Meshuggah Marinate in Their 'Immutable' Sound

BY Max HeilmanPublished Mar 29, 2022

Meshuggah offer more than consistency, having unveiled new facets of their polyrhythmic avant-metal throughout their career. Whether it was Nothing introducing eight-string guitars in 2002, or obZen's standard-setting technicality in 2008, the Swedish titans have tirelessly carved out their niche in heavy music. In this unique situation, Meshuggah's eighth album Immutable doesn't have to reinvent the wheel… Meshuggah are the wheel.

Nearly six years after The Violent Sleep of Reason, opener "Broken Cog" effectively reintroduces Meshuggah's unmistakable tenets, gradually forming a solid backbeat and ominous leads around staccato tom-toms and cavernous chugs. It's a slow-burning start, but the mesmerising punishment remains intact once Jens Kidman's moody mutterings turn to his throaty scream amid the violent tremolo guitars and double kick drums of "The Abysmal Eye." Both tracks spotlight drummer Tomas Haake as the ultimate groove master, meticulously guiding the mad-scientist fretwork of guitarists Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal.

Meshuggah riffs are almost magical in their catchiness and complexity. Cuts like "Ligature Marks" conceal a rhythmic labyrinth under an infectious structure, with each twist deepening an immersive wall of sound. "The Faultless" achieves a similar effect, subverting the four-on-the-floor intro without overturning the subtone pulse. Speaking of subtone, these two songs highlight Immutable's greatest flex: Dick Lövgren's bass tone. His performances miraculously make the grimy nine-string guitar tone even grimier, clearly distinguishing 'heavy' from 'Meshuggah heavy.'

Any guitarist can tune low and spam their bottom string, but it's quite another matter to spend "Black Cathedral" sinking into a hellscape of filth-encrusted guitar strains. Even without drums, the crushing dissonance rivals extreme experimenters like Portal. Meshuggah's ambient side reappears at various junctures, notably on "They Move Below." The song's first two-and-a-half minutes comprise some of Meshuggah's most euphoric textures, making the main riff that much more devastating when it drops. Instrumental cuts like these clearly manifest Meshuggah's disregard for orthodoxy in favour of contorted protractions of blunt force trauma.

Thrashy tracks like "Light the Shortening Fuse" also have an inexplicably transcendental aura. Meshuggah's ideas progress fluidly, untethered by verses or choruses. To that effect, "Phantoms" subverts the generic prog-core breakdown with an amorphous tapestry of string bends and tom-toms. It's not about mosh parts, but ravishing vibes. Zoning out to the atonal guitar solos and chaotic rhythms of "God He Sees in Mirrors" feels like getting sucked into a wormhole of ferocious stupor.

Though "Kaleidoscope" won't surprise anyone with the sum of its parts, Meshuggah's chemistry makes the familiar fascinating. Kidman knows exactly where to place each syllable of his lyrics within destructive yet meticulous arrangements. Eerie motifs gliding over the chopped-up rampage of "I Am That Thirst" isn't groundbreaking for Meshuggah, but no one else has yet to achieve such a vital ebb and flow of barbaric melee. In this way, a cut like "Armies of the Preposterous" can live up to its name in baffling aggression without trying too hard.

For all its frenetic bombshells, Immutable's success ultimately lies in its attention to detail. Closing track "Past Tense" feels no less thought-out than its counterparts in delicate soundscapes and harmonic interplay. Meshuggah haven't returned to impress anyone but themselves. This is the music they like playing. It just happens to sound unlike anything else in metal. After 30-plus years in the game, Meshuggah have neither quelled their thirst for tectonic frenzy nor dried their well of dexterous musicality.
(Atomic Fire)

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