By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Album: Pitch Black (EP)
Release Date: 2/5/13
Fans of Swedish extreme prog-metalers Meshuggah usually expect to wait a few years before hearing any new material. Just look at the sizable gap between 2008’s obZen and last year’s Koloss. It seemed as though all signs pointed to another lengthy gestation period between releases. However, they’ve managed to keep up the momentum with the release of a new EP, Pitch Black.
It is most likely because Meshuggah take so long to write and record new material that this is just an EP, and not a new LP. But it also marks partnership between the band and Scion AV, who are offering Pitch Black as a free download via their website. The release is basically a two-track morsel, or appetizer, to briefly satisfy fans’ appetites as they await the proper follow-up to Koloss.
Pitch Black kicks off with the title-track, a mid-tempo stomper crammed full of their signature use of polyrhythms, time signature shifts and the 8-string chugging riffs of guitarists Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal. While it’s not a huge departure in sound for the band, one noticeable difference is Jen Kidman’s vocals. They’re less guttural yet slightly more sinister. The front man sounds like he’s possessed when he snarls about stepping into oblivion and being consumed by voids of perpetual darkness over the course of the track’s six minutes. Add one of the band’s unconventional atonal guitar leads (not a traditional solo in anyone’s book) around the two-minute mark, some hypnotizing droning in the middle followed by a furious conclusion, and you have a track that epitomizes Meshuggah’s ability for writing songs that not only push, but obliterate the boundaries of extreme music.
One of the most fascinating aspects of a band like Meshuggah, is they don’t appear to write complex music just for the sake of it, rather their unorthodox songwriting comes quite naturally to them. While many songwriters would never dare venture outside the realms of a safe 4/4 time signature, they seem most comfortable when they’re experimenting with skittering rhythms and off-kilter grooves. That being said, a song like “Pitch Black” may be impressive for its sheer musicianship alone, but its most striking feature is that it simply sounds like Meshuggah; a feat no other band can replicate.
The second half of the EP is a live recording of “Dancers To A Discordant System,” a track taken from obZen. Sure, it’s not exactly a second offering of new material that some were hoping for, but it’s still a near 10-minute reminder that Meshuggah are a tight-knit unit in a live setting and that their music isn’t just mere studio trickery or ProTools.