Pressed On Grey / Black Splatter
Limited To 1000 Copies
The Violent Sleep of Reason, the band's eighth full-length studio album, finds MESHUGGAH building upon their legacy for fearless metal sculpting within the context of extreme metal, but also recapturing some of the magic and excitement specifically within the aspect of performance, finding flow and groove that would be a challenge for any lesser band to locate, given such technical geometric madness at mischievous hand.
"There's a distinct methodology", says drummer, writer and spokesman for the band Tomas Haake, that was put into motion to help the band achieve the level of "intensity" the attentive fan will feel as he/she makes their way through The Violent Sleep of Reason.
For this one, it's all live takes, with either 3 or 4 of the band members recording their respective instruments simultaneously - which is a way of recording they haven't used in many years. And that definitely goes against the stream of what you see in most technical metal nowadays, where editing, drum programming, the use of "beat detectives" etc. is a way more common approach to recording. So on this one, MESHUGGAH went back towards a more old-school approach, properly rehearsing the songs as a whole band before going into studio to record them. Jens was in one room, guitarists were in one room, bass player Dick was sitting right next to the drum set with an amplifier/cab in the next room. So in that sense this is more "old school"; the methodology is in that sense more like what bands were doing in the '80s and 90s. "And that vibrancy comes out", says Haake; "it's a very audible difference, sloppier sounding if you will, but at the same time it brings a different energy than the last few albums - this is "less perfect", but in that sense, also more alive."
The personal challenge taken on by the band produced fortunate byproducts as well, or, rather, it inspired them to "de-machine" other aspects of the technical MESHUGGAH juggernaut.
"Yes, for this one we also changed our approach toward the guitar recording/sounds," explains Haake, who nonetheless confirms that the band is still using eight-string axes, and for the most part, tuning down half a step to achieve that torrid MESHUGGAH guitar grunt. "The last few albums have been mostly digital, guitar sounds-wise, using all digital guitar gear as opposed to analog tube amps and regular cabs. The upside of using all digital like we did previous, is you can re-amp it afterwards, as it's basically a clean signal so you can pick, choose, and tweak things at a later point. But with this album, it was six speakers, all separately miked in one (super-loud) room, each cabinet with a different head -Marshall, Orange, Mesa Boogie etc-and then mixing it up a little bit depending on the song. If there was a song that was a little slower and sludgier, we might add more of the Orange amp to get a tad more of that stoner sound. And if it's a bit more metal, we'd maybe use the Marshall head or the Mesa head a little more in the mix. So we did have the opportunity, to mix and match for each song so the guitar sound is not exactly the same for every song. And that's a difference from Koloss and obZen, for example, where pretty much every song had the same drum and guitar sound."
But the end result is still a relentless onslaught of MESHUGGAH -patented ideas, save for one gorgeous and atmospheric respite, at the close of "Stifled."
Framing the pacing and contours of record, Tomas says, "None of the songs stick out quite like, for example, the way "Bleed" did on obZen. To me, it doesn't really have hits-it just has really cool songs! Not that we ever really had "hits" though (laughs). They're just maybe a little "wilder" sounding on this album, much due also to the live recording approach. Dick and I wrote about half of the material, and the rest was either me and Mårten working together or Mårten writing on his own. We were kind of going for something nuts as is the case with all our writing/recording albums - We wanted to hear something that we hadn't heard ourselves do before." Fredrik was not part of the songwriting for this one, as he's been hard at work on his next solo album, but as always he was still very involved with every aspect of the recording, from recording rhythm guitars, guitar solos etc . "And that's also a completely new thing," continues Tomas. "Dick was never involved in the songwriting prior to this album, whereas Fredrik always was. And that, of course, creates a difference in the way the album as a whole came out."
At the lyrical end, highlights include the title track, which, set to a massively heavy arch-djent rhythm, speaks of "the violent outcome of not dealing with what is going on, the violent implications of being asleep. "The title is actually inspired by a Goya painting called 'The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.'"
A second highlight is strident opener and longest song on the album, "Clockworks," which is strafed by a typically super-human drum performance from Haake. "That's more about looking to yourself and who you are and things you want to change about yourself. And then in the context of how your mind works, as a clockwork. It's the idea of taking out all the little pins, wheels, and springs and kind of rebuilding it to make you function in a different fashion. So lyrics for that song is a look in on self, at things that you wish that you could change about yourself."
Listen to tracks like the vertigo-inducing "Nostrum" and the slower if equally circular and note-dense "By the Ton," and it's easy to understand why it's been four years since a MESHUGGAH album. But mind-numbing complexity of the material is not the only reason, explains Haake.
"No, well, I would say first of all, it takes us a lot of time to write. And we're very bad at focusing; we're very bad at multitasking. I don't think we ever wrote one single riff on a tour bus or in a hotel room. So if you have a touring cycle of two, two-and-a-half, three years, there's not going to be anything written in that time period. And that's just how we all function. We need to have a break, like, okay, time out now-nothing else for a year. We need to write for one year. But you also want to tour as much as possible for an album. Koloss, for example, we toured for like two-and-a-half years. And then you write. And when we do finally write, we scrutinize those songs, riffs, structures over and over and over, and change things as we go. So in a lot of the songs, maybe only one riff was actually there originally. So writing for us does take a long time, no doubt."
As a result, the band's erudite and intelligent fan base "get something that they don't really hear in any other bands". On the first album you still hear a lot of Metallica and Anthrax and Bay Area kind of thrash metal influence. "We knew that we sounded a bit like that, but we were aiming for something we hadn't heard in any other band. And that's still the main fuel. We're not trying to write your average metal song. We're not trying to write catchy songs. We're not trying to write hit songs (laughs). We're just trying to write something that is cool, that we haven't heard before, and hopefully our fans haven't heard before. And that also gets harder and harder though, because by now, there are so many awesome musicians and bands and so much great music out there. But it would seem like the followers that we do have, the people that have kept buying our albums and stayed with us for a lot of years, are not necessarily the typical metal fans. The crowd we have is diverse. We have a lot of geeks and nerds and weirdos, and they are beautiful ones, you know? We have a lot of people with talent, and a lot of people that are also interested in music as art, and not just an event."
But it's not lost on Tomas that MESHUGGAH is making daunting progressive music, music where melody is subservient to jackhammer rhythm, as evidenced by the way that even his lead singer, Jens Kidman, is situated within the maelstrom that is MESHUGGAH
"He's the perfect tool for the job. Just like most people, we all, of course, like music where there's "proper singing", and we all love a great singer. Personally, I think the voice is the most empathic instrument. You hear someone sing and you're like, oh my God, that's the coolest instrument in the world. But at the same time, what we're trying to do is not that. Just like the guitars and me as a drummer, Jens also is a rhythmic tool, one that adds aggression, as well as words to back up that aggression if you will."
So would Tomas then acquiesce to the idea of MESHUGGAH as metal's reigning enemies of melody?
"In a sense, yeah. I mean, there is definitely melody and a lot of melodic thought put into tonalities, harmonies between bass and guitars and things like that, but at the same time, we're not often going for anything pretty. Sometimes there's a little bit, where we go, 'Awww, that's beautiful," but then we usually immediately mess it up again. You give it a little bit of something "nice" sometimes, but basically we're not going for niceness (laughs)."
Produced by Meshuggah; engineered by Tue Madsen, Puk Studios, Kaerby, Denmark.
2. Born In Dissonance
4. By The Ton
5. Violent Sleep Of Reason
6. Ivory Tower
9. Our Rage Won't Die
10. Into Decay