By Greg PrattSwedish math-metallers Meshuggah havenít quite been themselves the past couple albums. Sure, 2002ís Nothing and the more experimental Catch Thirtythree, from 2005, were filled with labyrinthine song structures, pummelling riffs and crazy screaming, but something was amiss (ditto for long EP I, from í04). But, man, about 45 seconds into Obzenís opening track, "Combustion,Ē and it seems the band are back to form. Maybe itís the cool, ragged, bass-heavy production, the Tool-ish (sorry) opening riff or the general speed of the song (fast), but itís a great statement of intent. "Electric RedĒ follows up with a trademark plodding, off-kilter, tom-driven beat and "BleedĒ goes for a speedy, machine-gun bass drum attack. All sides of Meshuggah get covered aptly within this opening trio of tunes. The drumming of Tomas Haake is, as always, a highlight, the manís limbs operating seemingly at odds with each other throughout the album, bringing these songs to Meshuggah-levels of confusion, but never sacrificing the toe-tapping beat. The disc does get a bit wearing at 52 minutes, and it all becomes familiar enough after a while. But thatís Meshuggah for you, and this intense disc is their best since the classic Chaosphere.
I think this album has a lot more energy to it. Do you agree? Haake: Oh, yeah, totally, it does. We wanted a more live-related album and with that came this different attitude and energy to the tracks. The overall vibe we had when we wrote this album and what we wanted with it made that energy stick out.
What does the album title mean? Itís a play on words between obscene and Zen. Also, "obĒ means "antiĒ in Latin. The artwork suggests that the human species seems to have found its Zen in bloodshed and warfare, and thatís what the title suggests. The three hands [on the cover] make an arc of sixes, which suggests the inherent evil in man. That also ties in with a lot of the lyrical content.
You experimented with programmed drums a couple times recently but went back to live drums for this disc. Is it safe to say the programmed drums are history? I would never say never. To us, it doesnít really matter what tools you use, itís all about the final outcome. Itís not a matter of how you get to a certain point; itís a matter of what you do when youíre at that point. Itís a matter of the end result. (Nuclear Blast)