Before we know it, Swedish overlords of metal Meshuggah will be raiding stages and venues across our unsuspecting nation. For nearly 30 years, the band have maintained a vice grip on their mantle of one of the worlds most heavy acts; respected and feared in equal parts.

As for a reason why, you needn’t look any further (though we strongly advise you do) than their latest offering, 2016’s The Violent Sleep Of Reason. Recorded in a live, and unrelenting ‘warts and all’ manner, the album is in a unashamedly honest body of work. A shining beacon to the rest of the community that, once again, real and raw is better than perfect and polished.

Said album will be the bands weapon of choice as they meander throughout Australia this March. As the main writer and creative force behind the album, we spoke to drummer Tomas Haake about the success of the album, and why it resonated so well with the world.

 

 
The Neversphere: Your latest album The Violent Sleep Of Reason debuted at the pointy end of the Australian album charts. It’s easier to monitor these sorts of things now, but was it still a shock?
 
Tomas: Yeah, definitely. To some degree, at least for me personally, I feel that from Koloss to this we kind of stepped back. We got a little more crazy this time round and a maybe little more creative. That doesn’t necessarily reflect on sales in a positive way [Laughs], but at the same time, I guess we’re that band that’s been doing it for such a long time and people don’t really know what to expect which each new album.

For us, I think it just works out. It’s not just Australia. The reception for the album was pretty awesome all around. I’m guessing also maybe, and hoping I guess, that because we recorded it live – there’s something about the energy of this album that feels less robotic and mechanic and it feels a little more alive and a little more honest.

Maybe there’s a little bit to be said about that too, but probably, mostly, it just hit people right, y’know? And it just came out at the right time. It’s hard to know. You can theorise around it as much as you want but we’re just happy how it turned out, obviously.
 
The Neversphere: It feels like artists from the same sonic universe as Meshuggah are charting high more and more often these days. Speaking of theories, mine was that the world has reached tipping point for empty content, and that people are starting to crave substance whether they realise it or not. Do you think there could be some validity to that theory?
 
Tomas: I totally agree. I think there’s a mounding frustration. Just look around what’s going on in the world over the last few years. That definitely had a direct inspiration for us when writing the music and lyrics and what we want to have come across in our music. That aggression, as you said, is something people crave more and more.

If you look at music, movies and art, everything is turning more and more extreme in every direction. I think, so far, for us, we’ve been able to fit into this ‘thing’, if you will, where our music works and people see something in it that kind of rings that same bell they have for their frustration and what they see going on in their world that makes you like ‘What the hell? The world is definitely going insane…we need soundtracks to this shit, you guys…’
 
The Neversphere: On that note, how well informed was The Violent Sleep Of Reason by the slow, but televised demise of the world?
 
Tomas: If you look at the lyrics I think that’s acutely being very aware, or at least somewhat aware, of what’s going on. That’s one aspect of it when it comes to lyrics. When it comes to writing the music you tend to maybe not think about those things so much. You just try to write something really cool and the spirit of the song, or the aggression of a song comes with the vocals where you try to promote this music with an equal type of aggressive wording.
 
The Neversphere: Meshuggah could be forgiven for playing it safe the new album but you shook things up, for example by recording it live. How that you’ve had some time to distance yourself from the creative process of this album, do you feel it was the right way to go about things? Will you continue to shake things up?
 
Tomas: Definitely. We’ve tried to do [live recording] on Koloss, that was our intention with Obzen – It was actually our intention with every album but then over the later years, the further you go into our career as a band, with each album the planning is more and more meticulous. You have the release date; you have that like a year and a half before the actual release date. You know what date they need to master, you know what date you need to be done in the studio and then you trail that back. That way you know that the songs have to be written by a certain time…

What happened with Koloss and Obzen was the songs weren’t finished. We knew we had to start recording so there was no time to rehearse as a band because the song writing took too long. It meant that who ever wrote, like if Mårten [Hagström, guitar] wrote a song, he’s going to be the one recording guitars and bass for that song. Me as a drummer, I have to know all the songs but we weren’t rehearsed as a whole band where we’d been in the rehearsal space for weeks and months on end practicing before we recorded.

This time around, we were actually efficient enough when we wrote the music. We had the due date for the songs was New Years 2015 to 2016. We knew everything had to be done by this date and we actually managed to do that. That meant we had a month and a half to rehearse the stuff as a whole band, not just two of us. By the time we got to the studio, everything was set.

It comes out in the production. It’s more organic. You hear the little flaws in there; you actually hear that it’s people playing and that it’s not as perfect. But that imperfection makes more sense because that’s the music we grew up with; Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, all those bands. It wasn’t perfect it was just good song writing.

That goes for us now too. If you look at our live shows for example, when we were younger we use to beat ourselves up completely over one missed note, or a few missed hits somewhere in a whole live set. It was so much about the technicality of being to perform it in a perfect way. But that’s young minds. Now we don’t see it like that, we know it’s not going to be perfect. There are always issues. You’re on a sweaty stage, you’re going to drop sticks, and things break, technical things mess up. It’s not so much about that now. It’s about the impact of a whole night and what you leave the fans with and that has nothing to do with whether you play every note perfect.
 
The Neversphere: There are moments in the album where you hear one member break loose, and speed up a little. Then you hear everyone else kind of chase after them to catch up, and then the cycle repeats. It truly feels like mates just fucking around jamming…albeit to some of the most complex music ever.
 
Tomas: That’s also what helped this album. Whether or not people can pinpoint that, like ‘oh yeah, they mess up a little bit there, the drummers a bit fast on that fill…’ I think it comes across whether or not you understand exactly what’s going on. To me, it’s a more honest album than previous ones for obvious reasons. With Obzen and Koloss, I barely knew the songs when we were recording them and there was no time, so if I didn’t play a part well enough we’d just edit it so it sounded good.

You have to have a foundation for recording guitars and bass on top and this has to be done now. That also has a direct impact on the music. A lot of the time it’s going to sound a little dead, or mechanically. You’re not really hearing the drummer – you’re hearing my drum sounds but then everything’s been perfected. With this album, it’s like it’s breathing a little more. You know there are real human beings there; the flaws make the energy better.
 

 
The Neversphere: There’s a lot of talk of Meshuggah hitting 30 years as a band. Devin Townsend said last year that the older he gets, the more he understands the concept of heavy and writing heavy material. How true is that for you guys at this stage in your career?
 
Tomas: I think so. I hope so! I think with this album, it’s got quite a few spots where I feel that comes across. I never really reflected on it, but I guess he’s right. When we were young, what the music sounded like early on its a desperate, young kids need to prove something. The older you get and the most years you put into it, the less you need to impress. You don’t feel the urge really, so you’re writing the songs more for the songs themselves.

Something that is heavy doesn’t necessarily have to be in the song writing. It’s more so your take on it, and how you play it and what intent you have when you play it. So I think there’s some truth to that.
 
The Neversphere: A lot of the commentary on your recent European dates seems to indicate that your current live shows are next level. Which is great news for your Australian fans. Are you feeling a new found energy live?
 
Tomas: That comes back to what we talked about. We’re all so happy with how the album turned out which will have a direct impact on how we feel about playing it. But, also, we do spend more and more money with each album on lights and what kind of stuff we bring on tour [Laughs].

We’re trying to put on a show. It’s not us playing better or anything…I don’t know what the set up will be in Australia, we can’t really bring everything we have here but it’ll still be great. And hopefully people will see it as a set up from when we were last there…

…And that’s all we can hope for.
 
 

Meshuggah Australian Tour 2017

Supported by Thy Art Is Murder

Tickets On Sale Now

Saturday, March 11
Tivoli, Brisbane
Tickets: MJR Presents

Sunday, March 12
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: MJR Presents

Tuesday, March 14
170 Russell, Melbourne
Tickets: MJR Presents

Wednesday, March 15
170 Russell, Melbourne
Tickets: MJR Presents

Friday, March 17
Metropolis, Fremantle
Tickets: MJR Presents