Artist: Meshuggah

Album Title: The Violent Sleep of Reason

Label: Nuclear Blast Records

Date Of Release: 7 October 2016

Despite the fact that the genre of heavy metal as we know and love it today has been in existence for the best part of half a century or so, there precious few metallic creations spawned within that time that truly deserve a moniker like ‘pioneer’, ‘revolutionary’ and ‘unique’. However, Meshuggah are clearly and rightfully awarded all these accolades.

After all, this is the band that actually spawned the word ‘djent’ and whether intentionally or not, influenced a whole host of bands with their individual sound and style. The fact that the Swedish quintet started doing this nearly 30 years ago is truly remarkable. Meshuggah are a band that were so far ahead of their time that three decades later, the band still sound contemporary and vital, continuing to forge their own path, treading paths that others dare not go. Or, more accurately, thanks to the sheer complexity that dominates their compositions, Meshuggah continue to tread where other bands are incapable of following.

For all that, I must be honest and say that I have had a difficult time enjoying Meshuggah’s output. The music of vocalist Jens Kidman, guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström, bassist Dick Lövgren and drummer Tomas Haake is undeniably impressive, full of power, innovation and technical prowess. However, being a failed musician and one with very little talent or understanding of the finer intricacies of music, a lot of the technical wizardry flew right over my furrowed brow. I always admired and respected the music but for many years I tried and failed to like it. I’m a prog fan and I’m also a lover of more brutal, uncompromising forms of extreme metal. However, the marriage of the two with very little in the way of accessibility, vague melodic respite or overt headbanging groove felt like it was simply too much for me.

However, with ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’, the band’s eighth full-length release, I have finally scaled to somewhere close to the summit. I still think Meshuggah are one of those bands that bona fide musicians will understand and enjoy more than someone like me, but at last I can truly say that I ‘get’ it and, moreover, that I really like this music.

It’s rather strange that I say this now in many ways because, as the title of this album suggests, ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’ represents Meshuggah at their heaviest, most challenging, most uncompromising and most brutal. You’d think it might make me shy away further from the band. But that’s not taking into account the fact that this adds up to one hell of a combination and by heavens, it works. Fifteen years ago, I may not have agreed with my future self but with age comes wisdom as they say, and this review is proof of the accuracy of this statement.

Credit: unknown

Credit: unknown

‘Clockworks’ opens up the album with a ferocious statement of brutal intent and whilst the output is familiar, something else becomes immediately obvious. The ubiquitous polyrhythms and unfathomably intricate riffs duel with some dextrous drumming and the savage bile spewed forth with venom from Kidman. The lead guitar work too, from Thordendal isn’t exactly soulful or melodious, but it is incredibly striking as has almost always been the case.

However, there’s a rawness and a much more pronounced organic feeling to the music. A quick read of the accompanying press release and this is revealed as a deliberate facet to this record, a way of the five musicians consciously moving away from the highly polished and spotlessly clean productions that typified previous releases. I really like this change as, in many ways, it makes a bolder statement regarding the prowess of these musicians. Nothing is hidden in the mix, nothing is airbrushed out – this is the real Meshuggah and it’s tremendous.

‘By The Son’ twists and writhes, whilst ‘MonstroCity’ is unsurprisingly my favourite track of the record thanks to an understated groove that gives the song a much more immediate and accessible feel. I’d not say that it is hook-laden or anything, but it is certainly the closest thing to catchy that Meshuggah have penned in a long while.

The title track begins with a dissonant, hectic tumult from which there is no escape. The entire seven minutes of music feels claustrophobic, toying with the listener in the most deliberately cruel but clever manner. It is a swirling, majestic composition that never settles, never lets you rest and teases with playful yet monstrous rhythms, riffs and sounds emanating from the darkest recesses of these Swedes’ minds.

I also really like the closing section to ‘Stifled’ which, in a huge change of pace introduces something far softer and gentle in the form of a minimalist, almost ambient interlude of sorts. It cuts through the mindbending aggression like a knife through butter and is all the more striking because of it. The follow-up, ‘Nostrum’ by contrast, has a more frenetic, vaguely black metal feel to it, offering a real smack in the face in the process.

This most impressive record then closes with ‘Into Decay’, a slower piece that by way of a dirty and clandestine groove, sums up the magnificence and indeed the sinister malevolence of the preceding nine tracks superbly.

I’ll admit that when this album ends, I’m left battered, bruised and more than a little befuddled of mind. But it is unquestionably worth it. Such intensity, skill and daring means that ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’ is a success of monolithic proportions, further emphasising the fact that Meshuggah are the very best at what they do.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25


If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld


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