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Koloss Simon Garner , March 29th, 2012 07:45

Meshuggah albums shun conceptual ‘themes’ or narratives, but Koloss has an undeniable single unified tone. A weighty sense of dreadful inevitability permeates. The listener is sentenced to peine forte et dure, torture and capital punishment by crushing: "His head covered and his feet. One arm will be drawn to one quarter of the house with a cord, and the other arm to another quarter, and in the same manner it will be done with his legs; and there will be laid upon his body iron and stone, as much as he can bear, or more..." The paradoxically intoxicating death wish of the thrill seeker.

Relatively sedate opener 'I am Colossus' is a good indication of what follows: it evokes the jaws of a mechanical hell clanking apart, slowly revealing the mechanised torment inside before ratcheting up and dragging us into the tremendously cruel 'The Demon’s Name is Surveillance'. Koloss is a lesson in drawn out brutality. The band's signature high tempo drumming is pushed to the background, used to generate a more ambient sort of mood. Painfully slow cracks and thuds ring out intermittently. The album builds towards the anti-culmination of 'Swarm and Demiurge'; the first's galloping immediacy builds to a maddening (and possibly saxophone) solo, before the latter track perfects a grinding canter beneath more direct drumming.

Neatly sidestepping current ‘controversy’ over their – possibly unintentionally coined – genre djent, here Meshuggah explore more ‘traditional’ metal and rock, at times even verging on sludge, although the production throughout the album is phenomenal. Slower and more groove based than a lot of their back catalogue,Koloss rarely touches on the brutal double kick drum pummeling many associate with them; it's a good ten minutes before we hear much in the way of high notes or sheet metal shredding. Mostly this is down-tuned, chugging riffs ('Do Not Look Down') or oppressive crawl ('Behind the Sun').

The palette here is industrial: steam hammer rhythms, grinding gears. Which isn’t say they don’t indulge in a little ‘djent’. When they do – 'The Demon’s Name is Surveillance', 'The Hurt that Finds Your First' – they demonstrate why it is them, if anyone, who can lay claim to the 'genre'. These rare high tempo tracks are a blessed relief from the slow churn of their surroundings, like being tortured to the point of just wanting it to end. The band's judicious use of their trademark sound works both to demonstrate their formidable abilities and heighten appreciation of it when it finally does arrive.

Koloss runs the gamut of Meshuggah’s craft and technical prowess. Each track is a selection from the connoisseur’s catalogue of bone vices, spiked inner surfaces iron-heated red before their application to the limb. But it's as a whole that Koloss excels, each track another rock placed upon your chest until your last breath finally escapes with 'The Last Vigil'.