It's no secret that I've been a huge Meshuggah fan for the past decade. But the Arsies is a tough taskmaster, and for the first half of the day, I'd been mentally composing an explanation for their early loss.
Meshuggah has the laudable tendency to take learnings from their previous albums and tours, and from them evolve their sound. Their latest album Koloss is no exception to that rule, and it makes for an enjoyable enough album. But the change is not a slam dunk. It's more restrained and groove-oriented, but they've achieved this in part by suppressing their polyrhythms too much, limiting their guitar leads too much. There are plenty of shining moments on the album — Demiurge is the crowning vindication of their latest iteration — but it's hard to see Koloss as anything other than a step down from their previous masterpiece, obZen.
Meanwhile, Sylosis's third album Monolith is a staggering shower. It's got lots of attitude and aggression, plenty of fantastic guitar work, and doesn't let up from start to finish. Sylosis is the perfect antidote to Meshuggah's stripped-down sound, favoring a kitchen-soup approach. And that is ultimately what doesn't work about their latest album. With so much going on, each song winds up passing through a minimum of two different styles, and it's hard to know where you're going to wind up. It makes for excellent listening, but their Frankenstein songs don't stick together quite as well as they should.
So Meshuggah wins their first round, but it was a surprisingly tough day for them. Perhaps the writing's on the wall for their next contest. In the meantime, the action continues tomorrow with Baroness and As I Lay Dying.