Overall Score: 9/10 Performances: 10/10 Song Writing: 8/10 Atmosphere: 9/10 Pros: One of the most unique and uncompromising bands of all time putting everyone on notice Cons: If you aren’t fully sold by the last decade of Meshuggah, this won’t change that
Immutable, meaning unchanging over time, is a word that’s at odds with itself when used in relation to Meshuggah. Since their debut, Contradictions Collapse (1991), the band have certainly gone through stages of evolution but the reason they are respected as one of the most significant bands in the history of heavy music is because they’ve always done it their way. With no room for any compromise or doing the easy thing, they’ve changed the sound of metal on multiple occasions. Their commitment to being resilient to outside influences makes them Immutable, it’s everyone else who gets left playing catch up even at this point in their career.
Their ninth studio album after six years away is another reminder of how unique Meshuggah are. The metal landscape owes an awful lot to one of Sweden’s great exports and yet no one has come close to replicating what makes them different from the rest. If ‘Shuggah is what you want then that’s what you’ll get on the 13 tracks and over an hour of material. There is still nobody who can lock into one or two grooves with just a few more notes and make it feel devastating for over five minutes. Album opener Broken Cog feels like the part-by-part re-awakening of a living machine that finally reaches its full potential once Jens Kidman joins the party over four minutes in.
Just like they always do, after crawling through the combine, Meshuggah has a few more screws to turn before they’re going to let you go and on this occasion, they’re just getting started. By the second track, The Abysmal Eye, it already feels like the band is on a victory lap around every other progressive metal band. Both in their incredible musicianship and unrelenting heaviness, they aren’t satisfied with giving you just a taste of it, they’re here to smother you in it.
Fredrik Thordendal’s lead playing is given moments on this record that you’ll never forget hearing for the first time. Though Meshuggah’s style has been defined by its technicality, polyrhythms and the dreaded D-word that rhymes with Brent, the way his playing snakes in and around the gears when called upon is always a highlight moment of the tracks. His solos on Ligature Marks and God He Sees In Mirrors dance in between the cracks as the rest of the band marches forward. They’re the kind of solos that only a band like this could pull off, walking A Frank Zappa style line of sounding like the work of an insane person who doubles up as a virtuoso musician.
Several instrumental tracks feature in the record’s second half that never feel pretentious because of the respect that Meshuggah have earned. Sure, the ten-minute They Move Below could isolate newer audiences but they’ve always played by their own rules and if you’re on board, then you can just kick back and breathe it in. There’s a lot of atmosphere here to go along with the onslaught, from some dabbling in black metal riffing to drummer Tomas Haake’s spoken word vocals that always add to their projects.
The record is so well defined by its title as a statement of intent. It’s yet another reminder that just because they changed the game and the ruleset that so many bands now follow, they’re still the undisputed kings of it. Whichever incarnation of Meshuggah it was that first pulled you in, this record is a tap on the shoulder to you and the entirety of heavy music to say we’ve not gone anywhere and we’re still better than you. It isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel like Destroy Erase Improve or bring it to the masses like Obzen, it’s simply the band demonstrating why they are so special. Despite all these years and all of the influence they’ve had, no one does it better than Meshuggah.
Impenetrable. Imperishable. Immutable.
Immutable is available via Atomic Fire Records.
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