Swedish Progressive Metal Gods Meshuggah will release their newest, and TENTH studio record, Immutable on April 22, 2022! The much-anticipated record follows six long years of waiting after 2016’s The Violent Sleep of Reason. I was fortunate enough to represent MetalWani at the official Meshuggah Immutable album release listening party months before the official April release date. I was joined by music journalists from across the globe representing some of the biggest names in Metal media!
The album release party was a combined event of an entire runtime listen of Immutable followed by a Q&A/discussion with Meshuggah drummer and founder Tomas Haake.
The Immutable Listening Experience:
The meat and potatoes of the album listening party, as the name suggests was a playback of the entire record via the record label, Atomic Fire Records. Interestingly, Immutable is the first record to be released through Atomic Fire Records, after a decades-long relationship with Nuclear Blast. Note that this section will not be a detailed review of Immutable, which will follow when we receive an official pre-release copy of the record via the label. Unfortunately, we were only allowed a single playthrough through the entire record, with a time-limited stream code, so what follows are brief thoughts captured via information captured during the listening.
To begin with, Immutable is LONG, at thirteen tracks and nearly seventy minutes of crushing music. At the writing of this article, the single “The Abysmal Eye” has been released, and forms the perfect template track to comment on the album. “The Abysmal Eye” is an aggressively “straightforward” Meshuggah track (as oxymoronic as that may seem). Longtime Meshuggah fans, especially for those who have internalized ObZen, “The Abysmal Eye”’ will be familiar territory, low register tremolo syncopated runs overlaid with dissonant ambient leads. Immutable is a good mix between the hectic pace of ObZen and the more oppressively dense tracks on The Violent Sleep of Reason. Drummer Haake stated that there are throwbacks from every era of the Meshuggah journey on Immutable and veteran fans of their catalog will be able to pinpoint snippets and subtle nods to their older works.
Tracks like “Broken Cog” and “I Am That Thirst” leans heavily on the slower end of things whereas “Phantoms”, “Ligature Marks”, and “The Faultless” are frenetic in their brutality. In fact, at first glance “Ligature Marks” and “The Faultless” are this reviewer’s favorite, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the record to fully digest the chaos in the faster tracks. In complete contrast, there are curveballs on Immutable. “They Move Below” is a nine-minute juggernaut of a track, with lengthy ambient and instrumental passages and is a sonic journey unto itself.
“Black Cathedral” is a surprise I do not dare spoil for the rest of the listeners.
Immutable is a dense record, with powerful rhythms cycling through each other like metal ouroboros, weaving in and out of different tempos, time signatures, moods, and imagery, held together by rock solid musicianship and trademark vocals. It is true, that this record, like many in the Meshuggah catalog, is not for the faint of heart, and listener fatigue is an ever-present danger.
Discussion with Tomas Haake:
On completion of listening to the entire runtime of Immutable, we were treated to a discussion with drummer, main lyricist, and co-founder of the band, Tomas Haake. Various topics ranging from the driving themes behind the music and lyrics of Immutable to the writing and recording process of the record were discussed as Haake fielded questions from us. When explaining the choice of the album title, and how it fitted into the Meshuggah landscape, Haake brought up ideas paralleling the unchanging nature of both humanities in crisis, and the constancy of the band itself over its decades’ long career. Admittedly, he states that being as the album name suggests, Meshuggah has written itself into a small pocket of music, but they feel comfortable and creative within the small space they have carved out and have become masters of their domain.
A large chunk of the conversation concerned the writing process of the newest record, especially in the troubling times of a global pandemic. Haake explains that the writing process of Immutable benefited from the pandemic, insofar that there was significantly lower pressure via deadlines to write and demo the tracks for the record before hitting the studio. Lengthier writing and demoing of the tracks allowed for greater emphasis on tighter takes, more thoughtful arrangements, and better flow throughout the record, the results of which are readily apparent when consuming the record in its entirety. In particular, emphasis was made on the fact that Immutable is the first record that does NOT feature writing contributions of long-time guitarist Frederik Thordendal and all guitar songwriting and arrangement duties were executed by Marten Hagstrom. When asked about the departure of Thordendal, Haake packaged it as a blessing in disguise owing to the geographic distance between the guitarists (as well as other members of the band) which would otherwise have slowed down the writing process of the album.
Haake makes special mention of Hagstrom’s use of a cinematic approach to writing music, even extreme music, with a greater emphasis on visualization of a vibe and focus on vivid imagery and translating that into sound. In this vein, he mentions that Meshuggah has always leaned into writing their records to be consumed cover-to-cover rather than a collection of songs, with the ebbs and flows of songs blending well into each other leading the listener on a complete journey toward a rewarding conclusion. Immutable follows that pattern. He added that this “old school” way of writing records stemmed from the records the members fell in love with during their formative years, before the advent of modern recording practices and technologies.
It is evident that Meshuggah inadvertently “invented” a genre, the onomatopoetically named djent for the sound of a heavily palm-muted extended range guitar low register chug. The djent phenomenon has exploded over the last decade with massively successful bands like Periphery, TesseracT, Animals as Leaders, etc as well as a whole slew of mediocre of copycats that may not stand the test of time. When asked whether this legacy impacts the way Meshuggah approaches songwriting for newer material, Haake emphatically drew focus on the fact that the members of the band, now well into their 50s have no real idea about new music in the scene and are content “to do their own thing”. As a counterbalance, when asked whether this limited their scope to change up the formula, he re-emphasized that the swedes have been doing this for so long that they know very little else, so we should rest easy that Meshuggah would not be releasing a black metal (hidden reference) or a pop record anytime soon!
Lastly, when asked about touring adjustments, Haake as well as the PR member present, corrected various dates erroneously mentioned on the festival website and provided an updated list of tours across the UK and the EU with potential US dates in the later half of 2022.
The experience of being among the first few listeners in the world of a gigantic piece of music like Immutable is a truly special one, and I am fortunate to have been a part of it. I am indebted to Meshuggah, Atomic Fire records, and the editor and team at MetalWani for allowing me to be a part of this extravaganza. Finally, I am excited for the world to experience Immutable on April 22. Watch this space for a full review of the record!