Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason (5 stars)

Meshuggah - The Violent Sleep of Reason

Nuclear Blast

Latest album from Swedish metal titans is their best yet

To some extent, you know what you're going to get from a new Meshuggah album. There will be brain-boggling rhythms. There will be guitar tones that could stun an angry hippo. There will be furious hollerin'. It will be very, very heavy. And there will be a certain base level of goodness. However, unlike other bands that one might diplomatically call 'reliable', the pointedly mathematical nature of Meshuggah's singular metallic idiom allows for almost limitless permutations. They've tapped into a fractal vein of potential, at once capable of both infinite repetition and perpetual change. Where other bands broaden their focus, Meshuggah narrow theirs to a laser-point, constantly working to distil and perfect their sound, to achieve the pure, Platonic form of Meshuggahness. As John Peel once said of The Fall: 'Always the same, always different.'

Where the last two albums, obZen and Koloss, emphasised a slightly slinkier groove, The Violent Sleep of Reason is a tad more vicious, mechanical, labyrinthine and relentless, closer in spirit to the explorations of the still-startling 2004 EP I. Opener 'Clockworks' sets the pace: an endlessly unfolding Möbius strip of riffs that achieves a disorienting transcendence via sheer mass and audacious complexity. It's also notable for its curiously delicate and abstract guitar solo – a tiny bouquet of mutant flowers growing on a 25th century war machine. Elsewhere, the title track lurches like a wounded AT-AT, 'Nostrum' fathoms new depths of malice and abrasiveness, and closer 'Into Decay's uncontainable dirge will surely invalidate the warranty of many a rivethead's subwoofer.

Many bands have futilely attempted to ape Meshuggah's perfect but extreme balance of intellect and brutality, but none have come close. They effectively exist in a subgenre all their own, apex predators in a barren ecosystem. And even by Meshuggah's own standards, The Violent Sleep of Reason ranks among their heaviest, hardest, smartest and most satisfying.

The Violent Sleep of Reason is out now via Nuclear Blast.