MESHUGGAH — obZen (review)

MESHUGGAH — obZen album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
"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.
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