0038. Meshuggah – obZen [2008]


This album will probably be too much for many of you who have the traditional 4/4 way of writing music ingrained in your heads.  Even though they do use the 4/4 time signature, it varies quite a lot.  I think it’s fascinating, brutal, and a well-deserved entry on my 1,001 list.  I actually love pretty much every song/album I’ve heard from Meshuggah thus far, but I love this one the most.  Any of you perverts who tune in to my podcast have likely heard a generous helping of Meshuggah tunes.

I actually got a chance to see them live when they toured with Ministry for their “final” tour back in ’06 or ’08 something.  Fuckin’… Amazing.  SO glad I got to see them.  I didn’t know any of the music, and it was damn near impossible to determine where one track ended and the next began, but I still moshed my ass off.  I’d really love to see them again, but I haven’t noticed them come around my neck of the woods any time since the Ministry show.  Ah well, maybe one day.

Wikipedia Says:

obZen is the sixth album by Swedish metal band Meshuggah. It was released in Europe on March 7, 2008, and in North America on March 11, 2008, through Nuclear Blast.[1] Tomas Haake made his return as the studio drummer for the record after the Drumkit from Hell drum software was used on Catch Thirtythree.[2] The release of the album was followed by their first world tour. A video was filmed for a shorter version of the song “Bleed”.


In an interview with Revolver, Haake stated that obZen would be a collective return to the band’s past works, signalling a shift in direction away from their previous effort, Catch Thirtythree. “We’ve got some fast, intense songs and hectic, heavy stuff that draws from all the things we’ve done in the past.”[3]

The album was originally planned for release in November 2007, prior to a European tour featuring Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan. The recording process for obZen took longer than expected and led the band to drop out of the tour, later explaining on their official website that the “album-promotional” aspect of the touring no longer applied and that they would rather focus their priorities on getting the record finished.[4]

In an interview, drummer Tomas Haake commented further on the time taken to record the album, saying, “This time around we took almost six months to do all the recording and the sampling […] we definitely took our time”.[5] Drumkit from Hell was used on the album, but not programmed as Catch 33 was. Drumkit from Hell was an auxiliary sound source.[6] He elaborated on the concept of the album in another interview, saying: “If you haven’t figured it out yet, obZen means that mankind has found its ‘zen’ in the obscure and obscene.” Haake also mentioned his favorite track on this album is “Dancers to a Discordant System”.[7] Meshuggah premiered the song live at the opening show of the Koloss tour in Bristol, England, on April 12, 2012. It was performed as the closing song for every show on the tour since then.[8]

The song “Bleed” was released as DLC for the Rock Band video games via the Rock Band Network on June 18, 2010.[9]

Album art

Although Meshuggah had not done so in the past, the album art of obZen was outsourced. With a vision of what they wanted the artwork to be, Meshuggah made use of cross-media artist Joachim Luetke. In an interview with Nuclear Blast USA, Haake and Hagström explain that the artwork features a photograph of a male model in the “zen lotus position” with the bottom half of the photograph being from a female model. This is because the male model could not perform the position, making the figure androgynous.[10] The model is covered in blood, which is explained as a metaphor for mankind finding peace of mind through obscenity.[11] Additionally, each of the three blood-smeared hands poses in the shape of the number six, which is meant to symbolize the inherently evil nature of man.[12]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 83/100[13]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[14]
Alternative Press 4/5 stars[13]
The Aquarian A+[15]
The A.V. Club A[16]
Blabbermouth.net 9/10[17]
Exclaim! favorable[18]
IGN 7/10[19]
Zero Tolerance Magazine 5.5/6.0[20]

The album was well received by critics. Metacritic gave a score of 83 out of 100 based on 6 reviews, indicating “universal acclaim”.[13]

The album was praised for its consistency and how the band continued their musical evolution, with Nick Terry from Decibel saying, “Three years on, and we have a new reference point to chart Meshuggah’s musical evolution. And yeah, things are evolving nicely”.[21]

The album was also praised for the band revisiting their early thrash metal-oriented approach on tracks like “Combustion” and “Bleed”, while still maintaining the experimentalism found on their last few albums. John Norby from Zero Tolerance Magazine described it as “The best of modern-Meshuggah meets the best of older-Meshuggah.”[20]

Thom Jurek, in his review of the album on Allmusic, called obZen “sheer attack metal, played by a band that has run from simplicity to excess and incorporated them both into a record that is on a level with anything else they’ve done, even if not all the elements marry perfectly yet”.[14]

Magazines such as TerrorizerDecibelRevolver and Metal Hammer named the album in their 2008 year’s end list.[citation needed] Meshuggah was nominated for a Swedish Grammy for obZen in the category of Hard Rock, but lost to In Flames.[22]

Track listing

All lyrics written by Tomas Haake.

No. Title Music Length
1. “Combustion” Thordendal 4:08
2. “Electric Red” Hagström, Haake 5:51
3. “Bleed” Thordendal 7:22
4. “Lethargica” Hagström 5:47
5. “Obzen” Hagström 4:24
6. “This Spiteful Snake” Hagström, Haake 4:52
7. “Pineal Gland Optics” Thordendal 5:12
8. “Pravus” Hagström 5:10
9. “Dancers to a Discordant System” Thordendal 9:36


Chart positions

obZen debuted at number 59 in the United States, with first week sales of 11,384 copies. In Sweden, the album entered the official album chart at number 16, and in the United Kingdom at number 151. By September 19, 2008, obZen had sold over 50,000 copies in the U.S.[24]


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