Meshuggah will release The Violent Sleep of Reason on October 7, 2016.
1. Meshuggah used to be my favorite metal band.
2. This isn’t to say I no longer like Meshuggah or I rank some other band ahead of them. I just try not to rank bands anymore. Or anything, really.
3. Dave Fonseca kind of blew my pea-sized brain apart when he said he was a fan of the NBA on a whole rather than a single team. This allowed him to enjoy all moments instead of a few. True, the peaks aren’t as high. When you’re living and dying with a team or a player, it is its own kind of rush. But the “fan of the league” mindset allows you to enjoy so many more things. When teams or players screw up, you can kind of enjoy it for what those moments mean in the grand scheme of things. Those moments also don’t color past achievements or future possibilities.
4. The peaks of living and dying fandom are, like, heroin-spiked coffee addictive, though. The misery is its own kind of addiction, too. When a certain sports team finally won a championship, I didn’t know who I was because my identity was SO tied to their failure. Fandom is weird.
5. Chris Sessions kind of blew my pea-sized brain apart when he said fans ruin everything. This doesn’t mean fandom is bad or something that shouldn’t be pursued. I hated Mad Men but I loved listening to people talk about Mad Men because it’s interesting to hear people talk about things they’re passionate about. There’s a greater truth in their fandom than most people usually allow themselves to offer in normal conversation. I’m glad those people were fans. But fans, especially the root word fanatic fans, do ruin everything. Like a statue, the more people interact with something, the more it wears that thing away until you’re just left with a smooth hunk of material devoid of meaning. That’s what fans seem to do. They touch things with their own meaning until you can’t hang anything else on there without it slipping off. (Real quick: Imagine hearing the Beatles without context. Is that even a thing for anyone anymore?)
6. I listened to Koloss today for the first time in three-ish years. Koloss kinda sucks.
7. Most of Koloss doesn’t play to Meshuggah’s established strengths. Following three full-lengths and an EP that were panoramic in their apocalyptic heaviosity, Koloss sounded like you were sitting in their practice space. I mean, it was loud, but Meshuggah were, like, there. They weren’t beaming stuff in from the other side of a third-eye-unlocked portal. There was a focus on immediacy to the point that Koloss even felt kind of loose. It was the thrashiest, and therefore the punkiest, Meshuggah had been in a bit.
8. This wasn’t what I was expecting at the time. With the djent movement in full-swing, I wanted Meshuggah to obliterate the pretenders or take a hard left and make everyone chase them down a rabbit hole only Meshuggah could fit through (Catch Thirtyfour! Deeper Within Sol Niger!). Because, despite a few interesting, passionate people, djent sucks. What started as a fun extension of what Meshuggah and those weirdo Polish bands were doing — think the first Textures, Coprofago, Tandjent — quickly frrrted into something smooth and formless. Though everyone borrowed Meshuggah’s most recognizable attributes, such as their interest in polyrhythms and that distinctive picking timbre, they never captured Meshuggah’s essence or their sense of swing. Today, djent comes in two flavors: 1. KoRn for nerds or 2. My First Polyrhythm for kids who heard a G3 concert while in the womb. Djent *has* evolved into its own thing and it *means* its own thing to its own people. Its own fans, I should write. There *is* something to that. That’s important. As an older person, I just don’t really get it.
9. I mean, not that Meshuggah didn’t borrow. Contradictions Collapse is a love note to technical thrash. Fredrik Thordendal has always been enamored with Allan Holdsworth and, later, Derek Bailey. New things are born out of old things. Older people only hear the old. Newer people only hear the new.
10. Since Meshuggah was my favorite metal band, I tried really hard to get into Koloss. I think I’m even on record saying I love it. Fandom makes you do weird things.
11. Given enough space so that New Meshuggah could become Meshuggah, I now think this: Koloss is a very eh version of Meshuggah, making it a very 2012 djent album.*
12. If you’re a fan, does this make you worry about the Tue Madsen-produced, clumsily titled The Violent Sleep of Reason?**
13. If Meshuggah only released a single in 2012 with Koloss‘s best songs, “Behind the Sun” b/w “Demiurge”, would you feel better?
14. I would. Still. And that’s nuts. No matter how hard I try to be a fan of the league, my fandom is still there! And, in a way, I have failed to capture the essence of what Meshuggah is in the 2010s. Because it’s still capable of great things. Those two aforementioned songs could easily sneak into a best of, so why am I complaining that surrounding tracks are crap? Mike Trout is the best hitter in baseball and even he has some at bats where he looks clueless and toothless. If you don’t mess up from time to time, are you even really trying? And you know, sometimes things just fall apart. That’s okay. Natural, even. Prince Fielder had to retire because of his neck, costing the Rangers a brutal $100 million. Does that change how we feel about his 2009 now that we know the end? This need for bands to bat 1.000 is silly, yet it’s hard to divorce yourself from it. Because we ask these bands, movies, TV shows, teams, whatever to stand in and explain something about ourselves to the world at large. It’s all shorthand for *my* feels. And when we feel wronged, that’s it. Snip, bye bye. That’s a heavy, heavy burden. Instead of just enjoying the thing, we artificially raise the stakes until the only true end is disappointment. Full Trump: Unfair!
15. But damn, the peaks feel great until they don’t.
*Koloss makes obZen sound like a minor classic. Listen to both of them back to back. obZen sounds vital and huge when pulled out from the shadow Catch because it towers over Koloss. What other mild bummer of a record has received that sort of lift from a subsequent release? Reappraise obZen. It’s more notable than its cover art that looks like it was submitted as evidence in a malpractice suit stemming from a botched prostate exam. It’s, dare I say, underrated. Maybe Haake’s best album.
**This is a Goya thing, right?