Review Summary: The most easily enjoyable Meshuggah album. However, the key to its accessibility lies in its orthodoxy. That's not to say it's derivative; that's just to say that the rest of the Meshuggah discography is much more experimental. All that said, this is stil
Strange accidents befell the Meshuggah band members in the length of time between the release of the largely unremarkable Contradictions Collapse and the release of Destroy Erase Improve. First off, guitar wizard Frederik Thorendal severed a finger in an underreported and largely mysterious carpentry accident. But he wasn't the only member of Meshuggah to run into trouble with sharp things. Spectacular drummer Thomas Haake supposedly got his hand stuck in a blender, and injured it more than a little bit in the process. Needless to say, drummers and guitarists need use of their hands, and Meshuggah's challenging brand of music requires full dexterity in all ten fingers. Would these two mishaps derail the career of the band? Now, I should point out at this point that Meshuggah had done absolutely nothing remarkable in their career up to this point. Their only full length, Contradictions Collapse, was essentially Metallica worship with a sharper edge. Not only that, but their lineup was in turmoil, and it didn't look like they could hold a core of musicians together for any amount of time. All these factors amounted to one thing: absolutely no expectations for Destroy Erase Improve. They say it's easiest to perform when you're under no pressure. Meshuggah went about proving that fact on this album.
Destroy Erase Improve is the most accessible Meshuggah album, mainly because it maintains some semblance of traditional thrash/death metal. Because of its relative orthodoxy, Destroy Erase Improve is probably my least favorite Meshuggah LP. That's not meant to diminish it overmuch; I still greatly enjoy listening to this album, and it is still visionary and unique.
Meshuggah's sound is complex, intricate, and jealously guards its secrets. Believe me; this will take more then a few listens to digest. The only thing that is really palpable upon first listening to this album is a sense of almost suffocating heaviness; a feeling that I have so far found to be entirely unique to Meshuggah. Everything just seems so mechanical, precise, and brutal, and yet you have absolutely no idea what the music is trying to accomplish. It's like wandering lost and scared into the middle of a raging bloody battle, if you want a stupid metaphor for it. Yet further listens eventually unveil Meshuggah's true intentions. With all the talk about Meshuggah's inaccessibility, this album contains some of my favorite instrumental grooves ever. But these aren't your cheap, run of the mill 4/4 thrash grooves; these grooves are made up of complex, asymmetric parts. You wouldn't think that a 17/4 drum pattern and guitar riffs in 11/6 time could lock together into a headbanging groove, and yet they do. This is only one aspect of Meshuggah's genius.
As you could probably tell from the above description, Destroy Erase Improve is a very imposing album in terms of technicality. Meshuggah were really the first metal band to embrace jagged polyrhythms and utilize them to good effect, and this is the album where they pulled out all the stops. There are times on this album where the drummer keeps three different rhythms at once, and the guitars are almost never in time with the drums. Also, the lead singer barks out off timed vocals in a guttural, mechanical grunt that serve to make a rhythm all on their own. There are leads present on this album, but not in the traditional sense. The guitar leads are jazzy and ambient with a focus on sustained notes. When Thorendal does solo, it sounds like a jazz-fusion guitarist exploding; he plays unimaginably fast and precisely. Don't let the gameboy-like quality of his soloing offset you - these solos are the work of a genius.
There are numerous excellent songs on here, and I can't really pick a favorite. I suppose Future Breed Machine is the grooviest and most easily enjoyable, but it's not my favorite. Maybe Inside What's Within Behind is my favorite, with its almost anthemic atmosphere, and urgently rising riffs. I guess Soul Burn is the best song on here, with steadily metamorphosing grooves that utterly annihilate the listener with their infectiousness and complexity. Acrid Placidity is another good one. It's all clean guitars and uneasy ambience. I always imagine a desolate, wasted landscape when I hear that song - perhaps that's what they were going for? The only song I really don't get is Sublevels. There's a palpable lack of progression and movement in the song, and the whispered vocals fail to do anything for me. Meshuggah have made a habit of closing their albums with distant, obscure songs. I'm sure they have a purpose, because Meshuggah make purposeful songs - I just haven't uncovered that purpose yet.
One last note - the lyrics are stupendous. Dystopian, mechanical, yet undoubtedly poetic. Pick up a lyric sheet in order to decode them, because they're worth the effort.
In closing, Meshuggah's Destroy Erase Improve is a spectacular album in its own right. Despite this fact, I feel that a 4/5 is the acceptable rating for this album, because Meshuggah's other albums (especially I and Nothing) eclipse this in terms of creativity, originality, and quality.
I've seen you around; I've been curious when you were going to review. Welcome. This is a great Meshuggah album.
You wouldn't think that a 17/4 drum pattern and guitar riffs in 11/6 time could lock together into a headbanging groove, and yet they do. This is only one aspect of Meshuggah's genius.
It may be a slight typo and/or my terrible theory, but I don't think you can have a '6' in the denominator there. Anything over 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 makes sense, but I don't think there's a sixth note anywhere, haha.
No, an 11/6 time signature is quite plausible. At least by my understanding of things.
Edit: Actually now I'm not so sure. Maybe not. I'll check things out.
Edit 2: Yeah it can be done. The reason that you don't see it very often (or other time signature multiples of 3) is that it only makes sense when juxtaposed next to other time signatures. Which would make it a perfect time signature for Meshuggah to use.This Message Edited On 11.09.07
The denominator tells what note value gets one beat. A 4/4 or common time meter would say that a quarter note represents one beat, and there are four per measure. It doesn't make sense - to me, at least - to say that a sixth note represents one beat, because a sixth note doesn't exist. Again, I could be way wrong because I'm not a musical theorist by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't think a '6' can exist there.
EDIT: Your writing/review is very good, by the way. I just pulled that little tidbit because it seemed a bit strange to me, mostly because I've never seen that exist in all the sheet music I've seen.This Message Edited On 11.09.07
These are time signatures which have a denominator which is not a power of two (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.). These are used to express the division of a whole note (semibreve) into equal parts just as ordinary signatures do. For example, where 4/4 implies a bar construction of four quarter-parts of a whole note (i.e., four quarter notes), 4/3 implies a bar construction of four third-parts of it. These signatures are only of utility when juxtaposed with other signatures with varying denominators; a piece written entirely in 4/3, say, could be more legibly written out in 4/4.
...or so wikipedia tells me. I read that Meshuggah used irrational time signatures in someone else's review, so I kind of parroted that information. It's not like I counted the beats myself. I'll take it out if it causes too much confusion.
Good review although Meshuggah's songs all sound the same to me. They definitely have a different sound and I like their song. I just wish their albums weren't all slightly different variations of that one song.
They have flashes of coolness in their songs with some simple, atmospheric lead guitar noting every once in a while backing the rhythm, but it doesn't go beyond that with the exception of some really random solo. I guess it's kind of hard to make your songs all sound different when your sound is based on low-pitched rhythms.
Excellent review, a fine read for a first review! I have never listened to this record yet (and I call myself a metalhead). I didn't particularly find 'I', 'Nothing', or 'Catch 33' to be all too impressive, considering how much praise these guys get. I will certainly check this album out though.
I think that their dissonance and odd timing makes these guys one of the most evil sounding bands around. This album, I think, would be counted as one of their better albums because, as most people have stated, it has taken a more "normal" and not so outrageous approach to the format of the songs as is seen in Chaosphere and Catch 33.
Awesome review, i couldn't have agreed with you more!! :D
however i think this is probably my favourite album of theirs. I just love the groovy-ness on this album. 2:18 on 'Soul Burn' is just the most psychotic riff ive ever heard.
I think that Meshuggah went downhill slightly after Destroy Erase Improve. I think this album is like the equivalent of Master of Puppets for Metallica. Chaosphere was just heavy and technical for the sake of being heavy and technical.