Meshuggah - Immutable (Atomic Fire Records)
Reflecting on the infinite number of sub-genres in heavy metal music, only a select few can be directly attributed to one particular band. Venom defined "black metal" in 1982 with an album of the same name, and Possessed coined the term "death metal" in the title of the closing track to 1985's Seven Churches.
However, metal historians argue that these bands gave a name to the genre, but were not alone in shaping it in the early years.
In contrast, over the past 35 years, Meshuggah has steadily crafted a genre of their own that only in recent years has been given any sort of title. Even then, the "djent" moniker came from a generation of bands influenced by one of Sweden's finest acts rather than from the band itself.
Returning after a six year silence, Immutable is a realm of paranoia and shadows. Opening with "Broken Cog", the decent into darkness is slow and menacing; a gradual spiral rather than a sudden plunge. Launching into neck breaking riffs and double bass kicks, "The Abysmal Eye" feels like a nod to all the extreme metal bands that owe their existence to Meshuggah. A way of saying 'thank you, now watch how we do it.'
Bringing back the syncopated grooves fans have come to love, "Ligature Marks" is the perfect soundtrack to wandering a hall of mirrors with flickering lights above. Where are you? The answer is not clear, but it surely is not somewhere warm and safe.
At over nine and a half minutes, "They Move Below" is the first of three stellar instrumental tracks. Perhaps the greatest surprise, the first few minutes feature clean guitars, like unexpected sunlight in a blacked room. At least until the rest of the song pulls the listener back under.
"Black Church", the second instrumental track seems like an out of place black metal song. On its own, one might think this was a Vader album, before "I Am That Thirst" comes crashing in as a reassurance that this is definitely still Meshuggah you are hearing. Frantic as ever, "Armies Of The Preposterous" serves as the last song with lyrics ahead of "Past Tense", the final instrumental track and official closer of the album.
What is left is a feeling of insecurity as you exit the uncanny valley. Perhaps this feeling, which has become part of the Meshuggah formula, is what makes the band so constantly imitated on a technical level, but never duplicated on a spiritual level.
The Metal Mayan rating: 5/5
While there is no doubt that the formula by Meshuggah has since been taken in many exciting directions, there's always something special about hearing it done by the originators.
"The Abysmal Eye" might go down as the perfect gateway track to introduce the band to new listeners. As a fan myself since Nothing, I find it to be one of the most digestible offerings to date and a good place to start enjoying the band.
I appreciate the return of instrumental tracks, which have been absent since 2012's Koloss, and the uniqueness of a song like "They Move Below". In this specific case, it demonstrates Meshuggah's ability to think beyond, which is certainly quite a statement since their entire styling is the result of thinking beyond since day one.
Visit your local record store and pick up a copy of Immutable, out now on Atomic Fire Records.
Advanced copy courtesy of Earsplit PR and Atomic Fire Records