Although the word itself suggests an insusceptibility or inability to change, Immutable (Atomic Fire), the title of the ninth studio album by prog/tech death metal act Meshuggah, proves to be the opposite, acting as another step forward in the band’s natural evolution.
Formed in 1987, the Swedish giants quickly unshackled themselves from the Metallica-isms of their early releases, swiftly developing into something more abrasive, contrarian and wholly unpredictable. Although maintaining a fairly consistent line-up over the years, Immutable is the band’s first release to not feature any writing contributions from co-founder Fredrik Thordendal, the musician taking time out to work on a solo album and build his own studio while still providing some of the record’s wonderfully alien guitar solos.
This latest devastating shock to the senses begins with the tumultuous ‘Broken Cog’ and the amorphous, dissonant riffs of ‘The Abysmal Eye’, the latter cut an absolute colossus of Lovecraftian proportions. The angular rhythms and almost atonal riffs of ‘Light the Shortening Fuse’ and the percussive complexities of the labyrinthine ‘Phantoms’ and ‘God He Sees in Mirrors’ are sure to leave any necks unfamiliar with Meshuggah in an a state of total confusion while the thudding mechanical brutality of ‘Ligature Marks’ and the djent-isms of ‘Kaleidoscope’ deliver everything fans have come to demand and more.
At over nine minutes in length, gargantuan instrumental ‘They Move Below’ writhes and pulsates, transforming Mårten Hagström‘s clean guitar tones into monolithic low end sliding riffs while second interlude ‘Black Cathedral’ is a playfully frustrating two minute tease consisting entirely of black metal style tremolo riffing. ‘I Am That Thirst’ plays into straight death metal territory while ‘The Faultless’ possesses a chromatic riff that ascends and descends so many times it almost becomes trance-like, and the full-on explosive aggression of ‘Armies of the Preposterous’ stupefies the senses one final time before the album climaxes with the brooding acoustics of final instrumental piece ‘Past Tense’.
Backed by the rhythm section of bassist Dick Lövgren and the octopoid Tomas Haake – a drummer who laughs at the very concept of time signatures from his own personal non-Euclidean dimension – vocalist Jens Kidman bellows, roars and whispers as only he can, his face contorted into a thousand different grimaces, leering out of the darkness and gurning his way forever into your subconscious.
For over an hour, Immutable‘s quirky rhythms jerk and surge under a flowing stream of dissonant, ambient guitar solos and oppressive density and although there are times when fatigue begins to set in, the band always respond, keeping listeners on their toes with something surprising, new, or from the past.
Still as captivating and confounding as ever, Meshuggah are back, standing above all once again.
8 / 10