Tomas Haake

Meshuggah, I

I like bands I don’t get. I like authors whose work I have to struggle to understand. I feel it makes me smarter in the long run to have to run, intellectually, to keep up.

Meshuggah, I feel 100%, make music specifically designed to make you have to fucking sprint to keep up.

God bless you, Swedes: bless you for not pandering to the lowest common denominator. Bless you for going straight up your own asses for the sake of the exploration of art.

Yanno, I go out of my way to find “weird,” i.e., statistically anomalous music, art and literature– I’ve studied Asian and African music and their use of micro-tones (i.e., notes outside the typical Western 12, i.e., the notes between The Notes), and though these can sound quite odd to my Western-trained ears, Meshuggah is much weirder.

And, even for Meshuggah, I is weird: constantly changing, many rhythms at one time (I want to be the first reviewer of Meshuggah to not use the word “polyrhythms” in the write-up*), asymmetrical time signatures (e.g., 3/4 or 6/8), and so on.

It’s an EP, it’s 21 minutes, it’s one song. It’s weird as shit, but it’s fascinating.

Listen here:

*Well, shit.

Meshuggah, Koloss


Meshuggah’s an extremely acquired taste, even for metal fans– like Islay single malts, and this for nearly as discerning an enthusiast– they’ve got wildly asymmetrical time signatures (even to a jazz fan and musician), even while the key itself is merely open tones or chords… they’re a drummer’s band, in other words:  masters of time signature who can’t be bothered with hooks….

Opener “I am Colossus,” makes me think Koloss and Meshuggah in general should be enjoyed as innovative jazz acts tend to be (rather than as a metal band): you can’t “rock” your way through this one; you’ve got to take a very obviously-cerebral step back and appreciate what they’re doing in principle, since you generally can’t nod your head or your hips to it… you let the song saturate you, rather than running to it and rocking out… it’s supremely heavy background music….

I didn’t really like their previous album ObZen that much; having said that, however, I really liked singles “Bleed,” and semi-worshiped “Combustion,” whose and-beat intro count-off (which counted off the meter in the upcoming riff in a way I’d never heard before in 30 years of listening; it didn’t do it directly on the beat –like “one, two, three, four!”– but on the and-beat, or, the beat plus half a beat [e.g., “And-one and-two and-three and-four!”]… freakin’ Tomas Haake), as well as the furious downbeat under the serpentine riffs, was beyond sweet.

Track two, “The Demon’s Name is Surveillance,” arguably the best track on here, is similar to the aforementioned “Bleed” in its rhythmically-complex-yet-melodically-comically-simple riff… a slurry of menace and warning, this… an asymmetrical sonic massage….

“Do Not Look Down” fires up a hypnotic 7/8 or maybe 14/16 time signatured-riff (what do I know, Holy Fucking Buddha…!), lurching back and forth in a somehow-symmetrical-yet-disjointed time signature, like a possessed girl techo-clubbing… track four, “Behind the Sun” hits its distinctly non-Euclidean riffs and manages in that to sound like Nyarlathotep‘s house band….

Have I excited, or baffled you with that simile? If the former, continue reading, you might like where we go….

“Behind the Sun” intros with minor and/or diminished acoustic tones, quickly segueing into a slurred, way-detuned riff in an alien key and time signature… is it a good or troubling thing that Koloss keeps making me refer to my H.P. Lovecraft novels for adequate metaphors/similes…? This is my second favorite tune on here….

Track five, “The Hurt That Finds You First,” opens and continues with blast beats and hyper-velocity beats per minute, fades out with lonely acoustics… track six, “Marrow,” manages to (wildly improbably) sound like Yog-Sothoth’s version of Left Lane Cruiser in its down-home, rural-suggesting riffage over a time signature that would make the crew of the Event Horizon have a (more) psychotic episode… “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion,” is another open-chorded raspy-vocal fest, one almost Louisiana-Sludgy… “Swarm” starts seemingly-busily, much like the titular entity… it’s a much slower, more considered, brooding, being… gradually gaining tension and cerebral traction… “Demiurge,” after 30 seconds, hits with an Eyehategod-as-top-40-in-R’lyeh-vibe that continues throughout the whole tune… closer “The Last Vigil” opens with phased/flanged acoustic tones and continues for some time, distinguishing itself as more than an intro, and more of the song itself… strange, yet completely like Meshuggah, to close an album with what sounds like an intro….

Overall, Koloss is a fascinating musical experiment, (strangely?) much more so than most free jazz… though Meshuggah haven’t noticably evolved at all beyond ObZen, these Swedish fucks are still the new guard, still pushing the boundaries of music (and not just extreme music), and this, fearlessly… it’s no wonder NY Times music Ben Ratliff compared drummer Tomas Haake to Jeff Watts and other modern jazz drummers.

Koloss reinforces Meshuggah’s classification as a “cult” band, but for much more literal reasons– at first they seem wacked, out of it, needlessly weird… but the more contact you have with them, the more at home you feel (even as friends and family shake their heads in confusion and regret at your love for them)… the more you listen to Koloss, the more you’ll like it.

But I can’t promise that’s a good thing….

Check it out, and/or buy some tunes…. [ link]

[Koloss is officially released in two friggin’ days!!]