MESHUGGAH – The Violent Sleep of Reason
Meshuggah (Arabic: madness) has been around for over 25 years and is responsible for influencing too many bands to mention in one breath, accidentally also spawning the dreaded "djent" genre. Pretty much every math, tech or even progressive band seems to draw heavily from this source. Meshuggah started as a thrash metal band on "Contradictions Collapse" and initially didn’t stand out much from the pack until the follow up. I own the second Meshuggah album, the landmark "Destroy, Erase, Improve" (DEI), the album that started it all, and it is a great piece of work. In my opinion, the band never matched the brilliance and catchiness of that album, although "Obzen" did come close. I always found their later work too complex and not catchy enough to engage. While "The Violent Sleep of Reason" (beside accurately describing right wing extremists in the USA) does hearken back to DEI, it suffers from inconsistent songwriting and unbalanced approach to heaviness vs. catchiness.
Sure, the opening "Clockworks" and "Born in Dissonance" are the best tracks on the album: thrashy, varied, melodic, heavy and powerful while never losing that trademark Meshuggah touch and easily on par with their second album. But while the following "MonstroCity" retains much of the melody and catchiness, already "By The Ton", the least interesting track on the album, begins to cause me to mentally drift, which, mind you, it does not take much for an ADHD-er such as myself. From then on I have to seriously focus on the music as tracks do not vary much from each other and become formulaic until about "Stifled", of which a beautiful ambient end forces me out of inattentional blindness. Indeed, the following "Nonstrum", and especially the excellent "Our Rage Won’t Die" with a powerful memorable riff, allow the refocus but the closer, "Into the Decay" while not less interesting, is way too short. Strangely I feel both overloaded and deprived.
Whereas on "The Violent Sleep of Reason" Meshuggah recalls their best they do not consistently apply the songwriting and variety of the first two tracks which causes the album to sag in the middle and Meshuggah does too little too late to reverse the effect it has on the listener for an overall disappointment.