This is the kind of first-round battle that I loathe: two very worthy competitors enter the arena, but only one can leave.
Julie Christmas wins the cointoss for herself and Cult Of Luna, and so we start the day with the gloomy post-metal masterpiece Mariner. Only time will tell, but it seems almost certain that this collection of moody epics will end up being compared favorably to Isis' Wavering Radiant or The Ocean's Pelagial. Julie Christmas' vocals add just enough melody to keep aloft the rest of the plodding music, striving to drown in its own brooding heaviness. About the only complaint I could make about Mariner, in fact, is that there's something about the songs that make them want to fade into the background.
Not so the music of Meshuggah's latest release The Violent Sleep Of Reason. Even at its most subtle, this sound demands your focus and attention. And that's not just due to the math-quiz quality of the band's pioneering riffinometry; these musicians cram more detail and variation into virtually every song than seems possible. One of the most fascinating things about TVSOR is how it feels like a live in-studio improv jam exploration of the band's last five albums. That also leads to my main complaint about the album: there's an undeniable been-there-heard-that quality to the material that rises like an aftertaste. Maybe that's why the album also feels a little overlong, or at least ends irresolutely.
Ultimately, this battle comes down to forcefulness and conviction. Mariner is truly seductive in its lachrymose excellence, but The Violent Sleep Of Reason is more cocksure, more dominant, heavier, and ultimately Moar Metal. Meshuggah triumphs over Cult Of Luna and Julie Christmas... but this is far from a one-sided trouncing. How will the godfathers of djent fare in their next matchup at the end of the month? I really don't know for sure.
Our first week of metal mayhem has drawn to a close. Join us on Monday, when Aborted and Death Angel go mano a mano. You'll pay for the whole seat, but you'll only need the edge!