Review Summary: Like science fiction meets B-horror meets stream of consciousness meets progressive metal rock opera. This album will give you a ride that won’t be forgotten. And that also may result in probing.
We all know Mr. Thorendal for his extended range guitar work in the highly influential progressive metal group Meshuggah. This is the group that has, without a doubt, influenced an entire sub-genre of metal that is now known by the masses as “djent”. This term was coined by Fredrik Thorendal himself, given that the particular guitar tone that the band settled upon seemed to coincide with the term as an onomatopoeia of sorts. What began as Meshuggah spreading its wings and influencing a quasi-generation of metal enthusiasts has undoubtedly been blown out of proportion today with copycats being shat from the woodwork like an intestinal infection spreading across the constantly evolving promise land that is metal, and progressive metal in many instances.
On a timeline we can see that Meshuggah’s first album was released in 1991, the second in 1995, and the third in 1998. The fact that this album was released as an almost “solo album” by Thorendal in 1997 explains the vast evolution that we hear in those Meshuggah albums from 1995 to 1998. This record is the archetype of musical evolution.
What we’re handed on this record is a smorgasbord of influences crammed into one spastic package. This album, though split up into 29 distinct (albeit mostly short lived) tracks, plays as if it were just one schizophrenically orchestrated song. Though I wouldn’t say that there is a concrete, easy-to-follow storyline, I would dub this a concept album in the respect that it delves into aspects of sci-fi, the concept of existence, and maybe even a sublevel of religion as far as I can conclude.
I sing in colors. My mother is god, my father is god, my brothers, my sisters; all are god. God to the right. God to the left. God overhead. Christ-encounter of the fourth kind.
Whether the listener is predisposed to enjoying this type of music or not they certainly cannot deny the sheer finesse and skill showed in the musicianship. The guitars bounce from polyrhythmic chugging to soulful jazz solos to frantic tapping as if influence is just another member of the outfit. The bass (which Thorendal also recorded) growls on the low end with the same start-stop techniques as the guitars. Morgan Ågren pounds away at the drums, utilizing his title as a progressive music percussionist in more of a jazz aspect than anything else. Amongst this volatile combination is still keyboards, synthesizer, saxophone, and even a church organ. Whether it be the guitar eerily backing the rhythmic chaos with an off kilter screech, the synth humming as a wall of haunting sound, or even Tomas Haake’s horrifying spoken word vocal segments, the variety is unmistakable, and rather impressive if I do say so myself.
Now with all of this avant-garde, extraterrestrial time signature clashing how could one possible see a deterring side? Well, in all reality, which this album seems to ignore in its own dimension of existence, its standout figure seems to play the role as the end-all weapon on both sides of the battle, making it somewhat of a paradox. While you will truly never hear anything quite like this with its instrumental arithmetic, dizzying concepts, and pure guttural experimentation it is also that experimentation that could prove to be the biggest downfall for some listeners. With the 29 tracks running rampant, some ending almost as quickly as they began, some may struggle to find something to hang onto and remember throughout the whole experience that is this record.
However this record fares for you one thing is for certain: You will not forget it.
I've become the nuclear image of eternity. I'm the original stuff. All the universes find their pattern in my being, for I'm the cosmic infinitesimal. I'm the source. I'm the fountain, exploding in your face. With a flick of my wrist a new cosmos begins.
An album of this magnitude deserves at least one solid listen before it’s put down as pretentious and self indulged. Because, being the enigmatic piece that it is, some of its most off-putting characteristics to some may be the biggest show stoppers for others. In a literary sense it may lack the musical motifs that hold many albums together. However, sort through its more than two dozen separate chapters of concepts and its frightening technique of aural assault and I promise you nothing will ever scrape the surface of the experience you take with you.