Meshuggah – Immutable (Album Review)

Meshuggah - Immutable tracklist

Meshuggah – Immutable 
Released: April 1st, 2022

Line Up

Jens Kidman | Vocals
Dick Lövgren | Bass
Tomas Haake | Drums
Mårten Hagström | Guitar
Fredrik Thordendal | Guitar

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How does a band like Meshuggah, whose legacy and influence continues to be felt through the modern metal scene, keep themselves interested and entertained? As drummer Tomas Haake told me back in January, they stay inside their little bubble and stick to “what we do”. The great thing about Meshuggah is that even though their sound is so particular and specific that it is instantly identifiable, even among the tributes and mimicry, they continue to push themselves and find new ways of engaging with their core sound. The push and pull between legacy and evolution runs right through Immutable. Their ninth album, and first since 2016’s awesome The Violent Sleep of Reason, is their longest, with 13 tracks in 66 minutes. Much of it will remind old school fans of why they fell for Meshuggah in the first place, but there are also a few key points of difference that make Immutable a stand out album among a loaded discography.

The thundering synopation of drums, bass and guitar kicks off ‘Broken Cog’ with a repetitive hammering that will make your neck jar at odd angles. There’s a melodic lead that adds to the tension, though it’s a more restrained and menacing vocal from Jens Kidman than one might expect. As an opener, the sense of impending doom is anxiety inducing and threatening. By the time Kidman unleashes his growl, we are onto the first single The Abysmal Eye, a great track that is more old school than one might expect. Whilst the band themselves refrain from the word, this is what is meant by djent riffing. It’s a full aural pummelling that makes your bones shake with reverberation. Fredrik Thordendal’s solo is sick too, an air guitarist’s dream. Light the Shortening Fuseis even more sonically messed up, a stomach churning series of syncopated riffs that threaten to separate soul from body. ‘Phantoms’ and ‘God He Sees In Mirrors’ are similar in embracing a classic sound, but ‘Ligature Marks’ is a stand out. The riffing is much more doom metal or even stoner than they’ve sounded before. The slower and more deliberate tempo creates a groove that is intoxicating and, dare I say it, catchy? The leads are melodic with more of a tapping/prog influence before building to the climax. 

It’s pretty flawless for the first half and then we hit the track everyone will be talking about – the near 10 minute instrumental ‘They Move Below’. When I first heard it at the album premiere I was gobsmacked at the audacity of throwing this smack bang into the middle of the album without warning. It starts slow, melodic, almost gothic. Listen carefully to the interplay between guitars. It reveals itself as a riff monster of the highest magnitude. There is an attention to detail that betrays their prog inclinations, Haake cites Metallica’s ‘Orion’ as a reference point, as it twists and turns into something unholy and majestically heavy. How dare they? To just hammer for so long without regard for the listener’s necks or general wellbeing. Will they play it live? Damn I hope so. At one point the leads sound like police sirens before returning to groove. It’s desperate in the later half, churning through melodies over the groove, and it almost descends into a psychedelic death metal jam, but Meshuggah are too tight and well drilled for such recklessness. The answer to my opening question is here – this song must have been fun to compose, record and give birth to. 

It takes a minute to reorientate after that, with ‘Kaleidoscope’ giving us Kidman again in all his throaty glory. It’s much more immediate, that’s a good thing, and there is a tremendous breakdown. Even though guitarist Mårten Hagström has handled much of the songwriting this time around, there is a breadth to the sound that keeps it engaging across the 13 tracks. ‘Black Cathedral’ is another one that stands out as it subverts expectations. It’s a dissonant riff of layered guitars that is black metal in tone and approach. You’re waiting for blast beats but this is Meshuggah, so instead you get the jagged, off kilter ‘I Am That Thirst’ – a war cry for fans with more melodic leads and a ton of groove. Again it has a lot of that old school tone with an evolving sense of melody.

It backs up into ‘The Faultless’, a real ass shaking song that is remarkably catchy and could be used for pole dancing. I need to emphasise that doesn’t mean it sounds like dopey nu metal or whatever, it’s still Swedish technical death metal but with a groove and bounce that builds on what this band is capable of doing. ‘Armies of the Preposterous’ is more traditional and is obviously ridiculously heavy. ‘Paste Tense’ is a curious closer, another guitar based instrumental that is cinematic in it’s execution, recalling Nine Inch NailsGhost albums more than Chaosphere. It serves as a worthy coda to an interesting and complex sonic landscape. 

There is no apology from Meshuggah for mixing things up with this one. But this is a band rooted in a core sound discovered and unleashed on the world decades ago. Immutable is perfectly titled as the album itself is a sign that Meshuggah are comfortable with who they are, even though they continue to evolve as artists within the scope of what they do so well. 

Meshuggah - Immutable tracklist

Meshuggah – Immutable tracklisting

1. Broken Cog
2. The Abysmal Eye
3. Light The Shortening Fuse
4. Phantoms
5. Ligature Marks
6. God He Sees In Mirrors
7. They Move Below
8. Kaleidoscope
9. Black Cathedral
10. I Am That Thirst
11. The Faultless
12. Armies Of The Preposterous
13. Past Tense

Rating: 9 / 10 
Immutable is out April 1st via Atomic Fire. Pre-Order here
Review by KJ Draven (Twitter and Instagram)

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