Review: The Violent Sleep of Reason by Meshuggah

Meshuggah in part created the “breakdown bandwagon” that led to the golden age of metal in the 2000’s decade, but as nature would dictate this golden age decayed – djent and deathcore had nowhere to go, and thus imploded into disingenuous and hollow formal masturbations devoid of spirit and invention. Meshuggah was in a tight spot with their 2012 album Koloss because the rest of metal had worn out their sound. What could happen next?

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The Violent Sleep of Reason is brilliant and formally transcendent. Recorded live, the album’s riffs are overflowing with energy and are among the heaviest ever played – all without a formulaic breakdown. In an interview about the albums release, drummer virtuouso Tomas Haake claimed: “I don’t view us as a technical band. We’re just a metal band trying to find fresh sounds.” While superficially this album might sound much like all Meshuggah’s previous work, when considered subtly, and Haake considers it while composing, it is quite unique; this is Meshuggah’s most melodic album to date, and perhaps their most lyrically powerful and emotionally varied. Can metalheads cry? (Well, I almost did at the end of Nostrum.)

As Meshuggah’s music is entirely an indictment of western civilization’s shallow and delusional nature, the vast rage and allegorically mechanical tones in this music makes it a challenge to listen through an entire album. Remember that Meshuggah’s music is not created for consumption. Nietzsche ended Twilight of the Idols thusly:

“Why so hard?”  the kitchen coal once said to the diamond.  “After all, are we not close kin?”  “Why so soft?”  O my brothers, thus I ask you: are you not after all my brothers?  Why so soft, so pliant and yielding?  Why is there so much denial, self-denial, in your hearts?  So little destiny in your eyes?  And if you do not want to be destinies and inexorable ones, how can you one day triumph with me?  And if your hardness does not wish to flash and cut through, how can you one day create with me?  For all creators are hard.  And it must seem blessedness to you to impress your hand on millennia as on wax.  Blessedness to write on the will of millennia as on bronze — harder than bronze, nobler than bronze.  Only the noblest is altogether hard.

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