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.