Meshuggah: Koloss Reviewed

We’ll do another fairly recent release, Meshuggah’s Koloss. It released March 27, 2012. When I did a half-way through the year ranking this album did quite poorly. I kind of hated it back then. I had only listened to it a handful of times at that point. It was so monotonous that I discarded it quickly. For example, the second track The Demon’s Name is Surveillance is the type of metal I just can’t get into. I find the relentless pounding out 16th notes on a low drum to be completely antithetical to good music.

The other monotonous feature of this album is the almost drone-like nature of the rhythm guitar. There may be interesting tonalities going on, but for the most part there is a single ostenato note throughout the songs. This really got on my nerves and made me give up on the album too soon.

Upon further listenings, the subtleties of this album became more apparent. I had completely missed how incredibly complicated most of the songs on this album are. The use of time signatures like 17/16 which are so close to 4/4 makes it easy to overlook the skill needed to play these songs at all yet alone make it sound effortless. In fact, almost every song on the album has some very complicated rhythmic things going on. I bet if you set the sheet music to the guitar solo of Marrow in front of a professional violin player, they would cringe at the complexity.

The song structures are fairly standard for a composed piece, but quite a bit more interesting than your typical metal. They take the approach of establishing and developing a motif. This motif is usually expanded as the song goes on until it explodes into the climax with a bit more embellishment or big guitar solo. It reminds me of the type of thing that John Adams is known for in pieces like Short Ride in a Fast Machine.

One thing I really liked immediately about the album is the rich, dark tone of the guitars. The whole aesthetic of the album is great. They really pay attention to things like tone quality and pacing. Often the lead guitar sounds almost like a string section fitting into the rest of band’s sound. The songs don’t try to go too fast. They sit right where they need to in terms of tempo rather push everything to some fast tempo in an attempt to impress the listener. This one of the signs of a truly mature band.

Overall, it took me much longer to come around on this album than usual, but the effort was quite worth it. If you put in the time you’ll come to appreciate how carefully crafted this album is. The often beautiful climaxes on the slower songs will only reveal themselves to you on repeated listens. The subtleties of what makes it complex take effort to unravel.

Since I merely appreciate the album at a mostly academic level I give this a 7.5/10. I expect that this number will rise a little with more time.

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