Review Summary: The sound of innovation.
How does one properly start a Meshuggah review? Do they start on polyrhythms? Do they start on the seemingly endless groove pocket of monster kit masher Tomas Haake? Do they focus on the entirely ***ed, skewed song structures? They could talk about that, or perhaps they could just talk about metal. Metal has seen a steep decline in quality in recent years (due all in part to cookie-cutter metalcore and deathcore bands). There are bands left and right making bad music with an amalgamation of breakdowns and apparently “complex” riff patterns which consist maybe of a simple minor scale and some sweeps (really, guys?). To make matters worse, these gaged-ear, halfwit “musicians” if you will, label their stuff as “new” and “good”, slapping a pretentious album title on it, naming all of their songs in excess of 50 characters and also throwing a concept on it making their stoned, unappreciative listeners think they’ve dug into something deeper than they initally bargained for. On the contrary, the progressive death metal legends of Meshuggah make their music without any of the annoyances of scene queens and breakdown abuse. With each release their music sounds fresh and interesting, unlike some of their contemporaries who fall short each time by a wide, hopeless margin.
The truth is, Meshuggah has been ahead of the game; presenting ideas to metal fans that have stayed relatively new in excess of 15 years. True, most bands have caught up to “Destroy Erase Improve” and it’s innovations but with each release after Meshuggah is still ahead of the pack with releases like their 2nd effort “Chaosphere”, which was released in (gasp) 1998! Holy ***! Most lead screamers for the scenester bands weren’t even in Huggies yet at that time and yet, 15 years later, bands are still jocking off of Meshuggah’s innovations. When will they realize that they just can’t do it like the kings?
“Chaosphere” kicks off with the ultimate complexity of “Concatenation”, which when looked up in a dictionary, means “a linking together or being linked together in a series”. The music though somewhat inaccessible and machine-like certainly sounds linked together causally on this track. Execution is so watertight and flawless that not even a machine could replicate it. The overall sound of the band is easily likened to a musical entrée; neo jazz meets death metal meets schizophrenia with a side of differential equations and a dollop of Jens Kidman roaring away his misanthropy, being set nicely atop of the dish for the world to see. “Concatenation” becomes absolutely absurd by the time the solo pops in. The guitar solo sounds like an autistic kid going ape*** on a Casio keyboard and in Meshuggah’s case it sounds damn amazing.
From there we move on to “New Cyanide Millennium Christ”, the most recognizable song off the record. Most will know of this song from its supporting music video of the band jamming in air-style along to the song in their tour bus. This song is a headbanging goldmine. The listener can easily jam their way through the track without losing time signature. Side note: to fully discern the structure and time signatures of Meshuggah’s “impossibly complex” music, just bang your head. It works, trust me. Following that, “Corridor of Chameleons” forces its will onto the listener, charging at the senses like a pissed off bull. One of the more intense tracks on the LP, this is sure to appeal to audiences looking for a just downright heavy track. A notable moment in the song is when the band breaks into 4/4 making everything as heavy as possible. Jens comes in with the mic like a veteran MC, spitting flames. a truly great pair of intense tracks.
Continuing on, did I mention the uncanny groove ability of this band? “Neurotica” is sure to make listeners do something they’d never think they’d ever do to a Meshuggah track; stand up and shake their ass. This sledgehammer groove-fest is an infectious ass shaker of a track and rightfully so. Meshuggah does the right amount of rhythmic subtraction on this song to make it seem almost sexual in nature while retaining the mechanical musicality that defines their sound to a large extent. Jens and company continue bashing the listener’s brains in with the multifaceted, knotty speedball spasm of “The Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled”. While still retaining their immensely dense groove, Meshuggah make this screaming riff a surefire album highlight.
Another point I’d like to make about this album is a very predictable, albeit needed point; Tomas Haake’s contribution on the kit is what makes the album. Even non musicians can appreciate a drummer with a level of playing such as this. He puts his contemporaries to shame with tracks like “Sane” and “The Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled”. “Sane” features a 3:2 polyrhythm slapped over an odd time signature verse riff. The two conflicting metrics don’t clash, but instead mesh, making an incredibly original and innovative product.
In conclusion, Meshuggah lay down a track list that can easily withstand the test of time. Tracks like “Neurotica” are sure to make listeners dance while tracks like the ironically titled “Sane” are sure to put listeners in a trance. Meshuggah shows a mastery of their genre and their instruments, with the only notable flaw being repetition. Fans of metal looking to break away from the annoyances of their genre’s downward plunge into redundancy should definitely pick up this mind bender of an album. This is a must-have.