Fredrik Thordendal's
Special Defects

Sol Niger Within
(United Audio Entertainment - 1997)
A untamed solo project of Meshuggah's guitar player who did all the guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals himself. The first couple of times I listened to this, my thought processes got murdered, and they stayed dead for about 30 minutes even after it ended. This time, let me take you with me into this insane journey: After a short intro, the album starts with a bang. A typical Meshuggah syncopated rhythm played with low and heavy riffing, the pattern spreading over a few bars, at first at sync with the drums but since this is too easy of course, the drums soon go off on their own and confuse your already spasmodic brain waves. Oh wait, don't forget the near black metal style vocals - a grinning, spitting, raspy voice, either screaming in insane rapture or spitting out lyrics in syncopated and malicious glee. The music goes on and on, always changing and variating on the themes, each instrument developing them or recapitulating in new subtle ways. Guitar solos keep coming in and out in varying timbres, either playing chaotic notes or some beautiful and haunting jazzy spirals against an ethereal synth background. Different vocals are played with briefly, and the ingenious drumming is almost always its own instrument, adding a whole new dimension to the music. This goes on for 20 minutes, the complexity and chaos building, always with complicated patterns and a semi-industrial aggressive sound. Just when you think you've heard it all, along comes pure insanity for another 10 minutes. The music breaks down into chaotic experimentation, jumping to a scene with two-cats-jumping-and-arolling-on-a-pipe-organ accompanied by some superb chaotic drumming and obnoxious vocals. This part is reminiscent of some Mr Bungle anti-musical songs in its pictures-with-chaos-and-violent-sounds form. After a manic laugh by Fredrik (obviously enjoying himself), the music slowly starts to come back with a stripped version of the thematic rhythm, almost getting there for about 5 minutes and leaving you hanging (jerking actually) in a sharp-edged grip. An ear shattering female scream (probably frustrated with the teasing), some side tracking by the pipe organ that fades away into a nerve-wracking warped sound - wait, not there yet - the jazz solo played with a saxophone, and finally...the inevitable recapitulation. Yes, the last 5 minutes close down this 40 minute asylum satisfyingly (ok so it includes 2 minutes of higher-consciousness-psycho-babble-spoken-vocals with eerie keyboard atmospherics but who's counting) and then you are left to lick the wounds in your aural brain centers. A staggering work that has to be heard to be believed. The wandering, experimentative sections in the middle seem to be included just for the hell of it and they are hard to identify with but otherwise, this is an adventurous masterpiece. I guarantee you nothing will sound the same afterwards.

The Last Exit 1996-

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