Meshuggah


Contradictions Collapse
(Nuclear Blast - 1991)
I review this band now that I have a long while of Meshuggah listening experience under my belt, for otherwise, the reviews would be quite different, as they were indeed on my first encounter. One has to get his mind twisted in the first place by Meshuggah in order to appreciate Meshuggah. I tell you this because for many people, this is possibly one of the toughest bands to get into. Math metal is the nomen dubium of this style, given for its emphasis on strange and rapidly changing time signatures, extreme syncopation and technicalities and an overall 'mathematical' approach to musical structure rather than simple groove. And Meshuggah (crazy in Yiddish) have earned their name in this sense with flying colors. My prefered pigeonhole would be 'progressive thrash' though. This is a crushing and ultimately complex style of thrash metal mixed with some jazz influences by warped (i.e. creative) brains. The jazz element is not as widespread as in the next LP however, and the industrial sound has yet to appear. This first exertion of theirs is guitar dominated thrash with barking vocals. Often, the guitars spasm and roar, the bass counterpoints with its own notes, the drums throw you off with a completely different rhythm and as if that weren't enough, the vocalist barks in his own contradicting pattern. Add to this some spiraling guitar solos and I leave it to you to handle your collapsed eardrums and syncopated brain waves. But is it listenable and musical at all you ask, and may one follow the music with some enjoyment? To many, at first, it won't be, especially if you are looking for melody and something easy to listen to. But keep trying, and it should open new doors. I would give this album top marks if it weren't for a couple of dubious compositional quirks and overdone insanities, but in general, it's extraordinary and impressive.
None EP
(Nuclear Blast - 1994)
More complex aggressiveness to crush your aural senses with as before: a five song EP (the last 10 minute track isn't included on the Contradictions+None reissue) with more variety and experimentation. The precision, complexity and production have all expectedly increased and improved, and the distorted guitars have more bottom end sound and crunch than ever, now sounding like death metal guitars. The standard thrash sound has also disappeared here in place of a unique Meshuggah style. Forget the simple rhythms of thrash metal which you bang your head to - you try moving with this music and you'll have to flail your limbs all around the room like a madman. It's not all head-pounding crunch though, there are pleasantries in the form of aery or jazzy solos and track three stands out with its actual melody and Korn-like harmonious crunch. A keyboard makes a small appearance on the fourth song and then there's the last 10-minute track consisting of annoying, repetitious one note 'riffs' with distorted vocals, some mixing distortions and a 5 minute silence - totally pointless. I shall ignore the last track and claim this to be their most varied-therefore-interesting album. Definitely worthwhile.
Selfcaged EP
(Nuclear Blast - 1995)
A strange release containing 3 early versions of songs from the forthcoming LP, and one live song from the None EP. I shall leave the detailed review for the LP and I'll only say here that the songs have slight differences and a lower production relatively. The riffs and crushing effect are still here though, albeit not as mind-wrenching as on Destroy Erase Improve. The occasional keyboards haven't been incorporated here yet either. The live track is executed flawlessly and most aggressively - they must be a hell of a live band.
Destroy Erase Improve
(Nuclear Blast - 1995)
On Dune, the worms detected rhythmic vibrations on the sand and swallowed the culprit most efficaciously. Sandwalkers learned to travel across the sandy dunes with such long and complex patterns so as to sound like the natural shifting of the sands. These rhythms come to mind with Meshuggah's music, the full pattern of riffs often stretching across a few bars, variating on the beat and demanding a longer attention span. Now combining death metal guitars, crushing riffs, an industrial element and jazz solos, Meshuggah have come of age to become their own unique and staggering metal force. The impact of this album is nothing less than crushing, with a very full, warm and clear production. Low-end, spasmodic, staccato riffs give way to eerie and hauntingly beautiful guitar solos, sometimes blending the two together and sometimes snaking across a backdrop of atmospheric keyboards or acoustic guitars. They make 4/4 time signatures sound like 13/7 and 13/7 into an impossibility (not that I could keep track of these accurately). The bass chews through the music, leaving fat chunks of asphalt in its wake for you to swallow, and the drums are as technically prodigious as always. But again, this a very hard band to get into and it isn't for all to enjoy. You must buy this though and if it proves to be beyond your grasp, the least you can do is frame it and hang it on the wall.
The True Human Design MCD
(Nuclear Blast - 1997)
One track from the upcoming Chaosphere LP - typically Meshuggah and damn good but not their best material. Then we have 5 versions of Future Breed Machine (yes, 5) from the previous LP: A live one - flawless, crystal clear and delivered aggressively and faithful to the original. The 'mayhem version' - an 8-minute, loud and furious industrial remix, and quite good if you like this stuff. The 'campfire version' (Futile Bread Machine) - a laughs-only, hilarious acoustic version with bluesy, upbeat guitars playing rhythm, and totally silly elvish vocals. And the last two: pure techno/trance versions - not acceptable. A self indulgent album.
Chaosphere
(Nuclear Blast - 1998)
Oh dear, what happened this time? The quieter and haunting sections that gave them such depth are gone, the riffs aren't as amazing anymore and they are repeated too much. The effect of this album should be unrelenting and crushing thanks to the combination of roaring guitars, crunching bass and the Meshuggah riffing patterns, but the repetition and lack of dynamics blunt this effect and sometimes even let you wander off. I doubt that Meshuggah fans would find this a waste of time, but I personally found it lacking. The complex riffing is still here, as is the great production, power and instrumental wizardry, but the music never gets close to their previous work. If this were their only album I would probably appreciate it more, but after the high standards they set themselves, I don't see myself listening to this much when I have Destroy Erase Improve. Vocals are the same as before (except for some Special Defects vocals on one track) - coarse and loud, and barking fury. The last 15 minute track starts with more of the same for 5 minutes then shifts into what sounds like a power drill and a helicopter in a closed room, increasing power and volume for 5 whole minutes until you go insane. It follows up with what sounds like Meshuggah music, spun through a blender and played on the airwaves of a plane sound system while it is being depressurized. As you may have guessed, this is an extremely noisy and annoying track and totally pointless. The last track aside, I can accept and enjoy this album for what it is and it will probably grow on me a little more, but it's quite disappointing. Or in other words, some tracks are better than others and I can enjoy this album when I'm not comparing it to the rest, but its at the bottom of my Meshuggah list.



The Last Exit 1996-

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