Review Summary: Perhaps Meshuggah should have destroyed, erased and improved the opposition. Only then would they be able to catch up with this spasmodic beast of a record
Meshuggah are certainly one interesting metal band. Perhaps no single act has come along in the past 40 years of heavy metal that has ever sounded so heavy, so ridiculously complex yet so irresistibly catchy so early in their career. While “Contradictions Collapse” had highlighted Meshuggah as a band with plenty of potential to sound just a little bit different, “Destroy Erase Improve” highlighted the fact that the lumbering beast had landed, and were now a serious force to be reckoned with.
Perhaps “Destroy...” and its full forty-six minutes playing times strongest asset is that it would not sound out of place on the construction line of a tank factory. Every song is so damn heavy, so relentless, that at times the album is simply overwhelming. While Meshuggah’s later releases, particularly 2002’s “Nothing” would sound an overall more complex beast, for sheer riffery and consistency, “Destroy...” proves the superior sound.
What truly makes or breaks a Meshuggah record is the instrumentation, and on “Destroy...” the band were on an absolute stormer. The driving force on show here is Thomas Haake, who has been consistently rated as one of modern metal’s best drummers, and in this 1995 effort he is no exception. Perhaps one of his strongest showings on the album is on track number three, or “Soul Burn” that has always been a fan favourite. It starts out a relatively straight forward number, the classic Meshuggah mix of sludgey, drone guitars and strained vocals, but at 2.18 in, it transforms into perhaps one of the greatest metal songs of all time. Incredibly complex drum-fills and crashing rides fall into the fray, with some classic Meshuggah eastern-inspired lead guitar work and deep-rumbling bass create a stunning final result. It is so unpredictable in its format, that after 213 listens on my I-pod, I can barely remember the drum sound all the way through.
Another integral part of the band sound is Jens Kidman, lead vocalist and one of extreme metal’s most interesting front men (even if he doesn't write his own lyrics). Perhaps his greatest skill is to simply keep up with the band that is playing behind him, which is most impressive on straight out thrash numbers like “Future Breed Machine” and “Terminal Illusions”. His lyrical content at times is also incredible, such as in "Future Breed Machine"
"Mechanical thoughts I now concieve
No longer me always to see inanity
Millions to be units like me eternally
Human patterns copied dissected distorted
Completed to fit the machine
The nerve fibres give in to cords
To the unknown"
Everything can be heard, even when hurtling out of his tortured larynx, tightening the fortress that is “Destroy Erase Improve” even further.
However, as with every Meshuggah album, there are always one or two niggles that nip at the bands heals and can never be truly gotten rid of. The first of these is that this band is truly a marmite affair-you either totally get it or you don’t. The rythmic changes at times really do not fit the music, especially on "Inside What's Within Behind" that is a bit of a plodder, and really does not benefit from any aforeentioned changes. Many who listen to Meshuggah simply do not understand the music. Plus, at times, the songs can simply blend into each other, the worst culprit being "Terminal Illusions" that has the same, droning riff throughout its playing time. Plus, perhaps one or two of the albums riffs get recycled at several times throughout the album, which just lowers the overall tone from that of a classic to a near master-piece of metal.
“Destroy Erase Improve” is certainly not an album for those who want simple, thrashy head bangers. The level of complexity and skill on display is at times mind-boggling, and even if one or two songs sound a tad samey in overall composition, there is no denying that this is one fine moment in Meshuggah’s discography. If you like extreme metal with an interesting twist, then “Destroy Erase Improve” is most certainly for you. If not, then take your sub-standard death metal head bangers, for what Meshuggah have created here is a fantastic listen on so many levels.
1. Future Breed Machine
2. Soul Burn