This is not your mama's metal music, kids! Catch Thirtythree - the 11th release from Swedish maniacs Meshuggah - provides clear evidence of why they stand head and shoulders above the rather crowded Nordic metal scene. While many bands tend to settle into a comfortable formula as their career unfolds (can you say "rut"?), Meshuggah has always shown a strong desire to experiment and grow with each new project. To that end, Catch Thirtythree is a defining moment in their progress.
While the band is quick to point out that this is not the real, full-length album many were expecting (it was apparently put together to settle a dispute over the exact terms of their contract with former label, Nuclear Blast) it does an excellent job of showcasing all the things that make them such a unique band. Insanely heavy riffing? Check. Forceful, snarling vocals? Check. Trippy lyrical themes? Check. Odd time signatures and polyrhythms galore? Double check. My only lament is that the drums are programmed rather than played live, although this does nothing to detract from the visceral impact of the music. It's just that Tomas Haake is one of music's best drummers and it would have been nice to hear him play the insanity they programmed.
Past releases from Meshuggah have each exhibited a particular, dominant characteristic that made them easier to classify. For example, Chaosphere was the fast one, Nothing was the heavy one (thanks to the custom Nevborn 8-string guitars the band had recently adopted), and the alien abduction-themed I EP was the experimental one. Catch Thirtythree, on the other hand, unifies these singular elements into a very enjoyable 47 minutes of audio mayhem. Metal is not usually thought of as "headphone music" but this mix is multidimensional and sounds wonderful over the 'phones.
Catch Thirtythree could certainly serve as a touchstone of where Meshuggah has been musically these past several years but, rather than focusing your gaze backwards, it leaves you eagerly looking forward to the undiscovered country they will take us through on the next journey.
In a word, excellent.