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Average Rating
★★★★½
(61 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Meshuggah’s sound has evolved much since they began. When they first started recording material, they sounded like a faster, rawer version of Metallica. Things eventually got more complex and they made Destroy Erase Improve, which fused melody and their grindcore stylings. Chaosphere was harder, faster, and pretty much anti-melodic. Nothing was slower, even harder, and disappointing to many fans. With I, Meshuggah has taken a new direction.

    To describe the sound of I, you would have to take the sounds of the three earlier albums I mentioned and combine them. It is indeed faster than Nothing, but it retains the thundering eight-strings that made that album so hard. It also takes the better elements of Chaosphere and blends in the melody of DEI. In essence, for a one-song, 21 minute EP, it is about as perfect as it can be.

    There are, of course, some new parts added to the Meshuggah sound on this album. The melody parts have a new style which I cannot really describe; they bear a resemblance to DEI’s style, but they have elements of their own. Also, Tomas Haake’s drumkit sounds different to me on this album, like it’s a machine sputtering out double bass kicks and snare hits. In all, if you are a Meshuggah fan, this CD is worth $10. Even if it contains only one song, you should listen in, because the new parts of their sound (which will probably be included on their next album, Catch 33) are contained within.

    Posted on November 16, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • with one caveat – if you haven’t liked Meshuggah in the past then you won’t now.

    On the other hand, if you do, especially post DEI Meshuggah, then you will like this. It is just awesome. That is not to say it isn’t flawed, it is. It can get repetitive, but you can tell they are really trying to do something new. It is like someone took Echoes by Pink Floyd, but retracked it in hell with a bunch of dump trucks playing the instruments (If this sounds like it would be awful, see the caveat at the beginning.) It is thick, and hard to wrap your head around as a concept. That is not to say it is pretentiously complicated or dense; it is just long, dischoradant, and difficult to take in as one piece. This is precisely what makes it Meshuggah. Thick as a heat wave in a Louisiana Bayou, but absolutely all over the place. I enjoyed it quite a bit and thought it was much better than Nothing.

    My only response to some of the one star reviews is for people to be leary of reviewers who seem to only enjoy telling you what they hate. I’ve noticed some of the one stars here only rate things they give one star for 95% of there reviews. I tend to think this means they are just joy kills.

    If you enjoy lurking the very murky backwaters of Meshuggah’s more recent albums, but miss some of the thrash influence they had, check this out. Give it a couple of tries so you will get to know it, and I am pretty sure you will find it a fun peice of music to pop in and drift off too.

    Posted on November 16, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • After extensive searching both online and in stores, I finally ran across a copy of Meshuggah’s newest release, “I,” so here is my review. Something of a single or an EP, this is (as I’m sure many of you know by now) a 21-minute song, and a great culmination of this great band’s many talents.

    Meshuggah is a progressive metal band in both the literal and the obscure definition. Long songs and abnormal song structures (the antithesis of verse-chorus-verse, etc.) are only the surface features; what makes Meshuggah so progressive is what the structure of the actual musical delivery. I’m very uneducated in the world of musical structure and timing, but even I know there is something strange and wonderful about how Meshuggah writes their music. The drumming is never following the same timing as the guitars; the bass seems to fly off on its own. The vocals are on their own schedule. It seems like a mess…but it could not be more precise and perfectly executed. The more you understand about music and song structure, the more fun and wild Meshuggah becomes. These guys are far more than just loud and heavy.

    Speaking of heavy, Frederick Thordendal and Marten Hagström are, without a doubt, the heaviest guitar duo of all time. They play not six, not seven, but 8 strings, yes, count them, EIGHT, string guitars, achieving a heaviness unknown to mankind. Frederick Thordendal also plays all the leads, which are just unearthly. I mean, these are not normal guitar solos here. These are…I don’t know how to describe them. Just listen! And Tomas Haake is a crazy drummer. Calling him “versatile” or “complex” is an insult to his insane way of playing. Again, no words can describe how insanely, um…well, INSANE his drumming is. And Jens Kidman, a crazy, crazy vocalist, can do so much more than just scream. His voice is rough, raspy, almost robotic; the perfect voice to match the wall of mathematically precise metal that Meshuggah produces. Although he did not play on this album, Meshuggah also has a (new) bassist, Dick Lövgren. How can this album be heavy and not have a bassist? Just listen to the aforementioned 8-string guitars and you will know! Dick obviously is more than a good player, because for something to be heavier than the guitar riffs so it stands out on its own would require a bass with REALLY deeply-detuned strings, and requires a lot of talent to play it.

    Now, for “I” itself.

    After a quick series of fast riffs and thundering drumming (which although all culminates into a “fast” sound, feels more mid-tempo), the song then shifts into a loud cacophony of ambient dissonance. Riffs, drumming, and vocals all meld together as a great, thundering juggernaut of pure metal. This quickly shifts into more familiar territory as the odd-timed riffs, drumming, and vocals kick in. Then there’s another shift, and the song is one steady flow of riffs and blast beats for another round of measures, which quickly changes as one of the guitars depart to make arpeggios as Jens croaks out more vocals. Suddenly – all goes quiet, save for a single guitar solo a la Frederick, which as usual is trippy and unearthly. Then ka-BOOM, there’s another blast of metal riffs played at odd time as the song picks up again. The riffs change timing over and over and over, getting more and more obscure. At some other point later on, there is one of the few shining moments of melody in Meshuggah’s wall of metallic insanity, as Jens sort of whispers his vocals. The riffs fade slightly, then there’s another mind-blowing guitar solo, even trippier than the first one. Then there’s five incredible blasts of metal that slowly fade, and just when you think it’s over, they return, BAMMMMmmmmmm… then, BAMMMMmmmmmm… Then all goes quiet again, with the lowest guitar notes ever heard rumbling out before the heavier riffs slowly return in the same time. Then another round of odd-timed riffs/drumming/vocals kick in (the more “normal” – oh, what a paradoxical word that is for this band – Meshuggah sound), before slowly fading out in a staccato group of whining feedback…and then it’s over. By this time, the listener is left thinking they’ve just listened to an hour-long album with maybe twelve songs on it!

    Trust me, “I” is nothing pretentious or hammy, and nothing short of a miracle. This is probably Meshuggah’s best work to date, and a must for anyone (even a new fan) who likes music and knows it can do more than just entertain. Good luck staying sane!

    Posted on November 16, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Sometime in late 1994, a sentient blue-gray blob of alien slime landed on Earth and was enthralled by a stereo playing King Crimson’s “Thrak.” It then decided to further explore this idea of overlapping polyrhythms by building even more complex mathematical structures (while increasing the viciousness by a factor of 2.736). It managed to take possession of a group of Swedes and decided to channel its vision of mathematical insanity through their own death-metal sound. The result: Meshuggah. There ain’t much in the way of melody, but there’s the technicality/complexity of four other bands, combined with the brutality of three more (or one if that other band is Strapping Young Lad). It’s an acquired taste.. except for the masochistic.. but it’s a brain-melting blend of cerebral and visceral that’s like nobody else. All sanity abandon, ye who enter.

    I is probably the best introduction to Meshuggah out there. At 21 minutes it’s easier to digest than a full-length album, but it shows all their facets in that short time.. slow-flowing guitar interludes, inhuman shredding, wickedly staggered rhythms, industrial torture, hyper-lightning freakouts, it’s all here. The great thing is that even at ludicrous speed (check that 5:40-6:21 stretch!), there’s no shortage of invention and ear-bending note lines to follow. That’s not to even mention the inhuman drumming, which is as multilayered as it is savage (Tomas Haake is the Elvin Jones of metal).

    Someone below complained about the first 90 seconds being nothing but mind-numbing repetition, but listen more closely and you’ll realize that it’s almost never the same riff twice. And that’s the way it is through the whole EP; at first it’s just a series of uneven pounding beats, but then time begins to reveal the offsetting & complementary rhythm patterns that underlie everything. Then it’s time to get out the abacus and hope your brain doesn’t short-circuit if you try to unravel what’s going on.

    If you like your demonic screams served with something a little smarter than ordinary death/doom metal, give Meshuggah a try. Tranquilizers and post-traumatic therapy optional.

    Posted on November 16, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • It begins. Rolling drums underlying a choppy, muted riff, wrung through myriad rhythmic permutations. It is repeated for 90 seconds before disappearing under a hurricane of screaming dissonance, with guitars, screams, and drums all smeared together. Then it stops, ever so briefly.

    Two minutes. Cymbals crash on every quarter-note, the snare cracks on every eighth-note. Below this anchor for the 16-note cycle, double-bass pedals and brutal 8-string guitars pound out terrorizing riffs, harshly underscoring certain measures at off-beat intervals. Jens Kidman’s brutal vocals proclaim: “I – This fractal illusion burning away all structure towards the obscene.”

    Three minutes. Kidman’s bloodthirsty declaration of “I drug these minds into ruin and contempt – the acid smoke of burning souls,” brings back the opening motif for just a split second. The song breaks into an aggressively syncopated, twisty 4/4 riff with eerie, wailing guitar lines strung across. The rhythm becomes further and further bent until being wrenched into a nasty breakdown.

    Five minutes. Meshuggah slows down the pace with a gargantuan, chugging riff. Your bones quake; your inner organs are forcefully rearranged. Kidman savagely growls, “The cogs turn, grinding away at ceaselessness — willing it to dust,” a point decisively punctuated when Thordendal unleashes a guitar solo that sounds like Alan Holdsworth with his brain attached to the SkyNet supercomputer. The flurry of notes is almost a tangible force, almost leaving one feeling cold, invasive pinpricks. Long strands of sadistically thick, speed-picked riffs sound like a massive artillery bombardment and the battering of drums like huge mechanical hummingbird wings beating at the air.

    Near the eight minute point, everything drops out. There is only an incredibly eerie, slow guitar solo, built around non-tonal pitch language. A few final, winded notes are drawn out, the silences between them disarming the listener for what comes next. Then the most brutal prog-metal riffing you will ever hear shatters any sense of calm brought about by this brief interlude. This part especially reveals how Meshuggah continues to employ the techniques explored in _Nothing_, that is, the use of sixteenth-note clusters to simulate quarter-note triplets. This is used to create real and psychoacoustical distortions in rhythm and meter, with riffs seemingly collapsing in on themselves and reorganizing according to metrical subdivisions and syncopations. The music almost seems a little different every time you listen to it, like a self-aware machine constantly redesigning itself.

    Ten and a half minutes. Grinding, choppy riffs hack away at the vestiges of sanity, moderating the pace but stepping up the delirious crush of irregular rhythms, becoming metrically splintered until even the pitches are bent into a cosmic whirl of metallic nastiness.

    Fourteen minutes. A series of low, plucked arpeggios, not brutal but clearly hostile like the executioner who toys with his victim before beheading him.

    Sixteen minutes. A morass of sludgy riffs so thick it’s like you could reach out and grab them as they crash through your speakers. A very deliberate arrangement punctuates downbeats by displacing instruments across the subdivided measures. It sounds like “Nebulous” from _Nothing_ reborn from an orgy of swirling metallic shards.

    Eighteen and a half minutes. A classic, threatening Meshuggah fadeout. Scratching arpeggios lend a dull luster to slow, mechanical metallic trance.

    The end. There is a brief, high-pitched drone of feedback, and it drives home the feeling of profound violation that has occurred at the hands of these metal gods. Your world cannot be the same after listening to “I”.

    If ever there existed a band that defined “metal” as a musical form, it is Meshuggah. And their definitive composition is now “I”. Although words like “brutal,” “complex,” and “machine-like” seem to be de rigueur for Meshuggah reviews, I’m somewhat at a loss to come up with better ones. This band IS brutal. And they are METAL!

    To call “I” the greatest Meshuggah song might seem hasty. To call “I” the greatest metal song might sound frivolous and foolish. But “I” is all these things and more. It’s all in Meshuggah’s impeccable sense of timing — and I don’t just mean their rhythmic craftiness. They seem to have Bartok’s intuitive sense of how a piece of music should unfold. This makes “I” more than just another Meshuggah tune — it is a progressive metal epic song for the endtimes.

    The Terminator films plot the rise of the machines. “I” is like the sonic prophecy foreseeing the Machine Apocalypse. With music so great, one must almost welcome it.

    Posted on November 15, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now