Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
I started writing this the day the new Deathspell Omega came out, so naturally I dropped everything and immersed in ‘The Synarchy of Molten Bones’, which rendered me incapable of devoting any time to this. The open tab with the unfinished review started haunting me, though… so I pulled myself together, took a break from getting perforated by Deathspell Omega and got back into the groove of ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’.
Let me start off by saying that ‘Koloss’ was a drag. I tried hard to get into it, but I just couldn’t enjoy the record at all. Sure, ‘Behind the Sun’ was a banger and the ending of ‘Demiurge’ one of those big Meshuggah-moments, but the rest of the album rather followed the dynamic, or lack thereof, of songs like ‘Break Those Bones…’ or ‘I Am Colossus’. In other words, a slower mid-tempo pace dominated the album, or at least that is what negatively stuck with me after all this time of trying and failing to get into it. I also didn’t like the sound, particularly the sound of the guitars. And if Meshuggah can’t pull off a guitar tone I’m into, the ice is getting thin.
So my expectations for ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ weren’t enormous. I was hoping for it to be better than ‘Koloss’, but prepared to not be blown out of my socks. The first single ‘Born in Dissonance’ was somewhat promising, though. It didn’t exactly impress me immediately, but I loved the sound, the more uptempo dynamics and the more aggressive feel. The only thing that really bothered me was the very prominent vocal mix. And I don’t know whether that was just a side effect of YouTube compression or if I’m just able to tune them out a little bit, now that I’ve listened to the album a couple of times. The second single ‘Nostrum’, however, really convinced me. Its sheer massiveness and dark, low end dissonance were right up my alley and got me pumped for the album!
But let’s talk about sound a little more! First off, Meshuggah decided to record this album in a live setting and with actual tube amps. It probably doesn’t surprise anyone who has seen this band live that they are killing it with the performance. It is, despite somewhat contrary comments from the band members themselves, practically free of flaws (to the ears of the listener anyways). What really stands out to me is the insane performance from Tomas Haake. His drumming on this album is out of this world! And everything just sounds great, too. The guitar tones are massive, also thanks to the brutally (as always) distorted bass. Speaking of the bass, the low end doesn’t suffer from the distortion this time around. ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ sounds crushing down low – something that Meshuggah haven’t always been able to pull off with past productions (‘obZen’, …), but this time they knocked it out of the park, with Tue Madsen’s help.
So, what’s to say about this album?! Meshuggah have really pulled themselves out of the slightly dragging mid tempo and put the pedal back to the metal. The dynamics of this album seem to span across Meshuggah’s entire discography, with elements reminiscent of ‘Chaosphere’, ‘I’, ‘obZen’ and a bit of ‘Koloss’ in the riffing department. We are presented with a lot of the more “sludgy” riffs, but in a higher tempo than on the previous album. I can live with this compromise, but I do miss the uber-riffs of ‘Catch 33’ sometimes. There was something very aggressive about the way they played around with the contrast between the lowest (F) and third (D#) string back then, but on ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ we have to wait until ‘Ivory Tower’ to get a taste of that. That song also kicks off a perfect streak of all killer – no filler songs until the end of the record.
Yeah, it’s that simple! They’re all bangers. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the songs before that, but after ‘Ivory Tower’, Meshuggah are just unstoppable. Sure, ‘Our Rage Won’t Die’ sounds a bit like a ‘Do Not Look Down’ on steroids, but hey… I can live with a better version of a song that didn’t thrill me previously. No, really, it’s just the verse riff that reminds me of it, but ‘Our Rage Won’t Die’ is better and kicks more ass, so that’s a win win.
Let me wrap this damn novel up: ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ crushes! It crushes ‘Koloss’ with ease and doesn’t only hold up well with the rest of the discography – it even kind of stands out. This is largely thanks to the diverse dynamics: Meshuggah have fused the brutal forward-force of ‘Destroy – Erase – Improve’ and ‘Chaosphere’ with their heavier, 8-string material, in a way that sounds fresh and not rehashed. All that’s missing for me are some of the ‘Catch 33’-era killer riffs, but that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of great riffs on ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’. I’m stoked to be that excited about a Meshuggah record and frankly didn’t necessarily expect that. Get into it!