Immutable

My gun metal grey MESHUGGAH t-shirt invokes two types of responses – one is an awe-inspiring nod of approval and the other a curious grin. First reaction is from musicians and the second from older gentlemen who knows Hebrew. One is aware of the crazy genius of the band and the other knows meshuggah pretty much means crazy in Yiddish. Along with crossing genre boundaries, seems like even the typical demographic boundaries are blurred with this band.

The new album Immutable is pretty much signature MESHUGGAH, but mutating their unique mold in slightly new directions. Instead of the usual assault of mathematical precision riffs and polyrhythms, constantly slicing and exploding, we get blunt hammering of industrial tones, they are bordering on atmospheric. Even though these elements were always present, now they are shaping whole compositions. In short, while not completely immutable, they sound more or less settled in their ways. The band which discovered alien lifeforms like djent is now comfortable with their marginal revolutions.

Mark of a great genre or band is that ability to constantly chisel at the margins, and continuously evolve in surprising ways. Often illustrating layers and polycentric qualities. From that perspective MESHUGGAH has left their influence, obviously visible from their fanatic following. Then the question might be, can the world truly comprehend their crazy genius, can their disciples match and evolve the framework, even beyond the already dizzying benchmark set by the band.

Andreas Lawen, Fotandi, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ego Path

The Silent Wedding has covered this song called “Diamonds and Rust”, for almost everyone that means Joan Baez, but for ageing metalheads it simply channels mighty Judas Priest. We all have our own aesthetic preferences, and The Silent Wedding successfully appeals to those very classic metal predilections. That essentially means, Ego Path is rife with melody, neo-classical shredding, NWOBHM riffs, and all the other essential signatures reminding us of that classic lineage.

It’s that time-honored sonic tradition running from UFO and Judas Priest, to 80s British heavy metal, eventually mutating into that melodic power metal path via the great Ronnie James Dio. Obviously, all these influences are not complete without those omnipresent progressive tendencies. Add those clean vocals with adequate range, meandering melodic ballads, and passages tailored for arena rock — The Silent Wedding becomes that exquisite expedition every classic metal fan and prospective classic metal fan seek!

A View from the Top of the World

It’s Dream Theater, so by default it has to be rich in melody and progressions. But, A View from the Top of the World is riveting too. Mike Mangini-John Myung duo crafts a razor sharp bass-drum framework – more than adequate to accommodate their typical musical complexity. And often tailored to precisely slice and frame this perpetual train of John Petrucci-Jordan Rudess orchestra. This balance in musicianship is striking — omnipresent melody, James LaBrie’s signature wails, and complementing bass-lines all live in systematic harmony. Resulting compositions are meticulously high grade.

Album revives and reinforces quintessential Dream Theater qualities, sometimes illustrating them in seemingly novel ways. For better or for worse Mike Portnoy was a captive of Neil Peart school of drumming. But Mike Mangini’s style allows them to evolve, beyond those ornate confines of Rush-metal blueprint. Clearly enabling that exhibition of seemingly novel influences from symphonic prog, and atypical passages often seen in their own side projects. Or at least we can now prominently hear those influences, which were merely latent in earlier works.

Image Attribution : Darko Boehringer https://dreamtheater.net/photos/images-words-beyond-tour-2017/

Storm of the Light’s Bane

Straddling Gothenburg death and Norwegian black metal, at the margin of what we might term as consonance and coarseness, resides Dissection. Crossing genre and aesthetic boundaries, Storm of the Light’s Bane prods listener into conflicting paths. Responses to this could vary, from a nodding reverence of those exquisite guitar passages, to a chilling silence, or just a morbid mosh-pit. Channeling their Scandinavian contemporaries, Dissection simply shapes their own brand of occult romanticism, often more despondent and atmospheric.

Extending the boundaries of aggression and poetry, these compositions are constantly shifting their contours. Adequately complemented by the drifts in lyrical prose — “I drown in the colour of your eye, for a black heart will only find beauty in darkness“– simultaneously conveys the elegance of an autumn night and dual guitar harmonies. With vocal textures reflecting the gloom in lyrics, Nödtveidt adds a layer of darkness unlike any other. Channeling divergent strands, and yet in perfect harmony, Storm of the Light’s Bane is one of those meticulous crafts. The rare ones illustrating extreme metal in all its glory and quirks. Described in Nödtveidt’s own lyrics — “Forged in blood by tragedy” — album leaves a lasting mental imprint.

Dissection_live_in_2005.jpg: Shadowgatederivative work: Elizabeth Bathory, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ground Collapses

Sludge and death metal, both evolved from hardcore/punk and electric blues, but a sludge-death cross-over is so much more than their shared roots. Fifty years of metal evolution, hundreds of sub-genres and here Disbelief simply continues that very captivating trend of mutations. In this case – strands of hardcore, New Orleans sludge and death metal crafts an unusual atmospheric blend. The Ground Collapses is quintessential extreme metal – in other words it encodes those long running lineage of influences, but still manages to sound novel.

It’s that familiar doom like aesthetics, that essential low, but uniquely fueled by deathly compositions rooted somewhere in late 80s Florida or Sweden. A hardcore wall-of-sound, often severed by meandering leads, and layered with cross-over vocals, creating an atmosphere so dank, deathly and gloomy. In metal, cross-genre sound is not uncommon, but this elegant cross-over aesthetic is. This subtle blend of aggression and grief makes for an essential listen, ironically one of those pockets of bliss in a rather morbid year.

Silent Waters

Folk and some epic poetry can make for more than a few exquisite moments. And even with all that doom undertones, melody seems omnipresent. That’s not it – Finnish mythology, picturesque choruses, and deathly bass-lines – all layered in harmony. In other words, it’s rich, unmistakable, and Amorphis.

Music often complements that romanticism in lyrics — “Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve, find and catch the devil’s moose and bring it there to me” – elegantly transitions to segments more appropriate for melodic-death. But, this is just one of those many instances of stunning coherence, on how their compositions accommodate hues, vibrant and diverse.

Elegant and melancholic, album does justice to the literature it adapts. “Pulled under the raging waters, my child, sank in the drowning currents, my son” — Amorphis unmistakably recreates Lemminkäinen’s tale. But now with compositions as sorrowful and gallant as his mythology, and with a “River of Death” Artwork as that fitting cover. Needless to say, exquisite and epic Silent Waters.

Stefan Bollmann, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

The End of Dormancy – EP

Often reminding us of 70s prog or jazz rock, and at times of their Motörhead roots, Voivod sound pretty much their usual self. Live recording adds some rough textures, but not enough to eclipse the classical symphony, or those intricate transformations, or even those strange lyrical plots. It’s also easy to notice that interesting contrast — two songs on the EP occupying slightly different ends of their musical spectrum. ‘The End of Dormancy’ reflecting their proggy sophistication, while ‘The Unknown Known’ rooted in their more dissonant past. Giving us all a glimpse into that unique set of influences only Voivod dares to blend.

Roman Horník / CC BY-SA

In Cauda Venenum

Post-Watershed, Martin Lopez and Peter Lindgren were conspicuously missing, but so was that musical coherence! It was complex progressive rock, but reflected very little of Opeth’s signature aesthetics. Even though all those vibrant influences were still present, a certain noticeable imbalance, especially in how they were composed! This is easily audible relative to In Cauda Venenum, here they bring back that all-immersive-experience of Blackwater Park and Still Life.

Their signature is exactly that ability to harmonize divergent strands. Funk to folk, jazz fusion to goth, all peacefully coexisting, a splendid harmony across discordant influences. It’s that harmony in discord when proggy riffs flawlessly transitions to strange ramblings in “Charlatan”, or when that further moves on to gothic blues of “Universal Truth”. That rich consistency in musicianship is also complemented by vocals– Åkerfeldt evokes a spectrum of emotions, almost reminiscent of Damnation.

Seems like Opeth was testing the waters with their first three prog rock records, and In Cauda Venenum is the consequence. Quite like an evolving organism, they are adding layers to their prog skeleton, bringing higher levels of coherence and texture. So, those underlying influences remain the same, but now they are gently cloaked beneath few exquisite layers of artistic splendor.

MrPanyGoff / CC BY-SA

Algorythm

Beyond Creation illustrates the same old genre influences, but in a remarkably novel way. With jazz fusion and layered signature progressions, these Canadians craft an atmosphere often too poignant for tech death. Channeling that proficient lineage running from Mahavishnu Orchestra to Atheist, Algorythm is tech death at its refined best. Demanding bass lines, odd drum patterns, and deathly grows — the band simply marvels in their unquestionable extreme metal territory.

With a structured ease and sophistication, songs bridge jazz rock segments with sheer death. Whether it’s “Surfaces Echoes” or the title track, these transformations are frequent, and happens with an Opeth like finesse. So it’s quite possible, when that atmospheric jazz fusion harmony fades into a passage as brutal as Suffocation’s, the listener might be too captivated to even realize the subtle, vital and stunningly exquisite nature of this symphony.

Image Attribution: https://beyondcreationofficial.com/gallery/