The Violent Sleep Of Reason
7th October 2016 – Nuclear Blast Records
02. Born In Dissonance
04. By The Ton
05. Violent Sleep Of Reason
06. Ivory Tower
09. Our Rage Won’t Die
10. Into Decay
A new Meshuggah album is always an event. Over nearly 30 years years and eight full-length albums, the Swedish juggernaut has partially inspired great bands, wholly inspired legions of poor copycats, and kicked off a genre debate that has raged furiously for at least the last six years. Devin Townsend has famously admitted in song that everyone rips off Meshuggah, and their influence reaches beyond the actual sounds they create into how they record them – which is what makes The Violent Sleep Of Reason particularly interesting.
Taking a big step away from the obsessive, hyper-precise techniques that have given their last few albums a clinical, mechanistic atmosphere, Meshuggah have wound back the clock and chosen to record The Violent Sleep Of Reason predominantly in live, one-take sessions. Given how far the shadow of their influence casts across modern metal right now, the ramifications of this decision could well affect far more than the sound of this one album.
Of course, one thing that most certainly has not changed is that listening to The Violent Sleep Of Reason from end to end in one sitting is as punishing as a triathlon. A relentless barrage of riffing and bellowing with precious few moments of respite, this is very much business as usual for Meshuggah, and one that admittedly does leave them open to charges of tedium from casual listeners. Indeed, it would be entirely fair to say that if you’ve made it this far without being caught under the band’s spell, there’s not much here that’s likely to change your mind.
But having said that, the key to unlocking one’s appreciation of Meshuggah’s genius (yes, genius) is relatively straightforward. There is order in the chaos, and for all the relentless bludgeoning, they are masters of subtlety. However much people may witter about polyrhythms or wonky time signatures, virtually every Meshuggah groove is built on a 4/4 pulse. So, simply lying back, closing one’s eyes and tapping out a straight beat can be enough to unveil the deft pushes and pulls in their extended meter riffs. No matter what contorted shapes they twist themselves into, they are always as neatly resolved as a Scooby Doo episode. That simple realisation can be enough to switch a listeners disposition from indifferent to fanatic.
Naturally, some tracks will jump out faster and stronger than others, and “Monstrocity” sets itself up as an early contender with its immediate stompathon of a refrain. Advance singles “Born In Dissonance” and “Nostrum” certainly capture the mood, however whilst past Meshuggah albums may have been guilty of having a couple of really memorable tracks and a number of rather more forgettable ones, the quality of The Violent Sleep Of Reason remains high throughout, even after numerous repeat listens.
With the combination of unstintingly high quality songwriting, longevity and a change in production that has resulted in the closest sounding recordings to their truly facepeeling live sound, The Violent Sleep Of Reason may well be the best album of Meshuggah’s long career. Who would have seen that coming?
As Meshuggah say themselves, their rage wont die.