I have sat on this album for a little while to reserve my usually direct judgement. I am aware that this band with their current vocalist has been divisive, but I have never really given them a proper listening to. So without anymore waiting, let’s dive in.
Album opener ‘Citizen’ starts with a very tasty riff, made for digging into the conscience and holding on. It sits just under the surface of the rest of the music going on around it. Vocalist Marcus Bridge’s harsher screams feel a little forced, particularly when his clean vocals carry such a great modern rock/post hardcore feel.
As Mesmer continues it bears a great modern metal feel that would be best compared to metalcore or post hardcore, going from the gruff vocals back to soaring melodies, typified early on the album with tracks like ‘Savage’ and ‘Solar’. The album really takes off with ‘Zero-One’, with every track that follows dropping the more repetitive nature that the music holds on occasion. ‘Fade’ has the cleanest and heaviest vocal performances on any one track. Closing the album is the one-two-three punch that first lands with ‘Render’, at times dreamy sounding yet heavy as can be with the drums holding a great off time beat. ‘Veridian’ is a lyrically heavy pro-euthanasia track that has some of the best clean singing put together by Bridge on the album, allowing the weight of the topic to be fully understood. The 90’s nu-bounce of the bass helps the track along nicely.
Closer ‘Paragon’ is a dedication to peer and friend Tom Searle, guitarist of The Architects, who passed away last year after a lengthy and silent battle with cancer. This is by far the heaviest track on the album, both musically and in its celebration of their mate through the references to his band’s lyrics, dotted throughout, opening quietly before kicking into full Meshuggah worship mode with vocals that don’t feel forced – unlike earlier in the album.
Mesmer can at times be repetitive, but it also sounds like a band that is growing away from their roots towards hereto unexplored musical territory for them. At its root, this is the album where another world beating Aussie band is firmly planting its marker. Avoid at your peril.