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Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason Award winner

The Violent Sleep Of Reason
by Michael Humphrey at 13 October 2016, 2:54 PM

MESHUGGAH needs little introduction to most heavy metal fans; thanks to their pioneering take on tone and playing style which gave rise to the term ‘Djent’ and continues to influence the musical direction of an entire generation of bands within the Progressive Metal and Metalcore scenes. Formed in 1987 this Swedish Progressive Extreme Metal band released their first album “Contradictions Collapse” in 1991 and have since released another seven full lengths, the latest being this year’s “The Violent Sleep Of Reason”.

The first song of the album “Clockworks” crashes in with an extremely heavy bass and guitar onslaught, along with the complex jazz drumming style of Tomas Haake driving it from below. The signature Djent tone of the rhythm guitars and the unrelenting speed and complexity of the song grip the listener by the throat, letting you know that the rest album will not let go. Perhaps one of the highlights of the album, the opening track sets the bar high, but it is a bar that is regularly reached.
“Born in Dissonance” storms in with a slightly simpler style, but is no less heavy in tone. This song feels slower and is shorter than the opening track, yet has some interesting riffs in unusual time signatures that give the song an curious yet accessible approach, as well as introducing more atmospheric melodic elements.

Much in the vein of most songs on the album “Monstrocity” swings into action without hesitation and provides another complex riff for the listener to marvel over. This song has a slight ‘funky’ feel to it, with an almost upbeat groove rising through the scales under the heavy tone. The band’s Groove Metal influences also shines through in Jens Kidman’s aggressive, yelling vocals.

“By The Ton” tones down the speed, opting instead for a more Stoner/Doom Metal style, trudging its way through on heavily distorted down-tuned guitars with a more bluesy approach at some points during the song. The album’s title song “Violent Sleep of Reason” features atmospheric melodies more heavily than previous songs, making good use of phase and reverb effects to create the otherworldly soundscapes surrounding the ever present Prog riffs. The guitar solo is also a highlight and incorporates a technical Jazz style that somehow manages to blend into the rhythm sections; whilst trying not to stand apart as solos so often do. This song displays fantastic and incredibly intuitive uses of lead guitar - unlike many I have ever heard.

“Ivory Tower” continues with much the same approach as earlier songs, delivering hard hitting and heavy rhythms in complex progressive time signatures. The song doesn’t really add anything new to the album and instead keeps to the general formula that is already laid out. “Stifled” on the other hand takes a more ‘stop, start’ approach to rhythm, adding plenty of small hesitations in the riff structures to keep you constantly on your toes. Atmospheric melodies again come into play here, especially towards the end of the song where the heavy riffing gives way to a purely atmospheric soundscape, which bleeds into the next song “Nostrum.” The guitars initially take a more subdued approach in this song, only playing to a simple beat to accompany the bass drum, allowing the vocals to take control until just before midway into the track where it continues with a faster Death Metal groove. It then reverts back to finish the song as it started.

“Our Rage Won’t Die” again presents a heavy Groove Metal style with the vocal performance being a very prominent and enjoyable element at the forefront of the mix. Whilst the guitars and bass continue their heavy tirade with the drums, an ever-present force of nature here is Kidman, who seems to feature most prominently in this song, who comes in and wrestles your attention away from the instrumental elements again as he does in “Monstrocity.”

“Into Decay” begins with a sludgy affair, again presenting the same Doom Metal styling that is found once earlier in the album. It continues in this style throughout the song to create a tense hellish atmosphere, complete with far off resonating growls and drawn out high-pitched guitar melodies to finish the album.

Overall “The Violent Sleep of Reason” is nothing short of brilliant. It is an incredibly heavy experimental album featuring elements from a variety of genres including Groove, Death, and Doom Metal; as well as heavy Jazz elements that are perfectly attuned to the heavier style of MESHUGGAH. Tomas Haake’s persistent Jazz style drumming masterclass is what really drives the album along, providing a strong and true foundation for the band to follow. Fredrik Thordendal also provides a truly stunning performance, and whilst at times I did not find some solos quite agreeable, those that I did were expertly constructed and highly entertaining. Overall MESHUGGAH prove that amongst their peers they are still truly leagues above many who have come after and are a true powerhouse of Progressive Extreme Metal.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

  1. Clockworks
  2. Born in Dissonance
  3. Monstrocity
  4. By the Ton
  5. Violent Sleep of Reason
  6. Ivory Tower
  7. Stifled
  8. Nostrum
  9. Our Rage Won't Die
  10. Into Decay
Jens Kidman – Vocals
Fredrik Thordendal – Lead Guitar
Mårten Hagström – Rhythm Guitars
Dick Lövgren – Bass
Tomas Haake – Drums
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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Edited 28 March 2023

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