Latest release: Koloss (Nuclear Blast)
Band site: www.meshuggah.net
As crushingly heavy and hypnotic as their music is, when looking for descriptors of Meshuggah’s output words like “immediate” don’t readily come to mind. So when guitarist Mårten Hagström tells Loud that the Swedish tech-metallers’ forthcoming opus Koloss is going to take some serious time to digest, well, you tend to pay attention.
“I think this album became a lot better than it otherwise would have because we put a focus on slightly different things,” an immediately friendly and thoughtful Hagström explains, despite being at home battling the flu. “This time around, we thought more about the how the arranging of the parts… It’s a less obvious album, it’s more subtle, it’s darker, it has more groove. There’s still plenty of weird shit, it’s a weird album,” he says with a slight chuckle. “But the weird shit is less obvious than the previous albums. I’ve been saying this for the past couple of albums now, but I think it’s never been more true, that it’s a more dynamic album.
“You never come out of an album that you’re 100 per cent, completely pleased with – when an album’s done you sit around bitching about little things here and there that you could have changed. But we agreed it’s the best thing by far we’ve ever put out, so let’s stop bitching,” he laughs. “We sat around discussing some of the tracks on the album and if they worked. When we looked at our old stuff in light of that, it became more obvious the great stuff we did in the past and what was a mistake. That’s not to say it will be seen that way by those outside of the band, though.
“In your career, for every album or song that you write, you realise more and more the essence of what you’re trying to say…You become a lot better at expressing what’s important to yourself. You realise what you want to say and what you want to create. It’s still very early, how well we’ve succeeded, but we’ve become better at expressing it.”
At the time of our interview few people had heard the new record yet; label Nuclear Blast were keeping it under lock and key and Loud only received access mere hours before our chat took place. The axeman enthuses that of those who have listened to it though, the reception was all positive.
“I’ve played it to a couple of guys I know; friends and musicians, and we had a listening session in L.A. I was thinking people would have a problem liking it initially, as I think it grows on people. I think that always happens with us, but I expected it to be even more the case here.
“When we talk to fans, people say they enjoy the fact that when a new album comes out, they really don’t know what to think. Then after a while it crystalizes if it’s any good or not. That’s very gratifying for me; some albums sound good for ten listens and then you’re tired of them. The really great ones do stand the test of time; that means the music has depth. If an album can provoke a reaction after 100 listens, then you know you’ve done something good.”
Recent interviews have revealed that the follow-up to 2008’s obZen was spawned from a more collaborative writing process. Hagström confirms this.
“We’ve collaborated in the past; on obZen we collaborated a little bit, but as far as people coming in and working through the arrangements and going through the songs properly, we’ve been doing that a lot more on this album. I think that’s helped this album a lot; you get more insight and more feedback from other people. Especially if you wrote the song…What happens instead is someone says, ‘This thing that happens after this part, if we did it this way it would make more sense’. And you think, ‘why didn’t I do that?’” he laughs. “We’ve never had that much time to do that to that extent.”
This luxury of extra time afforded them was not initially planned, though.
“We started writing stuff for this album a year-and-a-half ago. Then we went away, did some festival tours and then came back to it. Most of the songs had time to mature. It’s not what we intended to do, but it’s what happened because touring came up. This album, pretty much every song has an identity that makes it matter.”
He name-checks “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion” as his current favourite; “It’s a very slow song, but it’s got all the makings of what we wanted to say with this album.”
When quizzed about the possibility of Meshuggah airing some new material during their upcoming visit as part of the Soundwave Festival (which also includes a couple of tantalising side shows with The Devin Townsend Project and Dredg), the guitarist remains uncertain. The album was mastered only three-and-a-half weeks prior and the band are still getting a feel for how the new tracks are likely to translate in the live environment.
However, he’s audibly enthused about their return to Australia for what will be their third go-around in support of obZen. The band’s previous visits have been met with such a rapturous reception it left countless punters wondering why they waited until 20 years into their career to finally pay us a visit.
“Our expectations are really high,” he admits. “It’s our second time on Soundwave and our third time in Australia. The last two times we’ve been down to see you guys it’s been awesome, so I think we’re expecting even greater things this time.
“We thought about going back after the album was released, but then we thought, ‘fuck it, let’s go before the album’s released and after it’s released,” he laughs. “We’re going to see how the new material feels, so I’m not sure (about road-testing new material). We haven’t decided what type of set we want to do in Australia. We have pretty much the same set as the last two times but we want to mix it up. The first feel we’ll have for the new material is when we start rehearsing for Soundwave.”
Meshuggah will be touring with Soundwave 2012 on the following dates-
25/2: Brisbane Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD (SOLD OUT)
26/2: Sydney Showground, Sydney NSW (SOLD OUT)
2/3: Melbourne Showground, Melbourne VIC (SOLD OUT)
3/3: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
5/3: Claremont Showgrounds, Perth WA