We of the critique world always have a “Golden Standard” for whatever the hell it is we ramble on about; the bar to reach, so to speak. Every bar is different, as it is subjective after all, but nonetheless it exists. Whimsical ramblings, why have thou plagued what you’re read at this time? Oh right! Meshuggah just released a new album, and the apolocalypse might be around the corner as a result. The Violent Sleep of Reason has obviously already been dissected every which way by writers far more experienced and well-spoken than I, leaving me only one option: load you the fuck up with a ton of sexual innuendos and no feelings.
If you somehow have never heard the name of Stockholm, Sweden’s true legend of heavy metal, then you have been missing out on the Zion of all things truly brutal. Often referred to as Djent (for some god awful reason), these progressive death metal ancestors will be marking their 30th anniversary in the near future, all while reminding us that they do not adhere to the term “never skipping a beat” – they create new ones altogether. Three decades of br0o0o0tality both in the studio and on the stage have left a trail of perfection. You either love Meshuggah, or you don’t listen death metal or anything like it. The Violent Sleep of Reason is simply another intense installment upon the path of these Swedish Dr. Manhattans, but an installment that visits old routes with new eyes, kinda like those shitty flash back episodes of a TV show where you’re like, “Holy shit, dude, look how far we’ve come!” but really you still suck and have an erectile dysfunction, which isn’t the case here, but you get what I mean
This record is long, slow, and painful in all the best ways. Opening up with the atomic destruction that is “Clockwork” sets the tone of what is to come: absolutely auditory rape. No, rape isn’t funny, and neither is the raw face-fuck that is the next seven minutes and fifteen seconds of your life when you push play, only to the be followed by another four minutes and thirty-four seconds of groovy “Why are you doing this to me?” that is known only as “Born in Dissonance.”
As we continue, one can potentially get lost in how overwhelming this record can be. I found the need to take a break from time to time to be able to see colour and happiness again, only to be caught slightly off-guard by moments of brightness, like at the 3:05 mark in “MonstroCity.” Without naming names, some say that this album lacks in surprises. To that I can only proclaim, “Thank whatever unholy god that had the consideration to make sure it was so!” A surprise in any way, shape, or form on a piece like this could have sounded the Seventh Trumpet and burned us all. This is the truest form of consistency in chaos. This is a band that has spent their lives creating hell out of numbers and instruments.
Any other review site would lace into your eyes with fractions and complexities that would make the average listener go cross-eyed and say, “I like when it goes boom.” I’m not going to do that, because I also said “I like when it goes boom,” in between bouts of shitting myself. What I will tell you is that amongst the weight of the fifty-eight minutes and fifty-five seconds that you have to endure to swallow this entire piece, there is warmth, there is rage, and above all, there is the kind of care that one could only come to love and expect from a band who has stayed true to their own insanity. On this album they returned to actual guitar amps during the recording process, as well as to the kind of attention to detail Meshuggah is best known for. These elements will leave you finding something new every time you give it even a semblance of a listen.
A 10/10 is the only just response to something that can literally rearrange your heartbeat and leave you this kind of breathless. I truly and wholeheartedly believe that for years to come, this will be my progressive death metal gold standard. If this is what prostate cancer feels like, then sweet lovely death come fucking take me.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Kate Erickson