First things first, The Violent Sleep of Reason does kick the festivities off on par with that current Meshuggah sound we’ve become familiar with. There’s a heavy focus on the rumbling bass to create an ominous sensation the robotic-sounding chugs of mechanic overlords charging forward thrive off of while the lead hooks act as the screams of the pitiful humans caught within their wheels. There are some less intimidating segments, such as approaching the guitar solo at three minutes in where things do become a bit light-hearted, offering up the slightest glimmer of hope to a new world free of the mechanical plague. And, well, it is a nice precursor considering the listener isn’t really hit with this level of crippling abuse again until the still fairly tame title track.
Of course long-time fans and some astute listeners will notice a nod to the group’s Chaosphere days as well. “Born In Dissonance” is a good example, showcasing similarities to the group’s hit single “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” with the hard-hitting grooves and superb drum performance. It feels fluid with a subtle hint of the machine slowly enveloping the human form, though the vocals aren’t quite as enthusiastic as you would hope them to be. There’s also “Nostrum” which just refuses to let up, hitting the listener hard with the deep bass-driven riffs and solid shifts to quite impressive guitar solo technicality that just borders the line between sanity and madness. But even then its fluid pacing still holds a degree of relaxation, as if a round of melatonin leveling you out in the middle of a caffeine rush.
But then you have “By the Ton” showcasing more of a mellow version of the band. Consider if Meshuggah were to take the southern elements of Pantera‘s slowest but tack on their brand of Swedish djent, and you’ll have a pretty good understanding of what to expect. While it starts with a decently ominous presence, the roaring bass and aggressive nature of Meshuggah fall to the wayside in favor of slower riffs that seem held in the air and briskly landing safely on the ground instead of immediately crashing back to earth and leveling the plains. There’s also “Stifled” which isn’t the most zen experience here, but it’s still soothing enough to make some hooks take on a bit of a shoegaze quality, especially towards the end as you’re cast off into the cosmos temporarily.
The best way to look at this new album is to do so with all preconceptions cast aside once more. Meshuggah has a history of trying new things or rebooting their style once in a while, which is how we got to the merciless mechanical juggernaut of late that fans have become so familiar with. The Violent Sleep of Reason, however, simply is not that beast. It’s been twenty-five years since the world was exposed to Contradictions Collapse and, in a way, this seems to be the band looking at their storied history like that of a “violent sleep” full of musical logic sprawled out between that very debut to the recent Koloss, all while sustaining a sense of suspended animation in the most science fiction of terms possible, than taking inspiration “a Goya painting called ‘The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters’.” That said, some songs will have a stronger impact than others, and a good few just aren’t all that memorable in the long run either. But, as a whole, Meshuggah remind you why they’ve been an unstoppable force across this solid new outing.