Born of Osiris' Lee McKinney Picks 5 Favorite Progressive-Metal Records | Revolver

Born of Osiris' Lee McKinney Picks 5 Favorite Progressive-Metal Records

From Meshuggah to Gojira, musician breaks down head-spinning albums
born-of-osiris-lee-mckinney-by-blvcklinemedia-web-crop.jpg, blvcklinemedia
Born of Osiris' Lee McKinney, Pomona, California, August 3rd, 2019
photograph by blvcklinemedia

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Progressive metalcore heroes Born of Osiris have just released their new and sixth album, Angel or Alien — and it's been a long, hard road to get to this point.

Not only was the 14-track crusher built around themes of intense personal loss and rebirthAngel or Alien was completed right before the pandemic hit, which caused everything — including the record's planned summer 2020 release — to be put on hold.

Now, as much of the U.S. is re-opening and live shows are starting to kick off, Born of Osiris are stoked for fans to finally hear their creation.

"After what has been an extremely trying year for the world, we couldn't be more excited to bring you our new album," says guitarist Lee McKinney.

On the eve of Born of Osiris' latest prog-metal opus, we asked McKinney to share some of the progressive-metal albums that he looks to for inspiration. McKinney obliged, and then some. He didn't just provide a list — he treated us to a deep-dive musical analysis of each record.

Meshuggah - obZen (2008)

This album is the essence of my spiritual being. It begins with the track "Combustion," which is unique because there is not a clearly defined downbeat for the ear to reference when the opening riff commences. So initially, the first note of the guitar riff feels like it is on the downbeat. But when the drums come in, you realize that this is clearly not the case. It is intentionally misleading and forces the listener to have to think, which is uncommon nowadays. Track two, "Electric Red," is rather dull until 2:54. The guitar riff that starts at 2:54 lasts 37 16th notes before repeating, but like most of Meshuggah's catalog, it's being played over 4/4 drums. This polymeter repeats after every eight measures until 4:40 when the song becomes dull again. Track three is obviously "Bleed." The feet are essentially doing a herta the entire time, which in laymen's terms is a pattern consisting of two 16th notes followed by two 8th notes. The whole song is variations of this pattern. Track four, "Lethargica," is subjectively the heaviest Meshuggah song of all time. Then we have "obZen," the titular track, followed by track six, "This Spiteful Snake." Track seven is "Pineal Gland Optics," which I generally skip. The song is as bland as its name. But then we're back to epicness with the crushing track eight, "Pravus." This song is epic, but I would like to point out that the notes that make up the first minute and a half of the song form a 1-2-1-3-1-2-1-4 pattern, which is the same sequence of numbers that Meshuggah uses in the second half of their song "The Hurt That Finds You First" on their [next album, 2012's] Koloss. These two songs sound very different, and the patterns are not completely identical because the spacing between the notes is different. But I just find it strange that Meshuggah would use that same 1-2-1-3-1-2-1-4 sequence in two different songs on back-to-back albums.

Meshuggah - Nothing (2006 reissue)

This album is a classic, and the original [2002] version is also a classic. They both sound great, but I prefer the re-release because I like the blue album cover better. We begin the album with "Stengah," which is hype. But then we gain even more hype at track two, "Rational Gaze," which is arguably Meshuggah's most hype song ever. If this song doesn't make you headbang, then you're no friend of mine. Track three, "Perpetual Black Second," is pretty straightforward. It consists of three different guitar riffs that are 7/4, 9/4 and 9/4 respectively, each one being played over 4/4 drums. Typical Meshuggah songwriting. Then, exactly halfway through the song, we find something interesting: a guitar riff that lasts 13 8th notes followed by the same riff, but with an additional 8th note added at the end. It alternates back and forth between the two variations of the same riff — one lasting 13 8th notes and the other lasting 14 8th notes. This is, of course, being played over 4/4. Then after eight measures, the whole thing repeats one more time before moving on to the next part of the song. Track four, "Closed Eye Visuals," is another example of Meshuggah's excellent use of syncopation, with the snare accenting the guitar at irregular intervals throughout the song. Then "Glints Collides" brings chaotic energy. I love the drum groove at the beginning, played on the toms with accents on the china cymbal. [Drummer] Tomas Haake is, of course, keeping time by playing steady 8th notes on the hi-hat throughout this groove. I've heard from a lot of drummers that they consider this to be Meshuggah's most challenging song to play on drums. Meshuggah slows things down with track six, "Organic Shadows," and follows that with the ever-beautiful "Straws Pulled at Random." The end of "Straws Pulled at Random" is quite literally the most beautiful thing in the entire world — second only to my wife. I have spent countless evenings in tears thanks to that aforementioned beauty. Track eight, "Spasm," is potentially my all-time favorite Meshuggah song. Go on YouTube and watch [drummer] Troy Wright's cover of this song and prepare for your jaw to drop to the damn floor. We end the album with "Nebulous," a song so heavy that it will lower your heart rate to a level that is perhaps dangerous, but worth it.

Meshuggah - Catch Thirtythree (2005)

This album is a masterpiece. It's as if 22 and 11 had a baby. It's as if Sum 41 subtracted eight from the equation. It's as if 50 Cent lost 34 percent of himself. It's as if you went to a donut shop and got three baker's dozens but then ate six of the donuts. It's as if there were seven versions of the band Five Finger Death Punch but one version lost two members. It's as if you divided 100 by 3 and then rounded down to the nearest whole number. It's as if Three 6 Mafia lost three mafia. It's as if Nine Inch Nails had twenty-four-inch toenails. It's as if you called 9-1-1 three times. It's as if Twenty One Pilots went to brunch with twelve of their coworkers. It's as if 30 Seconds to Mars was a few seconds later than they were expecting. It's as if I gave you seven high fives but one of them sort of missed so it was more like a high three. That's how good this album is.

Gojira - The Way of All Flesh (2008)

This album crushes my bones to the point where my doctor has told me that I need to stop listening to it. Tough luck, Doc. The opening track, "Oroborus," is phenomenal. It starts with [singer/guitarist] Joe [Duplantier] playing a catchy lick consisting of tapping, hammer-ons and pull-offs, while [drummer] Mario [Duplantier] is groooovin' on his ride. Track two, "Toxic Garbage Island," starts off heavy and energetic before going into a tasteful triplet feel at 0:52. The song switches back and forth between these two styles, keeping the listener on the edge of their seat the whole time. Track three, "A Sight to Behold," has an unusual-sounding electronic synth at the beginning, and then the vocals come in with a robotic-sounding effect. It's a decent track. To be honest, I usually just skip the next two songs. Track six, "All the Tears," gives me [Gojira's 2005 album] From Mars to Sirius vibes, which is cool. The following track, "Adoration for None," features Randy Blythe. Gotta love that! Then we come to everyone's favorite track, "The Art of Dying." It starts off with a pattern being played and a tribal-like humming in the background. The pattern sounds simple at first listen, but it's actually quite complex until you get the hang of it. The pattern goes like this: 0000-0000-0000-00-00-00-0000-0000-0000-00-00 — all 16th notes — and the whole thing repeats four times on its own, then four more times with quarter notes being played over top of it to keep time. Then the pattern and humming abruptly stop while the quarter notes remain for 32 more beats. Then comes the sickest thing you've ever heard. The guitar starts chugging 16th notes which is pretty hype … But the drum groove is what makes this part of the song so incredible. I'm a guitarist, so I'm going to tab it out the way that I look at it, where a 0 represents a kick drum hit and a 1 represents a snare drum hit. This is all done with quarter notes being played on the ride. The groove goes like this: 0001-0001-0001-0010010010001-0001-0001-001001. And that repeats four times and is followed by 0001-1-0001-1-0001-1-0001-1, and then it goes back to the beginning of the groove. Absolutely astonishing. Track nine is "Esoteric Surgery." This song starts off with a fast-paced riff and then goes into the kick drum playing a herta pattern, kind of similar to [Meshuggah's] "Bleed." Next, we have track ten, "Vacuity," which is my favorite Gojira song. It's such an underrated masterpiece. The rhythm guitar, bass and kick drum are playing half-notes for the majority of the first half of the song and Mario does a cymbal choke at the beginning of each measure. I think a good word to describe the feel of the song is "consistent." Track 11, "Wolf Down the Earth," is full of tasty pinch harmonics and awesome riffs, exactly what you'd expect from Gojira. They end the album with the titular track, "The Way of All Flesh."

Meshuggah - The Ophidian Trek (2014)

I chose to include Meshuggah's latest live album because their live performance is unparalleled. I won't go into too much detail like I did with the other albums, but just know that you have not lived until you have seen Meshuggah live. Also, you'll notice that Dream Theater did not make the cut. Before I get a million and one questions about this, I'd like to clarify that this decision was made solely because of their vocals.