The Best Albums of 2016, #11

band0111. Meshuggah, The Violent Sleep of Reason (Nuclear Blast)

The sheer force of Meshuggah’s music shouldn’t be inimitable in this day and age, especially when young nerdy musicians have all the effects and recording techniques they could ever need at their disposal. Yet for all the bands that mimic the complex, churning sound of the Swedish greats, when Meshuggah emerges from hiding with new music, it instantly renders the sounds by their acolytes as the work of rank amateurs. Heaviness in metal isn’t a formula or a special combination of amplifier settings. Like Neurosis, like YOB, Meshuggah’s heaviness is far less tangible, something captured by the chemistry of the five individuals involved. With only eight albums over a 30 year career, every new Meshuggah release is an event, primarily because this most innovative of metal bands is still as capable of blowing the competition out of the water now as they were when they started. And indeed, the Swedish greats achieve a new high water mark on The Violent Sleep of Reason, which at the same time combines different aspects of previous albums and creates something altogether new. The churning, massively heavy riffs plow along with mathematical precision and complexity, punctuated and propelled by Tomas Haake’s nimble and throttling drumming, while Jens Kidman barks surreal lyrics with power and Fredrik Thordendal weaves shockingly beautiful solos like gossamer threads around a colossus. “Clockworks” is particularly jaw-dropping, arguably their best combination of complexity and adventurousness since 1998’s Chaosphere. As labyrinthine as the arrangements seem, the space the live recordings allow for the music to breathe lends such standouts as the aforementioned “Clockworks”, “Into Decay”, and the title track that power and heaviness that makes Meshuggah so unique, and which makes this album so astonishing.