Album Review: Meshuggah - 'Pitch Black'

13 February 2013 | 10:39 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

A hint at what’s still to come.

More Meshuggah More Meshuggah

We’re guessing there were quite a few Meshuggah fans who were expecting to wait a few years before hearing any new material from the Swedish extreme metal outfit (just look at the sizable gap between 2008’s obZen and last year’s Koloss). Although all signs pointed to another lengthy gestation period between releases, the progressive metallers have surprised some by keeping the momentum up with the release of new EP, Pitch Black.

Without drumming up too much excitement about the prospect of new Meshuggah material we’re going to start by reminding you this is an EP, not a new LP. It’s the result of a partnership between the band and Scion AV, who are very kindly offering Pitch Black as a free download here. We suggest you think of this release as a two-track metal morsel, or appetiser, to briefly satisfy extreme metal appetites the world over as we wait for the follow-up to last year’s Koloss.

The EP kicks off with the title-track, a new mid-tempo stomper crammed full of Meshuggah’s signature polyrhythms, time signature shifts and the insanely de-tuned chugging of guitarists Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal. While it’s not a huge departure in sound for the band, one noticeable difference is Jen Kidman’s vocals being less guttural shout and more sinister growl. The frontman sounds like a man possessed when he snarls about stepping into oblivion and being consumed by voids of perpetual darkness over the course of the track’s six minutes. Add one of the band’s unconventional atonal guitar leads (not a traditional solo in anyone’s book) around the two-minute mark, some hypnotizing droning in the middle followed by a furious outro, and we’re presented with a track that epitomises Meshuggah’s finesse for writing songs that obliterate the boundaries of extreme music.

One of the most fascinating things about a band like Meshuggah is they don’t appear to write complex music for the sake of it, rather their unorthodox songwriting comes quite naturally to them. While many songwriters would never dare venture outside the realms of a safe 4/4 time signature, the members of the Swedish outfit seem the most comfortable when they’re experimenting with skittering rhythms and off kilter grooves. This being said, a song like ‘Pitch Black’ may be impressive for its sheer musicianship alone but its most striking feature is that it simply sounds like Meshuggah – something no other band can replicate.

The second half of the EP is a live recording of ‘Dancers To A Discordant System’, a track taken from the band’s 2008 album, obZen. Sure, it’s not exactly a second offering of new material that some of us were hoping for, but it’s still a near 10-minute reminder that Meshuggah are a tight-knit unit in a live setting and that their music isn’t just a bunch of studio trickery.

Pitch Black is further evidence that Meshuggah will continue to be leaders, not followers, in the world of extreme metal. The sheer musicianship contained on this two-track EP is enough to put most other modern metal bands to shame. Let’s just hope it’s an indication of what’s still to come from the innovative Swedes.

1. Pitch Black

2. Dancers To A Discordant System (Live)

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter