No doubt many of you have heard of Swedish Industrial/Thrash metal outfit, Meshuggah. How many of you have actually heard
them is another matter! There seems to be alot of mysticism and hype surrounding them, and what they actually sound like. Well, I got curious and decided to purchase what is widely considered to be their best album - Destroy Erase Improve! So here it is, a track by track breakdown for all those curious about getting into Meshuggah!
Track 1: Future Breed Machine
Let me say...when the album came in the mail and I put this song on, I wondered if I'd made a mistake. It has a fantastic opening with a pounding offbeat guitar riff backed up by machine like drumming (complete with double bass action) but then quickly degenerates into noise. Sure Meshuggah are known for odd time signiatures, but this to me was taking it too far. It has moments of clarity where you can really lock into the groove, and even a chilled out bridge, so it's not a total mess.
Track 2: Beneath
After the frenzied assault of Future Breed Machine, the dreamy clean guitar at the start of Beneath comes as a welcome surprise. But don't be fooled! The track wastes no time in kicking off. A nice mid-tempo number, this is probably one of my favourite tracks off the album. The verse riff is suitably menacing, complimented perfectly by the growling vocals. The chorus is perhaps a little weak, so it gets...
Track 3: Soul Burn
Definitely one of the best tracks on the album. This has it all: a good steady groove to start with, some grass-roots metal influences, and an awesome jazz/fusion guitar solo to spice things up.
Track 4: Transfixion
Don't turn your stereo up when this one comes on! I did that and it gave me a heart attack ;) Not one of the best tracks by far. But mercifully short at 3 minutes-odd. The solo is sufficiently random and impressive to save it from a 0 or a 1!
Track 5: Vanished
Awesome - this one chugs along nicely with plenty of offbeat stop/start riffing and perfectly synchopated vocals. They somehow manage to slip a mellow bridge section in there as well, and it really works. Again, this track sports a jazzy solo layered atop a headbanging groove. The track does lose a bit of steam towards the end however.
Track 6: Acrid Placidity
An instrumental song, this really embodies the message of the album. The merging of the living and the mechanized. The beautiful swirling clean guitars are eventually consumed and engulfed by menacing dissonance, which to me signified human spirit submitting and losing the fight against inevitable change. Well that's how I interpreted it. So yeah, a concept track, and a welcome respite from the sheer brutality of the rest of the album.
Track 7: Inside What's Within Behind
Another good solid track. I'm not entirely sure what the words layered beneath the main vocals are saying, but they appear to come from behind you...very unsettling! The solo isn't too hot on this one - a bit sloppy. The ending is proper "doom" though :) The drums gradually break down and lose coherance and again, lean heavily towards a "jazz" vibe.
Track 8: Terminal Illusions
Starts off well, but not really a standout track. Has more of a heads-down thrashy feel to it. So yeah, more of the same really!
Track 9: Suffer In Truth
Didn't really like this one. Much slower paced than the rest of the album and with overly simplistic riffs, this track doesn't score too high!
Track 10: Sublevels
Very cool! Once again a nice jazz/funk feel near the start with various augmented and dimished chords sitting just behind the main riff, complimented by spoken word. The chorus is good headbanging material, and the song has a fantastically dark and brooding ending. A great way to finish off the album.
So, I've finally heard Meshuggah! And what do I think?
Pretty good! Perhaps not quite worthy of the "genius" status bestowed on them by many a reviewer, but then again, I'd dare any guitarist to play in 27/11 (or what the hell ever :p ) and not get their fingers in a tangle. I'm very interested to hear Chaosphere after hearing this album. Perhaps not so keen to hear Nothing, as from what I've heard it seems to be a step backwards, but we shall see when I buy it!
Overall, it's a very tiring listen. It's not very easy to sit through from start to finish. It has some amazing tracks, it also has some pretty bad ones. If you loved Fear Factory and other bands in the same vein, then you'll love Meshuggah. They manage to take a tired formula and breath new life into it with a sound all of their own.
Album rating: 4/5 - Enough good tracks to offset the bad ones, and undeniably a talented band!
I might also reccomend you listen to Mnemic, and Darkane, who I understand are label buddies with Meshuggah. Very similar bands, but a little easier to get into (specifically Mnemic).