It’s time again for a new iteration of our Roundabout column, where all of us who desire to contribute write an independent, short review on their own before putting them all together on the site. Today’s victim is Meshuggah‘s eighth studio album, The Violent Sleep of Reason. It came out on October 7th through Nuclear Blast. Differently from their previous albums, this one has been recorded live, to capture a more honest and raw sound. It bears ten songs, and clocks in at just under an hour. Listen to the official ‘Born in Dissonance’ and ‘Clockworks’ tracks and read our views on the record below!
Meshuggah‘s latest album sounds more human than ever, thanks to the live recording and minimal retouches. The songs are somewhat reminiscent of Koloss and Nothing, which is a good thing. Some tracks overstay their welcome and would’ve been more meaningful had they been just a bit shorter (‘Clockworks’, and ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’, for example).
The band seems to have let their experimental metal roots to rot somewhere else after Catch 33. obZen still showed remnants of that part of them, but Koloss almost completely washed it away. On The Violent Sleep of Reason, the riffs are powerful, but are rarely intricate in rhythm or melody (by Meshuggah‘s standards). Most of the album follows a 4/4 beat cut into various pieces: here parts of 3, here parts of 5, but getting back to a multiple of 4 almost unmistakably.
I long for the shugg‘s return to their more ambitious roots. Coupled with their current organic sound, it would make for something that’s hardly ever been heard yet. Maybe it has been touched by Hybrid’s Angst album, but it’s definitely a rare occurrence. Overall, The Violent Sleep of Reason is a good album to headbang to and is surely fun as hell to play, but it’s on the less intellectual side of Meshuggah‘s spectrum.
The fuzz is real, folks. One of the world’s biggest resources for misheard lyric videos is back and sounding solid. As one who was let down by both obZen and Koloss prior to this release, I was a little sceptical when ‘Clockworks’ greeted me with the same kinds of riffs which had been brewing mould in the flooring of the Meshuggah Manor for a while now. However, upon closer inspection, a strange light started shining through this stale dust cloud until I forgot what I was even meant to be complaining about.
This light takes form in the production of the album. Simply put, the choice of producing this album majorly through overall live recording was a genius one, as it not only progressed the organic feel which was intended for yet still lacking from Koloss but also gave the band a desperately needed sense of vitality. Especially benefiting from this is drummer Tomas Haake, who combines this lively production with some incredibly creative technique on tracks like ‘Clockworks’ and ‘Nostrum’ to make for some of Meshuggah‘s best drums yet. Also adding to this sense of newfound vitality is the band’s gradual shift towards stoner, sludge and doom influences, and even as one who still considers the slick, consistent chaos of Catch Thirtythree to be the band’s best work, I could strongly appreciate this.
Finally, it’s worth noting that while the band’s lyrics conceptually aren’t my cup of tea, conceptually speaking, the writing is still noteworthy in its creativity. Example 1 is the extended metaphor in ‘Nostrum’ being expertly handled with lines like “Opiate for the yearning mass / Administered applied / Three letter word for monster” demonstrating both striking directness while still keeping subtle enough to have you asking questions. Example 2 is the great songwriting in ‘Ivory Tower’ which has the continuously falling guitar melodies echoing the lyrical subject matter of this metaphorical tower of privileged seclusion collapsing in on itself.
Overall, while this album still lacks in the overall togetherness of albums like Catch Thirtythree or Nothing, I’d still consider it Meshuggah‘s best and most enjoyable work in almost a decade.
Best tracks (in order): Nostrum, Ivory Tower, Violent Sleep of Reason, Clockworks
Worst tracks (in order): Born in Dissonance, Our Rage Won’t Die
Being somewhat of a Meshuggah virgin I didn’t really know what to expect from their latest album aside from chugging open string riffs, harsh vocals and ‘that face’; so I can’t make a comparison to their older works. Multiple listens of ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ barely help to differentiate between tracks, but the waters started to warm and I found myself gurning and headbanging along through the whole album, even if I had no idea which song was playing.
‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ undoubtedly flaunts polished production, instrumental proficiency and consistently solid songwriting. Though for those who are also unfamiliar with Meshuggah‘s brutality, you might think of this album as a never-ending onslaught of homogeneous, djent-y metal and an hour-long headache; much like I did upon first listen. Take some ibuprofen – you may end up liking it.
Meshuggah needs no introduction, they’ve been one of the most influential metal bands since their sophomore album Destroy Erase Improve; and with each subsequent release, their unique blend of extreme metal, downtuned guitars and polyrhythms morphed to deliver innovative and amazing releases.
Though I wasn’t the biggest fan of their latest releases (obZen and Koloss respectively), I was eager to listen to The Violent Sleep of Reason and see if these crazy Swedes could surprise me again. And boy, they did. This is their boldest and rawest release since Catch Thirtytree, and I’m glad to know that this album was produced live to demonstrate the technical prowess of each member of the band. From opener “Clockworks” to closer “Into Decay” this is a 60-minute full assault on your ears that will leave your neck like Cannibal Corpse’s Corpsegrinder.
Like my fellow partner Leth said, I appreciate the addition of slower forms of metal influences into their crazy mix; and the crispy, live production adds a lot of points to the overall opinion of this album. Even if the band lets their experimental side flow, don’t expect another Chaosphere or Nothing; this is Meshuggah yet again reaching new forms of sounds to deliver one blasting experience that you’ll want to listen over and over again. Don’t sleep on this one.
In conclusion, it seems the production of The Violent Sleep of Reason reaches a consensus, and that recording their songs live was a very good decision. It seems that Meshuggah‘s new album didn’t quite convince those who are not already fans of the band, but those who are will be treated – if not spoiled! -, as the Umeå band goes back to their rawer, more human sound.
Tell us what you thought of the album in the comments below!