Meshuggah have never been a band for the feint-hearted. The Swedish soundtrack they have developed over the past 30 years or so is as indigestible to many as a bowl of cat food.
However, for those prepared to invest time in their complex web of interlocking rhythms and confrontational chugs then the rewards to be found are plentiful. The Violent Sleep of Reason is Meshuggah’s eighth studio album and is certainly a match for any of what’s gone before.
The album has been inspired by a Goya painting called ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,’ and from the opening synchronised slamming of ‘Clockworks’ Meshuggah begin to colour their own canvas in their own inimitable distorted form. On The Violent Sleep of Reason, Meshuggah once again wage war and the brutal blasts of ‘Clockworks’ impressively set the scene for the battles to follow.
Having just seen them perform the first couple of tracks on their UK tour (Birmingham) – ‘Born In Dissonance’ following ‘Clockworks’ the experience has been both invigorating and cleansing.
Meshuggah are masters of destruction and very few of their songs offer much in the way of respite against an aural avalanche of crashing beats and ever more complex grooves.
‘MonstroCity’ is another titanic tech twister, with Meshuggah switching direction on more occasions than a learner driver. The grooves are rabid and relentless but just when you think you’ve latched onto one of their giant hooks the sound dissipates and charges off in another direction. Throughout, Kidman roars like a grizzly while the guitar duels almost send you ducking for cover.
The tempo is more restrained on ‘By The Ton’ although as the song title correctly implies this is another thunderous weighty composition, although one in which the rhythm section frequently takes precedence over Kidman. The album title track inflicts further damage to the brain cells with its barbed beat pushing and shoving until you’re left rockin’ back on your heels like a beaten boxer who’s just taken one punch too many.
Drummer Tomas Haake may be hidden behind his four fellow band members on stage but his contribution to the mesmerising Meshuggah mayhem is paramount, while keeping time within such a suffocating soundscape demands unparalleled levels of concentration and commitment.
The final two tracks are a little less frantic although penultimate number ‘Our Rage Won’t Die’ can more or less be held aloft as Meshuggah’s mantra. Closing track ‘Into Decay’ is packed full of menace with a chilling riff cutting through the air of desolation.
Having invested their energies and emotions around a famous painting it’s no surprise to see the Swedes own passion for art reflected in the album cover. As with previous releases Koloss and The Ophidian Trek, they have turned to Keerych Luminokaya to provide a visual interpretation of their tech torment.
The talented Russian artist also contributed the artwork to the recently released 25 Years of Musical Deviance collectable Meshuggah vinyl box set which consists of the band’s first seven albums and three EPs. Even for the most committed of Meshuggah fans to sit through that lot in a single setting would take nerve and resolve of Olympian stature.
Not many bands are still making music as vital and vibrant 30 years on from when first getting together. The Violent Sleep of Reason shows that the veteran Swedes Meshuggah have done just that.
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