It's been three long years since we've heard anything new from Meshuggah, but on March 11, the Swedish experimental-metallers return with what's maybe the first metal album of 2008 that deserves a solid listen. The follow-up to 2005's Catch Thirty-Three, obZen is the product of a year's worth of writing and marks something of a regression for the band, according to guitarist Mårten Hagström.
"We had this vision to make a dense album that was going back to the old songwriting structure we'd been using, where it'd have songs that were linked to each other by a common thread but still had a different identity," he explained. "Now, listening back to the album, that's something I think is the best part of the album, that we pulled that off and managed to get the diversity in there — if you can call what we're doing 'diverse,' with the kind of aggression that's involved. But we aimed to make an album that had that severe, aggressive quality to it. We wanted to get back to the sheer intensity of what we do, but really, it was all a semiconscious thing for us.
"I think this album's a little more direct than the previous ones," he continued. "It's more back to the in-your-face brutality of our older records and has a lot of qualities of what we've done over our career."
obZen features just nine songs, including "Combustion," "This Spiteful Snake," "Dancers to a Discordant System" and the first single, "Bleed." Within the next month, Meshuggah plan to shoot a video for the track, with director Patric Ullaeus (Dimmu Borgir, In Flames) behind the lens. The band is still looking over treatments for the clip. According to Hagström, the band got off to a sluggish start when it came to writing and recording obZen, but eventually the guys hit their stride.
"We started out messing around with new material quite a long time ago, and at the beginning, it was slow-going — but then, it kind of snowballed, which it tends to do with us," he said. "The recording process was similar to what it's usually like for us, but this album was weird in a way. It took a bit longer to write this record, and working on it was pretty gruesome, because we had the usual adversities bands face going into the studio."
One thing Hagström didn't anticipate was how challenging it would be to play the songs live. "That rarely comes this much into play, but we really anticipated that it would be a lot easier to replicate these songs than it has been," he said, adding that obZen is one of the most highly technical offerings the band has ever put to tape.
Meshuggah opted to self-produce the album because they wanted to have more control over the entire process. And while Hagström says the band is more than thrilled with the final result, he has no idea how fans will react to it.
"It's always hard to tell what the reaction will be to our records," he said. "It always takes me a while, personally, to get perspective on an album — to know what I think of it. But we're really happy with it, and I guess that's all that counts. You can only do something that really satisfies you. Then, if people like it, that's an added bonus. You always love to see an album do well — it would be weird to make music and not want people to here it. But if the record doesn't sell a ton, it's not the be-all [and] end-all for us."
Meanwhile, Hagström said he's not at all impressed with the current state of metal and hopes obZen will inject some much-needed inspiration into a scene that he believes is turning bland.
"I could say there's a lot of sh-- out there I don't like, and that would be true," he said. "On the other hand, it's a situation where there's a lot of generic, formulaic music out there, and I'm hoping we can help create a countermovement, a strong one. The last two years, I haven't been listening to much metal at all — when you're recording and writing, you tend to block out what other bands are doing," so their work doesn't bleed into your own.
In late March, Meshuggah will hit the road with Ministry for that band's send-off run. Dubbed "C U LaTouR," the trek kicks off March 26 in Calgary, Alberta, and is set to wrap May 9 in Chicago. Hemlock are also on the bill. Hagström said Meshuggah signed on with no hesitation when they were approached about the tour.
"It made a lot of sense to us to make it happen," he said. "It's going to be fun, and it's going to be nice to be out on the road with Ministry. It's a weird setup, as far as the bill goes — but weird in a good way. It appeals to us. And it's Ministry's farewell tour, which will be something people will remember anyways. And the audiences will be huge."
As far as what the band is doing this summer, Hagström said it'll be hitting the European festival circuit. So far, Meshuggah have no additional U.S. touring plans. Would the band be open to playing the Ozzfest again, as they did in 2002?
"I'm not sure," he said. "We definitely wouldn't pay to do it — that's for sure."
The rest of the week's metal news:
Queensrÿche frontman Geoff Tate and Blackmore's Night singer Candice Night will star in the upcoming horror movie "House of Eternity," which is slated for a fall theatrical release. The film, by New York independent production company Fires at Midnight, is about a newly married NYC couple who move to a country home in North Carolina, unaware of its sullied history and the evil that lurks there. Tate will make his acting debut as Alder Grayson, the story's villain, and Night will play his wife, an innocent woman whose fate is determined by the superstitious minds of the 1700s. " 'House Of Eternity' contains something for everyone," Night said in a statement. "[There are] memorable characters struggling against powers far greater than they; desperate, heart-pounding action [scenes]; innovative approaches to classic horror; even humor and a forlorn love. Plus there's a villain who will become timeless." Jonathan Williams and Jarrod Feliciano are directing "House of Eternity," and J. Andrew Colletti is the writer and executive producer. ...
Droid, Ill Niño, Soil and Bobaflex will launch the Guerilla Carnival Tour on January 31 in Cleveland, with dates running through February 24 in Sayreville, New Jersey. "We are really excited to get back out on the road, and the Ill Nino guys are good friends of ours, so it will be great to see them rip it up every night," Droid singer James "Buddy" Eason said in a statement. "I really like the fact that all the bands on this tour are a little different than each other musically. Get ready. Here comes the pain." ... Papa Roach are in their rehearsal studio writing songs for the follow-up to 2006's The Paramour Sessions and will begin recording shortly. "I can't really comment on what it will be like because we still have so much time," guitarist Jerry Horton wrote on the band's MySpace page late last year. "Rest assured that it will have groove." ...
Arsonists Get All the Girls — whose bassist Patrick Mason died November 30 at age 21 — have replaced him with their old friend Adam Swan. "All of us have known Adam for years, and we couldn't think of anyone else better fit for the job," guitarist Arthur Alvarez said in a statement. "Patrick will never be replaced as our bass player, but we are forced to move forward as he would have wanted. He will always be in our hearts." The band has also hired guitarist Derek Yarra following Nick Cardinelli's decision to pursue a different career. "We have no hard feelings and wish him the best of luck," Alvarez said. "He will always remain a close friend, whether it is in the band or not." Arsonists Get All the Girls' first show with Swan and Yarra will be February 9 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They have additional gigs scheduled through February 28 in Denver. ...
Kingdom of Sorrow, the side project featuring Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta and Crowbar/Down guitarist Kirk Windstein, will launch their first tour February 27 in Worcester, Massachusetts. Thy Will Be Done will open shows on the trek, which will run until March 7 in Detroit. "This tour will be killer," Jasta said in a press release. "If you like it loud, we hope to see you there. We are all pumped to be playing small clubs and bars." Kingdom of Sorrow's self-titled debut, co-produced by Jasta and Zeuss (Hatebreed, Shadows Fall), comes out February 19. ... Static-X frontman Wayne Static married adult-film actress Tera Wray on January 10. The couple met at Ozzfest last summer. ...
Washington, D.C., metalcore band Darkest Hour will shoot a concert DVD at a show in Richmond, Virginia, on their tour with Cephalic Carnage, Emmure and Whitechapel. "The reason we choose Richmond is because, simply, motherf---ers in Virginia are crazy, and we wanted to document how Virginia parties for the world," the band wrote in a post on its MySpace page. ... What could be better than a March 25 re-release of legendary Swedish melodic death-metal band At the Gates' classic 1995 album, Slaughter of the Soul, featuring six extra songs? The same disc with a bonus live DVD. The previously unreleased set was shot in Krakow, Poland, on December 30, 1995, when the band was touring with Unleashed. The DVD will also include the documentary "The Making of Slaughter of the Soul." ...
Brazilian thrash band Chaosfear have started pre-production for their second, yet-untitled album, which is tentatively scheduled for release later this year. The follow-up to 2007's One Step Behind Anger will feature the return of original guitarist Edu Boccomino. "We are very excited," drummer Danilo de Freitas said in a post on the band's Web site. "The songs have the same energy as usual, and I believe that they are more aggressive. With the second guitar, everything is sounding heavier and there is more focus on solos." ... Keith Baxter, the original drummer for British folk-metal band Skyclad, died from liver failure in an English hospital on January 4. He was 36. Baxter played on five albums with Skyclad before joining the successful rock band 3 Colours Red and performing on two of their records. He also played with Elevation and Therapy?