MESHUGGAH has nothing to prove. The group's auspicious early work alone—namely "Destroy Erase Improve" (1995) and "Chaosphere" (1998)—cemented its eternal standing as one of metal's most influential bands, and the suggested ongoing promise has materialized as it has progressed. The band has influenced a plethora of heavy music styles ranging from hardcore to prog, most notably the equally adored and derided subgenre djent. Like a well-oiled machine, MESHUGGAH has consistently eclipsed the efforts of its ambitious devotees and un-imaginative sycophantes alike.
After carving its niche, MESHUGGAH continued to fine-tune its formula rather than take any significant left turns. That being said, the 2004 "I" EP stands out as the band's most experimental effort, stringing together random ideas bundled within a 21-minute track. Excellence continued permeating its successive releases, however, an excessively polished and digital packaging and production has paradoxically rendered their fruitful inclination toward machinelike precision somewhat stale. The band's choice to record full-length number eight, "The Violent Sleep of Reason", live in the studio couldn't have come at a better time. MESHUGGAH has not rewritten its game-changing formula, but the performances are noticeably more organic and human. "The Violent Sleep of Reason" sounds like it came from a band jamming together in a room rather than a collection of files spit out by a computer program designed to recycle the band's ideas from past efforts.
There is a tremendous amount of activity here. It isn't necessarily easy to take in and fully perceive initially, but it is instantly pleasurable to listen to. MESHUGGAH's innovative approach is endlessly analyzed by music theory nerds. Post-graduate academics have even written papers about the band's elaborate, detailed art. Yet its fanbase reaches far beyond the loitering denizens of Guitar Center because the fracas doesn't drift off into self-indulgence. MESHUGGAH writes with a consistent sense of purpose. Even at the band's most complex—as with the meandering, schizophrenic guitar work of "By the Ton"—drummer Tomas Haake pins everything down with a relatively steady beat and keen understanding of linear momentum and impact, accented additionally with Jens Kidman's punchy, rhythmic barking.
The group wastes little time from the get-go as the menacing, crawling riff of opener "Clockworks" sets the tone for everything that follows. The band demands your attention with its idiosyncratic use of jolting polyrhythms, which extend through the entirety of "The Violent Sleep of Reason". The aptly entitled "Our Rage Won't Die" unleashes MESHUGGAH's characteristic jagged, stuttering riffs. These are expertly reigned in to allow their resonance to properly soak into the gray matter, as well as highlight a jangly, catchy riff slightly after the song's midpoint.
"MonstroCity", meanwhile, is one of the best songs the band has ever written. It succinctly begins with a hammering, memorable head-nodding groove that runs in tandem with Fredrik Thordendal's instantly emotive, ethereal guitar melody. The groove wanders in and out of the polyrhythmic webbing like a sage making his way through a labyrinth where the entire journey proves to be the reward: that really is what MESHUGGAH is all about. Sounding as fresh, potent and relevant as ever, "The Violent Sleep of Reason" is proof that MESHUGGAH's journey is far from over.