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Album Reviews : Meshuggah – Alive (CD version)

By on March 11, 2010

alive-dvd-meshuggah-debarque-L-1With ‘Alive’ (2010) Meshuggah reveal their first attempt at a full-length live DVD/CD with a collection of live tracks from their 2008-09 tour in support of their 2008 album ‘obZen’. The set consists of a collection of songs from their extensive discography with significant emphasis placed on the material from ‘obZen’ (for obvious reasons), a healthy serving of songs from ‘Nothing’ (2002) with smatterings of material from their other releases. Easily the most immediately noticeable feature of ‘Alive’ is that it proves what anyone who has seen Meshuggah live can tell you: they are musically impeccable. Of course, anyone that is at all familiar with Meshuggah’s music will know that this is no mean feat, however, the performances on each and every song is perfect, down to the last ridiculously timed drum beat, every mind-bending polyrhythm, and every technical guitar riff. However, with a live release the listener is generally looking for a little something more, something that they cannot get simply by listening to a studio album and in this regard, sadly, ‘Alive’ pulls up a little short.

If you are interested in picking up an album that will showcase to you who Meshuggah are, what they have produced in their impressive career and their impeccable musical prowess, even in a live setting, then ‘Alive’ is definitely the album for you. Musically, it will take you on a tour of much of Meshuggah’s discography, from the early days of ‘Destroy Erase Improve’ (1995) with the little-known bonus track “Humiliative” being one of the crushing standouts from the set, through to ‘Chaosphere’ (1998) with fan favourite “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” played to perfection, ‘Nothing’ (2002) which featured Meshuggah’s first use of their now-signature 8-string guitars and has quite a strong representation on ‘Alive’, through to their most recent effort ‘obZen’ (2008) which constitutes the majority of the set. Contributions from 2005’s ‘Catch Thirty-Three’ are conspicuously absent and the absence of fan-favourite “Future Breed Machine”, amongst others, has almost been criticised by many fans.

While Meshuggah have always been praised for their technical proficiency, with a myriad of obscure time signatures, polyrhythms, technical guitar rhythms and progressive guitar solos being a mainstay of their sound, ‘Alive’ takes it to a whole new level by showing that they are not just another bunch of Dragonforce-esque studio magicians. Every aforementioned aspect of their technical sound is reproduced to perfection on the live stage which only serves to make it that much more impressive- yes, they can play “Bleed”. And yes, it is mind-blowing.

However, generally when one picks up a live album they are not just looking to find what a band sounds like in the studio (particularly if you are one of Meshuggah’s cult-like fan base), but are aiming to experience something that band has to offer in a live performance and sadly ‘Alive’ does not offer much in that regard. In the absence of seeing a band live yourself, it is always good to hear a few pithy monologues from a band’s frontman (and Kidman usually has a bit of sharp wit about him) along with the constant urging of the crowd to get into the music- however both these elements are very noticeably lacking from ‘Alive’. The former is easily explained by the fact that the album is not one continuous set (which in itself is something of a disappointment), but rather a cut-and-paste affair of performances from 2008-09 from America, Europe and Japan, and as such much of Kidman’s talking to the crowd seems to have been left on the cutting room floor. Though the album is put together quite well, this cut-and-paste action has also had the effect of leaving a few glitches in the sound as one track shifts to the next. However, though this does impair the effectiveness of the album in giving the listener a glimpse into a true Meshuggah live show, the DVD side of Alive does come with some additional bonus features that may compensate for this somewhat.

If I were to rate ‘Alive’ purely on the basis of its musical merits, taking into consideration the impressive feat of playing such technical music to perfection in a live setting, then I see little reason not to rate it similarly to how I did ‘obZen’ (that is, quite high), however given that this is a live album and it does fall a little short of what I would expect from a live release it does get docked a few points. 6.5/10

Band: Meshuggah
Album: Alive (audio CD only)
Year: 2010
Genre: Live/Technical death metal
Label: Nuclear Blast/Riot! Entertainment
Origin: Umea, Sweden

Track Listing:
1. Perpetual Black Second
2. Electric Red
3. Rational Gaze
4. Pravus <– Reviewer’s choice
5. Lethargica
6. Combustion
7. Straws Pulled at Random
8. New Millennium Cyanide Christ
9. Stengah
10. The Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled
11. Humiliative <– Reviewer’s Choice
12. Bleed <– Reviewer’s Choice

Reviewed by Samuel Maher


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.