Released: 2005, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Oh, what a complex web they weave! Meshuggah continue to boggle the minds of metalheads everywhere with CATCH THIRTY THREE, their latest offering of cerebral chaos and unorthodoxy. Building upon last year’s I EP, which was one twenty-one minute track, CATCH THIRTY THREE again defies tradition by releasing what they call one song—with different titles—broken up into thirteen parts totaling just over 47 minutes. Still with me? Well, if that’s left you scratching your head, wait until you press ‘play’! CATCH THIRTY THREE can only be listened to from start to finish in one sitting and God forbid you choose the shuffle option on your player because it may very well explode! For that reason, it is impossible to choose favorite tracks or really single out a specific point that shines on the CD because it is really all one inter-connected song. Meshuggah has its critics and the usual barbs surround the fact that the music is boring. Indeed, a 47-minute song with no breaks can become tedious and it is a lot to ask of the listener to sit down and take everything in that is happening because Meshuggah is not a band whose music one puts on as background while you do chores around the house. Headphones (and patience) are mandatory and CATCH THIRTY THREE is not for everyone but the band’s devoted following will be crowing about it and curious rubber-neckers will continue to be drawn in from the periphery.
The hypnotic eight-string riffing of Fredrik Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom is dumbfounding on CATCH THIRTY THREE. Both spastic and controlled at the same time, the duo expand on the more subdued chaos found on 2002’s NOTHING but remain miles away from the arduous neck-breaking pace of earlier works CHAOSSPHERE and DESTROY ERASE IMPROVE. A disclaimer should come with the CD warning against headbanging because trying to keep up with the bizarre time changes of these two is surely detrimental to one’s health. The throbbing, almost unnatural, feel of “In Death – Is Life,” for example, adds a new angle to Meshuggah’s trademark cold, industrialized riffing. Adding to that fact, of course, is Jens Kidman’s monotone bark that remains unrelenting in its fury. That harshness and abrasive tone has always been a perfect fit for Meshuggah but the lengthy instrumental passages on CATCH THIRTY THREE seem that much more effectively distant when Kidman comes crashing out of nowhere at the beginning of the jazzy “Shed.” Curiously, the band opted for using a drum machine on CATCH THIRTY THREE rather than the live drums of Tomas Haake. What is most impressive, though, is the fact that it is never obvious this is not a human being pummeling away on a drum set. Besides incorporating electronic drums, the band continues to evolve with the use of a robotic voice (provided by Haake) on “Mind’s Mirrors” that reminded me of the hideous 80s Styx song, “Mr. Roboto.” What the band is going for here is beyond me but this section of the CD really sticks out like sore thumb. On the other hand, it could be argued that Meshuggah continues to refuse to be lumped into any one category and that conventions are merely tossed out the window in favor of artistic license.
Whichever side you sit on will likely dictate whether or not you like Meshuggah because there does not seem to be a “casual fan” of the band. Either you worship Meshuggah or you loathe them. There is no middle ground and with CATCH THIRTY THREE, the band continues to push boundaries, defy expectations and grow as musicians. CATCH THIRTY THREE is like nothing I have ever heard and patience must be exercised before sitting through it but one cannot fault this band for experimenting and pushing themselves to think outside the often-confining genres of music. Will CATCH THIRTY THREE be the new benchmark for what Meshuggah is capable of? Probably and with that comes the very impetus that seems to feed this band: innovation.