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Catch 33 (Nuclear Blast)

Meshuggah's new album expands upon ideas the Swedish prog-thrash titans have been exploring for several years now. Most explicitly, it's an extension of last year's I EP, which contained a single 21-minute song. Catch 33 is divided into 13 tracks, but they all mesh together, so it's essentially another epic composition, this one nearly 40 minutes long.

If it's one big song, it had better be a damn good one -- and it is. Fredrik Thordendal's and Marten Hagstrom's eight-string guitars are as downtuned as they were on 2002's jagged, discordant Nothing, and the rhythms (which this time are programmed, rather than being played by drummer Tomas Haake) never settle into a comfortable groove. Thordendal's solos retain their jazz-fusion feel, like a cool breeze blowing through a slaughterhouse.

Over the past decade, Meshuggah has gradually shifted its approach. The impossibly complex thrash of Destroy, Erase, Improve, and Chaosphere has been replaced by a more spacious but just as intricate and jaw-droppingly heavy sound, reminiscent of Helmet and 1972-'74-era King Crimson. This sound made Nothing and I landmarks in the evolution of metal as a fundamentally progressive form of music, and Catch 33 is another huge leap forward.

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