on June 3, 2005
Since Meshuggah don't often release a new proper album (five in about a decade and a half of existence), the arrival of a new full-length tends to become something of an event, with the band's rabid fan base dissecting its sound like film geeks picking apart a new Tarantino movie. You can already see the instant analysis on this site, and judging by the early returns Catch Thirty-Three has done a mighty nice job of polarizing Meshuggah's listeners. Of course, given Meshuggah's penchant for ignoring convention and tossing constant curveballs at their audience, perhaps that's exactly what they wanted. Catch Thirty-Three has already drawn some criticism from fans concerned about its departures from Meshuggah's norm, but these people may be missing the point. For one thing, Meshuggah has always been about experimentation, making sure each release sounds different from the one before it, and that pattern continues here. More to the point, while this album is more repetitive than the others, and Fredrik Thordendal's hyper-technical solos have been all but expunged, this album is clearly *supposed* to be a repetitive and streamlined effort by Meshuggah standards. The repetition, the extended atmospheric breaks, and the (slight) reduction of showy technicality enable the band to put more emphasis on its unrelentingly bleak sound and vision, and I for one am all for it.
Of course, it's safe to say that I'm somewhat biased when reviewing a Meshuggah album, given the fact that I worship them with a fervor typically reserved for one's deity of choice, but even the band's more casual listeners should find something to like here. Like all Meshuggah releases, this one is distinguished above all by its utter distinctiveness; at no point could a Meshuggah album be mistaken for the work of anyone other than Meshuggah. For while many lesser metal bands make speed, image, or "brutality" the end-all and be-all of their sound, Meshuggah's sound is devoted above all else to complexity, musicianship, and atmosphere. Like None, Destroy Erase Improve, Chaosphere, Nothing, and I before it, Catch Thirty-Three is a sleek, futuristic killing machine of an album, and this one may be the most sleek and futuristic of them all. The embellishments to which metal bands often turn in order to sound "distinctive" (keyboards, acoustic guitars, clean vocals) are conspicuously absent here, as Meshuggah devote themselves to the primitive essentials of voices, guitar, bass, and drum machine. Of course, it's what Meshuggah do with these elements that makes this album such a unique and compelling listen: pulverizing eight-string guitar riffs; noisy Godflesh-style feedback; intricate fusionesque polyrhythms; and of course the dual assault of Jen's Kidman's commanding growl and Tomas Haake's foreboding spoken-word vocals. It all adds up to a twisted, dystopian sound that conveys despair and disaffection better than every whiny nu-metal band on Earth put together.
Unlike Meshuggah's previous three albums, on which each song was a distinctive, fully-realized classic in its own right, Catch Thirty-Three is essentially one extended mood piece broken up into 13 parts. As such, it makes sense to listen to it not as a collection of songs, but as a single epic devoted to a unifying theme and atmosphere (the band makes this trick easy to accomplish by not leaving any space between tracks). The first three tracks on the album, Autonomy Lost, Disenchantment, and Imprint of the Un-Saved, provide a pretty clear example of its mission right away, as they coalesce into a swirling vortex of metallic fury built around one stuttering, drawn-out, entrancingly repetitive guitar riff that had me banging my head with reckless abandon at a stoplight in full view of about ten other drivers on first listen. This opening movement reaches a level of intensity that rivals the finest moments of Chaosphere, and the insanity doesn't stop until the start of The Paradoxical Spiral, which opens with some atmospheric guitar notes before launching into another gut-busting riff. The album's longest section, In Death - Is Death, is also perhaps its most exemplary moment, opening with Jens's trademark robotic scream and a guitar sound that's about as pleasant as having a steak knife shoved in your ear before steadily segueing into a prolonged ambient passage that constitutes one of the few extended periods in Meshuggah's canon that could properly be called minimal. Most metal bands wouldn't dare leave so much space in one of their albums, but then Meshuggah isn't most metal bands.
Before taking my leave, I should also stress that the instant gratification factor on this album may not be as high as usual for Meshuggah. Their work has always reveled in complexity and unpredictability, but given Catch Thirty-Three's retreat from conventional song composition and its excessive reliance on tone and repitition, this one might take even more time than usual to fully appreciate. It's the kind of album that sort of gets under your skin more and more as you listen to it, communicating increasing amounts of its feel on successive listens. You still may not like it (as some Meshuggah fans obviously don't), but Catch Thirty-Three more than deserves some extra time. You'd probably just waste it anyway.
on November 29, 2005
...but something just irks me about this album. I don't wanna hear that I'm not a "true fan" b/c I find myself yawning to this release. I fully acknowledge Mesh is one of the most aggressive, talented, innovative, and amazing bands out there, but not every band is going to strike gold with every consecutive release.
More power to those who can look at this work as a whole. I sure will never slight a band for trying new things. It keeps art fresh. But at the same time I'm sure there are fans that have a certain expectancy of Meshuggah to deliver something a little more in-your-face. One steady tempo gets really old and the ambient parts don't really live up to those delivered in "I" or older songs like "Sublevels" or "Future Breed Machine" (both have really amazing laid back guitar breaks). Doing one song for an entire album can work, but a single tempo repetition is just overkill...especially at 40 minutes long.
Also, being a drummer myself, I'm a little hurt Thomas Haake took the programming route rather than sitting behind the kit himself. The programming is solid and VERY convincing and sounds wonderful, but one can tel there's no real variation in the drumming. Haake is one of the most amazing metal drummers out there and this really is such a dissappointment to not hear his full potential. Overall it's the band's decision and I will totally respect them for it. As a fan who has supported the band, I feel a little let down. The effort is still good and delivers solid aggression that you gotta love them for.
on May 31, 2005
Meshuggah has never, and I mean NEVER, been a group to play by the rules. Especially within the "free-thinking" realm of heavy metal, which in many cases artists who decide to expand their parameters are labeled as "sellouts". Metal, which prides itself on values such as freedom and individuality, is full of reactionaries who claim to be non-conformist all the while attacking those that even slightly stray from their myopic worldview. What makes Meshuggah truly rebellious is not their image. They don't have a ridiculous Satanic or anti-establishment stance. They just avoid the cliches (blast beats, the clean vocal chorus, neoclassical soloing) that landed the genre into a quagmire while pushing it into an artistic plateau that few could possibly comprehend. Rebellion isn't challenging your enemies so much as it is challenging your peers when it is needed.
What can I say about _Catch 33_? For starters, it's going to be one of the most controversial metal releases of the year. Meshuggah has always been about reinventing themselves and _Catch 33_ is further validation of the fact. While earlier albums like _Destroy Erase Improve_ and _Chaosphere_ focused on adrenalized technicality, _Catch 33_ is about mood, repetition, and long simplistic near abscences throughout. There seems to be a lot an Isis/Godspeed You Black Emperor! influence here. It may come as a disappointment to some that the beats are programmed, but then again Tomas Haake's drumming always had a machine-like quality -not that that's a bad thing. There are two guitar solos on the whole album, and they are not of the shred variety. This is not, and I repeat NOT, an album for those with closed minds.
Of course, you're going to have the haters show out here. They're going to whine about the lack of guitar solos, the programmed drums, the repetition, the absences, the fact that Meshuggah isn't as "underground" as they used to be, etc. You'll really hear it from these extreme metal heads. But you know, Meshuggah has better things to do than confining themselves to what these people think. Read the liner notes of _Destroy Erase Improve_ if you don't believe me. While they cite Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, and Death as inspirations; they also cite Edie Brickell, Steely Dan, Bjork, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. They seem to be fine group of open-minded gentlemen. I wish I could say the same about some their "fans".
on May 31, 2005
What do you do as a band when you don't have harmonies or melodies? Well...if you're a band like Sweden's Meshuggah you rely on rhythms. In their new release of Catch 33, Meshuggah churns out a more polished and overall more mature album than their previous outing of Nothing. Clocking in at 47 minutes and just labeled as one song with 13 sections, you know you're in for a ride. It shows that Nothing was merely Marten and Fredrik were just experimenting with their 8 string guitars, Catch 33 shows they now know how to use them.
Catch 33 starts off in a very un-Meshuggah kind of way. You're not blasted with the wall of sound of Concatenation or even the punishing opener of Stengah on Nothing. Instead the listener is greeted with a smooth opener almost like a roller coaster that just starts and is about to unleash mayhem. The first three sections are the same pattern and that is when track four unleashes a "Nebulous" type of rhythm structure. "Entrapment" is the only part of the song that features a solo and it is one of Fredrik's finest. The controversial spoken word "Mind's Mirrors" throws me personally a curve ball. Instead of the "Mr. Roboto" voice perhaps they could've used Tomas Haake's devilish vocals like that of Fredrik Throndel's Special Defects. Perhaps the album's finest moment starts at track 8 and doesn't stop. Fredrik and Marten unleash an amazing and dizzying array of guitar riffs. They are short intricate intervals that are dead on and leave you in shock.
Jens Kidman (vocals) continues to amaze me with just how dominating of a presence he has. There is seroiusly no singer that could match up with Meshuggah's brutality besides Jens. The dissappointing factor in Catch 33 is the absence of Tomas Haake and the placement of programmed drums. The drum patterns are there to withold the rhythm of the song. Which brings me to my next point. This is through and through Fredrik and Marten's finest hour. With Tomas Haake in the background, they carry this album on their shoulders and don't falter a bit. My last little point is the lyrics on this album. Meshuggah has always been above and beyond on lyrical content and meanings, and that continues on here. I urge you to read in the booklet the lyrics and just how profound and disturbingly beatiful they really are.
With all that said, I must say I am once again deeply impressed on how Meshuggah continues to carry themselves. I was a "good music listener" and didn't download this album. I must say the wait for this mammoth of an album was in every way worth it.
on September 8, 2005
It's so inspiring when a band manages, fifteen + years into their career, to produce work as original and powerful as this. After testing the "epic" waters with last years "I" ep - a 21 minute slab of perfection - Meshuggah has expanded its vision to an entire album-length composition, "Catch 33."
True, there are 13 song titles corresponding to 13 tracks on the CD, but this track indexing has nothing to do with individual songs; tracks 1-3 all blend seamlessly together and function as a single chunk of music. Likewise, tracks 4-6 also form one "song," or at least one sub-section of the album as a whole. The album is clearly meant to function as one complete work; the opening theme gets reworked a few times over the course of the album, as do certain other musical ideas.
Personally, I almost always just listen to the whole thing, although occasionally I will skip straight to track 8, "In Death," which features my favorite riff on the album.
Even for Meshuggah, this one stretches the boundaries of rhythm and melody - this band can take two notes and make an incredibly complicated groove simply by playing with the time signature. But there are also some soft passages with clean guitars, which display a strong sense of harmony. This album has it all.
Of course, the recording quality is nothing short of stunning.
on May 8, 2005
Definately different and, like everybody else is saying, it's "not what I expected". I dont really know how to review this but, I'll try my best. Basically its structurally the same as the "I" EP (albeit about 20 mins longer) while still retaining the "NOTHING" style. The compositional difference is that its a more circularly repetetive and, dare I say, more melodic take on the "nothing" sound as well as being rhythmically more linear and even. Now dont be alarmed because its definately still the same complete polyrhythmic insanity (and in some cases even more indecipherably off-time than previous efforts) just not as aggressive with an almost chillingly lifeless mid-tempo vibe. The drums are all programmed using the "Drumkit From Hell" and it definatetly fits the material quite well (even though it sounds only slightly different from the live drum sound). The previously mentioned melodies are usually very ambient and range from hypnotic (in the repetitive riffing), to haunted (in some of the lead guitar passages), to enlightened (mostly in the long dirges of atmospheric guitar). The vocals are totally still in the vein of previous recordings as far as Jens scream, which I feel gets progressively better with every album. However, maintaning the atmospheric feel of the record there are a few passages of spoken word vocals and computer treated whispers that add a bit of depth to the lyrical presentation. The lyrics by the way are the typically awesome, complex, metaphysical passages you'd come to expect from Meshuggah (dealing in this case with the contradictions and dualities of life and death). They lyrics, as well as the more almost "catchy", yet still mindbendingly polyrhythmic structure of this song/album, really do make "Catch 33" a very fitting title. BUT. dont expect to push play and be blown away as with "CHAOSPHERE". If you are expecting something to mosh or dont particularly like Meshuggah and/or metal in general than you really should'nt buy this. This is an avant-garde muscial composition and if you have no sence of conceptualism or artfullness than you should look elsewhere. You really have to sit down with the lyrics and listen to the whole thing in its entirety with a VERY open mind to appreciate this album. That can be a little challenging for some, however once you do its well worth it. It really becomes an uncommonly addictive listen and reveals a different side of Meshuggah's complex and brilliant musical vision. MESHUGGAH IS LORD. HAIL MESHUGGAH!!!
on June 5, 2005
Meshuggah has really started to grow on me in the last half a year or so, particularly since their release of the brilliant 'I' ep, which made me more carefully reevaluate their earlier work. For the longest time, I thouht of Meshuggah as being kinda vaguely interesting, but not really all that compelling. And, I still think their earlier stuff tends to be a bit too cold and clinical, and much of it seems pieced together from the individual segments with no real apparent reason or focus. Many would say, with reason, that both of those aspects are integral to the Meshuggah sound, but that doesn't make me anymore fond of them. I guess it seemed to me that the foundation of their sound was contradictory, to be both chaotic and mechanistic, with very heavy, wild riffs that you can't properly rock out to due to their crazy rhythms. (A problem compounded by their utter lack of melody, and virtual lack of any atmosphere) Still, after being deeply impressed by 'I', I've become increasingly fascinated with their intricate rhythm guitarwork, and Thorendel's mad leads, so that the fundamentally unsatisfactory nature of their sound matters less and less. Still, though I very much enjoy 'DEI', 'Chaosphere', and 'Nothing' now, I think 'I' and 'Catch Thirty-Three' mark the pinnacle of Meshuggah's career, and hope they continue in this new vein. Oddly enough, in their movement towards epic songwriting, Meshuggah have actually brought focus and direction to their sound along with ample atmosphere, so now they're using their unique musical idiom to convey something concrete, rather than just to conduct some sort of odd musical experiment. (Whether or not this is literally true, I can't say, for sure, but that's the way it *feels* anyway, which is what really makes the difference.) It's true, however, that their new emphasis on mood has dropped their insanity level a bit. But, with 'Catch Thirty-Three', Meshuggah proves that you can have a lotta mood and a lotta madness at the same time.
Meshuggah has been accused of both veering to far off course with this album, and of simply repeating themselves. Though the notion of whether or not they've 'gone to far' is debatable, the accusation that they're just repeating themselves is ridiculous. Frankly, 'Catch Thirty-Three' isn't even all that similar to the earlier 'I', as although it is very long and has plenty of atmospherics, the riffwork is slower, denser and more jagged. On Meshuggah's earlier work, their riffs tended to be flatly amelodic, but on `Catch Thirty-Three' they take this a step further, with harsh, unsettling and actively anti-melodic riffwork. (Not to say they didn't ever play like this before. They certainly did, but the harsher, nastier riff style is now more prominent.) The riffs just have an emotional impact that was often lacking before, as they now actively attack the listener. Yes, this album is relatively slow, but I think this works for Meshuggah's sound, as the slower tempos allow the odd, shifting rhythms to breath, letting the irregularities really disorient you, rather than just zooming by. Meshuggah uses their comical looking 8-string guitars again, but with a washier, somewhat more distant and subterranean kinda guitar tone, rather than the punchier, more conventionally metallic sound of 'Nothing'. Though I typically like a crunchier tone, I think this works here. The smoother sound is darker, and more insidious and suffocating, which helps the mood of the album. (The tones aren't terribly different, mind you, but it's noticeable and makes a difference.) They mix things up pretty well, with the first movement containing a groovy, more memorable riff(cycle), while the second movement has got a nastier, more jarring one, while the final third of the album tends to be more driving, and occasionally faster. (And there are a number of atmospheric breaks throughout the album) Sadly, the jazz-fusion leads are gone, but, to be honest, I can't really think of anywhere they'd be appropriate on this album. The atmospheric material is spacy, jazzy stuff, minimalistic at times, while sometimes dense and weaving. Some seem indifferent to this material, but I think it helps Meshuggah's sound massively, and also provides a strong counterpoint to all the intensity. The drums are programmed rather than live, and while I am technically opposed to this, it is effectively the same as if Haake did it himself. Naturally, the drumwork reflects the utterly unique, severely poly rhythmic style that defined Meshuggah's drumming on the prior 3 albums. This isn't as new and exciting as it once was, but it's still pretty damn unique, and impressive.
47 minutes is pretty damn long for a single composition, but they keep it from getting dull, while simultaneously NOT making it so dense that it's impossible to digest. Yeah, it is more repetitious than their earlier stuff, but the repetition is necessary to generate the violent, nightmarish atmosphere that this album generates. (Which is a more than adequate tradeoff, I think) So I guess that's it. Those looking for just more 'Chaosphere' type madness will be disappointed, but those who wanna hear Meshuggah take their sound in a more menacing, ominous direction will likely be very pleased.
on May 31, 2005
I want to start this review like i've started several others. This is *not* for all metalheads. Not even for all meshuggah fans. If you liked the earlier stuff but didn't dig Nothing, then you're better off not getting this album.
Now, if you're like me and enjoy groove-oriented math metal, this *is* for you. This is a step past Nothing but in the same direction. You won't find anything like "I" or "War" or any of the other almost-speed/thrash songs. Well, except in parts. The songs are much more groove-oriented like those from Nothing. Yes, they move kind of slow and the music could be monotonous because the riffs are repetitive, but that's the whole *effect*. that's what they're going for. I've never understood people who complain that an album doesn't sound like the one five years ago from a band. "It doesn't sound the same"...oh, gee whiz there. you think? what the heck is the point of putting out an album of the same material?
on July 19, 2005
_Catch 33_ is far and beyond anything in the "math-metal" and "extreme metal" genres. if you want to hear heavy, brutally challenging, cinder-block smashing metal that makes you wish you could bash your head through a wall and come out unscathed, look no further. IMO, this is Meshuggah's best work to date. while Fred's solos are virtually absent, the album relies more on super-heavy 2 guitar riffing. Fredrik and Marten OWN this album. Jens vocals are higher pitched than on _Nothing_, but much more focused and better rhythmically than on _Chaosphere_. yes, the drums are programmed... but who cares, it sounds exactly like Tomas Haake anyway. the only reason anyone knows the drums were programmed is because Meshuggah was honest enough to tell us.
now it's time for me to rant at the people who said Meshuggah "sold out". you'd think an album full of super-distorted psychotic guitar riffs, other-worldly beats that conjure up visions of sledgehammers smashing through brick walls, and demonically gutteral vocals that rival practically any other singer in the realm of "extreme metal" would be enough for fans of the genre. i'm sorry, but some of you that slam this album and call it crap, and say Meshuggah sold out... what in the hell are you listening to? you're complaining how this doesn't sound like _DEI_ or _Chaosphere_ ... good! that's exactly what Meshuggah WANTS you to say! Meshuggah transcends the "extreme metal" genre. Meshuggah is progressive.
considering some of the CRAP that you guys listen to, you'd figure the sheer brutality of the music alone would've been enough to make you say "THIS IS THE S**T!". but no. the reason you can't handle it is because it's not super-fast and it doesn't go from one idea to the next with virtually no direction. that is what you like, music that is so fast and switchy, that it tends to make little to no sense at all in a musical context. close-minded fools. keep listening to the same thing you always do. it's time for you to realize that the _DEI_ era is dead, and you may as well never buy or listen to a new Meshuggah album ever again.
on September 1, 2014
Catch Thirty Three has grown to be my favorite work by Swedish metal band Meshuggah, and one of my favorite albums of all time.
What I liked/noticed:
1. I can't help but compare the concept to the classic and influential works of 20th-century minimalist composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Minimalism relies heavily on repetition, rhythm, and simple beauties. Listen to the album by Philip Glass called Solo Piano...there are countless parallels to the repetition and slow changes that make up Catch Thirty Three:
2. Dat tone. They're certainly carrying on similar timbres from their previous record, "Nothing". I like to think of these two albums (and Chaosphere, to some degree) as the origin of the "djent" tone that's taking over modern metal these days. Very high gain, distinct attack, noise gated, very midrange-y, etc.
3. As other reviewers have mentioned, Thordendal's two solos are excellent. If you know Meshuggah, you'll know the solos aren't your typical shred/pick-sweep/generic-minor-arpeggios whatever. They've avant-garde in nature, and mostly atonal.
4. Rhythms. This ties in with the whole minimalist-repetition point. I've always been a huge fan of the polymetric grooves that Meshuggah is able to create. Although uneven, they often circle back to meet up with whatever clock you're following -- usually 4/4 carried by some part of the drums. For example, in the first three tracks ("Autonomy Lost" - "Disenchantment") that constant uneven riff played by the guitars/bass/bass-drum always circles back to the 4/4 (quarters played by the crash) every four bars.
5. Contrast between the robotic ticking of most of the album and the experimental, time-less interludes found in "Mind's Mirrors", at the end of "In Death - Is Death", and "Sum"
6. Just something I noticed, almost all of the main guitar riffs have something big in common -- the notes of each alternate between notes around a base note and others notes centered around the octave of the base. There's a little bit of this found in their album "Nothing", but not to the same degree. For example, the first riff of the first three tracks is all based on the minor 9th interval, as is the second riff found in tracks 4-6. After the interlude, "In Death - Is Life" is all based on minor 10th. Tracks 9-11 are almost all minor 9ths as well, track 12 "Dehumanization" is mostly major 7ths, and track 13 mostly octaves. I see this as binary speak....10001010111. Two discrete, extreme values (the root, 0, and the octave, 1) that the entire album alternates between (in different variations and rhythms). It's almost like you could transcribe the entire album using a square wave. This adds something considerable to the already robotic feel that the rhythms and tutti voicing bring.