when the song speeds up, everything sounds just as mechanical as it did before. The polyrhythms in the song aren't particularly interesting, especially when the band pounds them into your head 50,000 times, and the solo happens to be one of the tune's only saving graces. On top of all this, the song is over seven minutes long... again, not a very wise investment in the long run.

Considering so much of the review was spent on just a few songs and the vast majority of the album contains the same style, you can imagine I have an absolute trove of problems with this record. Judging by the 1.5, this is definitely true, but I must mention that I didn't want to hate this album. You may not take issue with what criticisms I brought up, and if not, more power to you; the album certainly managed to strike a chord with a large amount of metal fans. I, for one, find it to be a pretty atrocious and dispassionate piece of blandness. Despite the band members' talents, the record they made is an exercise in pure frustration and unnecessary repetition.
"obZen" is the 6th full-length studio album by Swedish technical/experimental extreme metal act Meshuggah. The album was released in March 2008 by Nuclear Blast Records. "obZen" has seen both a CD and a vinyl release.

Meshuggah are a grinding and alien sounding machine. Razor sharp and bone crushingly heavy riffing delivered in odd time signatures, groove based precision drumming, aggressive, distorted and shouting vocals and those Holdsworthian jazzy guitar solos as the icing on the cake. in the early- to mid nineties Meshuggah were tagged groove thrash but they´ve become something more beastly, mechanic and cold since then. The change started with "Chaosphere (1998)" and Meshuggah have since then experimentet with their sound. There haven´t been much on any of the band´s releases between 1998 and 2008 that signaled a return to a more groove thrash dominated sound, but I´ll be damned if "obZen" doesn´t show signs of this. A track like opener "Combustion" especially reminds me of the early technical groove thrash days of the band. When that is said, the music on "obZen" is still complex, challenging and anything but an easy listen. There are more "hooks" on the album than on any of the band´s releases since "Destroy Erase Improve (1995)" though.

Besides "Combustion", which is one of the standout tracks on the album, I simply have to mention "Bleed". It has to be one of the most relentlessly aggressive and punishing pieces of music I´ve yet encountered. The fiercely fast paced and rythmically complex riffing in that track are "out of this world" to say the least. We´re talking riffs that will hurt playing for even the most enduring guitarist/bassist. The rest of the tracks are of an outstanding quality too and simply among the best the band have yet released. The clean yet raw and powerful sound production only further enhances the listening experience.

As such "obZen" doesn´t add much new to Meshuggah´s signature sound, but it brings together the greatest components from all their previous releases and ends up being a demonstration in how to create powerful, memorable and punchy extreme metal without sacrificing clever songwriting. Like the case has been with most Meshuggah releases, "obZen" has taken a couple of years to really sink in. It´s not the kind of album you listen to once and fully grasp. The songs take time to tell apart, but patience is the key to the irresistible hypnotic grooves on "obZen". Grooves that only Meshuggah create to this level of perfection. A 5 star (100%) rating is fully deserved.
Conor Fynes
'ObZen' - Meshuggah (7/10)

If ever there was an unlikely metal band to receive both widespread acclaim and recognition from the public media, it is Sweden's Meshuggah. Although they are rightfully hailed as one of the most talented acts in metal today, their trademark sound of heavy rhythmic experimentation and abrasiveness certainly isn't an easy drink to swallow, but the band still gains new legions of fans with every new record they churn out. 2008's 'ObZen' is played by a band that already enjoys quite a few years of experience, but it is my first legitimate album experience with Meshuggah nonetheless. Although by all means a thrash metal record, there is much more going on here, and although I have been reluctant to look into this band for a while, I have always shared the notion that they are indeed one of the most skilled acts out there. 'ObZen' only reaffirms this belief, and each song is made to be a clear statement that Meshuggah show no intent in stopping their metal barrage. Despite all of the brilliance employed on the album though, there is the impression that the music may have been more enjoyable, had Meshuggah pulled out more than one fancy trick to work with.

'ObZen' features a general return to jazzier modes, although the music Meshuggah makes on 'Obzen' certainly will not be seen as jazz to the vast majority of listeners. Instead, the first impression is that of highly rhythmically unconventional thrash metal, complete with some incredibly aggressive shouting vocals, courtesy of Jens Kidman. Despite the very angry and in-your-face attitude the music presents however, the album is backed up by a surprisingly vivid exploration in philosophy. The album name itself turns out to be a portmanteau of the words 'obscene' and 'zen', and the album reflects on how the human race has found a state of harmony through constant violence. Heavy material to be sure, and the music reflects this through each palm muted riff.

Meshuggah also pass me as being one of those bands that would require each band member to also be an expert in mathematics, as well as an absolute machine on the drums. Kidman's vocals take some time to warm up to, but- like quite a few progressive metal bands- the vocals are the weakest link in the sound. Every instrumentalist is an absolute genius at playing intensely complex rhythms, while keeping in check with the separate rhythms each other member is playing. The catch here is that this is really the only flashy trick Meshuggah pulls out for the entire record. As mind-numbing and incredible as it is, there is the feeling by the end of 'ObZen' that one has just listened to the same two or three riffs played over and over again, albeit in different time signatures. For a band who obviously borders genius, this does feel like something of an obvious mishap for the band, but for their somewhat narrow sound here, they do an absolutely incredible job of it.
The Very Average of Meshuggah

I like to call OBZEN "The Very Average of Meshuggah" as this album doesn't bring anything new to the band's sound. It's just a kind of résumé of their career. And yes, band members mentioned in an interview that it's going to be a summary of their achievements to date. I just don't feel convinced. In my opinion, when a band says something like that, it can only mean one thing... that they don't have ideas good enough to record an interesting album. Well, it's still a better option than releasing dozens of crummy albums after all.
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.
Ah, my second Meshuggah review. Ok, in my opinion this is probabbly there most human album, the songs are structured more, some of thr riffs could be used by other bands...and it would be ok, and the vocals sound perfect, not to growly and a very lyrical way of using the medium of growling to express the lyrics of the songs. The lyrics are usually what Meshuggah always talk about, philosphy within ourself, using quite dark images in order to conjure pain within the human psyche:

1. Combustion - When I first heard this riff I said to myself, "Wow, a real riff". Yes this song is incredibly heavy and very headbangable (there other matherial makes headbanging very hard to do, headbanging within polyrthyms can cause. Very thrash like, perfect opener to a great album.

2. Electric Red - Very good, 8 strings and some polrythyms, very Byzantine, using them in a musical way, a trait Meshuggah usually forget.

3. Bleed - Ok, probabbly the heaviest thing ever created. Tomas' feet are in agony, the only points he can stop are in the slow dark sections, and the weird solo bits. That's probabbly the reason the song is called Bleed, cause that's what will happen to your feet if you play this song (or your ears if you listen to it) Great song, and very avant garde video, perfectly insane.

4. Lethargica - An album track really, some of these songs aren't the most memerable, kind of like somethign from Nothing, just a bit similar, but still a good song.

5. Obzen - Great riffage, short and sweet, but kinf of still to complicated...these guys really need to just right a song instead of a continous comfusing ryhthym, but if thats what you're into...it's great. (I'm probabbly contradiciting myself a bit...but meh...who cares.)

6. This Spiteful Snake - Good lyrics, very dark ,and great use of language. The music is good again, a bit chugga chugga, but meh.

7. Pineal Optic Glands- Reminds me of Shed from Catch 33, dark and disturbing. Very odd solo as well.

8. Pravus - Another memorable riff, something this album dosent have alot of, but great songs.

9. Dancers To A Discordant System - Best song in my opinion, closes the album great, especially the last stanza, very philosophical. This song is obviously about the absolute garbage that is played in todays popular music. Great ending, very creepy.

CONCLUSION - This is probabbly Meshuggahs most structured album, great skilled songs and it may be a but repetive, but this album does display some great normal guitar riffs, e.g. Combustion & Pravus. Meshuggah fans may not like it that much, but someone getting into them should buy this album.

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