Review Summary: A look at a possible future for Meshuggah.
Meshuggah have always been a rather electic band. Through six albums they have strived to create a sound that is unique and beautiful in its brutality. Yet while its uniqueness is unquestionable, its repetitiveness and ability to cross genre boundaries has always been something that is put into question. This EP is as important as Obzen because it not only showcases where the band has come from but where they could have and could still
As the Genesis of Meshuggah's sound this EP was very much treading into the dark with a white cane, it was at a time when the band was still experimenting and at this point some of the elements within this EP sound weaker than they do within the following releases. The lyrics upon this EP are varied, ranging from Haake's mind-bending metaphors upon Humiliative and Gods of Rapture to the rather abrupt lyrics of Jens Kidman who shouts more about "his ***ed up feelings" upon Ritual than anything else. The guitar riffs of Fredrik Thordendal and Martin Hagstrom are technical but at certain points the interchanges between riffs such as within the end of Humiliative felt out of place, the same applies to the vocals; Jens Kidman has yet to find his feet with the rhythmic beat of the songs with the seemingly random placement of some of his screams and shouts within Sickening. Sickening itself is very much one of the weakest songs upon this EP, its structure derailed mostly by the two guitars occasionally mistiming their riffs with Haake's druming and the use of an acoustic solo two thirds of the way through that felt completely unnecessary.
Fortunately many parts of this EP sound more than make up for what is lost. Haake, the stone monolith that he is, does not fail here with consistently impressive drumming, the opening to Gods of Rapture a bombastic attack upon the listener's skull with his drumsticks. The guitars of Martin Hagstrom and Fredrik Thordendal are far from monotonous. They incorporate soloing upon songs such as Ritual and Humiliative and for once it sounds more natural than before. The incorporation of tentative acoustic sections that are reminiscent of later Jazz Fusions are also pleasant and most of the time well-timed such as again on Ritual. Jens Kidman's vocals, while out of rhythm at certain points on this EP, are far more varied than ever before and since, his use of clean vocals upon the chorus of Ritual a first and sadly last time for him. They are also at points chilling and powerful, the brilliant Aztec Two-Step where it is at its best. With all the instruments pushed behind him, his abrasive vocals create rough textures that make the listener feel the terror of an Aztec ritual. This unarguably shows the pounding rhythm that the band would become most famous for.
It is through this rhythm that the future can be seen. Humiliative, Sickening and Gods of Rapture can cleary be seen to point to both Destroy Erase Improve and Chaosphere-era releases with their speeding riffs and robotic drumming that changes upon a heartbeat. The jazz-fusion-style acoustic sections and song structure of electric-acoustic-electric would be present for both these releases and beyond. However it is the Aztec Two-Step that has the greatest sight of all the releases. It's overflowing riffs, while not possessing the later's complexity and faster beat, is reminiscent of both Nothing and Catch Thirty-Three within its repetition and rhythm. Similarly the drumming is repetitive yet rhythmic and with the ability to change with the rhythm. It is something that is also very prominent within Nothing and Catch Thirty-Three as with the effective use of silences to leave the listener, skull-crushed and ears bleeding, upon the edge of tension. For this then it was the most important track ever. It was. Now the most important track would go to Ritual for not what has been done in its future but for what could possibly be done in our future.
The song is unusually melodic in its composition for Meshuggah. Many of the elements that the band refuses to incorporate into its sound or uses very little of such as guitar soloing and variance in vocals are all pushed to the forefront. Granted it is not as complex here but it is the promise that it shows that makes it far more important. It shows us guitar solos and riffs that are more organic than digitised with mathmatical precision within later works. The use of clean vocals too that, while a little weak, have the potential to be so much better. All of this rapped up within a traditional Meshuggah structure. It shows they can pursue melody with out losing that core sound that makes them so unique. It's an area they could have reached out into and could still but so far they have not done so. Indeed with the song Bleed upon Obzen it seems the direction they will taking will be more in the line of hardcore, the completely opposite direction. It is a shame as it is an impediment upon a band who wishes to break genre boundaries. Maybe it is the fear of being caught up in mainstream metal? Who knows but in the end the None EP, like Obzen, showcases what has come before in Meshuggah's history and also a possible future for the mad geniuses. A future that is paved in caved-in skulls and smashed computers...