When I heard Meshuggah was working on a new album for 2008, needless to say, I was excited. They had set the bar high with Catch 33, and I was eager to see how they could possibly progress from, in my opinion, one of the greatest metal albums of all time. However, that’s where my expectations for this album peaked. After they started releasing information on the album, claiming it would be a return to their thrash roots and a step away from the progressiveness of their last few albums, I felt a little sinking feeling. I felt an even larger one after they released an image of the cover, along with the title of the album. Needless to say, it’s a strangely fake-looking man with three disproportionately large hands covered in blood. And the name they chose was obZen, which doesn’t really mean anything at all.
And then came the fuzzy internet-radio rip of “Bleed”, which kept my interest the same way a 3 hour visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles would. It was at this point I pretty much gave up. How could the band that could always be counted on to defy the convictions of music leave itself behind like this? And then the album came out. With one gleam of boyish hope still left in my heart, I picked up the album in haste.
The first thing that struck me about the album was its sheer heaviness, in all aspects of play and production. The sometimes groovy, sometimes staccato attack of the dual 8-string guitars reaches a level of heaviness higher than I thought even these guys could achieve. The drum production does not disappoint, as it did with Hate Eternal’s Fury and Flames (which was cool enough, but nothing special). Jens Kidman’s harsh yell is the same as it has always been, and still works well, contributing to the intensity of their sound. The most notable tracks on this album are the opener, “Combustion”, which opens sounding like a Tool song and then proceeds straight to thrashy goodness, and the title track, “obZen”, which could be the most crushingly heavy song ever. Maybe.