Review Summary: A euphoric punch to the face.
The greatest thing about rhythm is that it is a constant which is embedded into (essentially) any music form which has ever been conceived. It works as a continuous wheel, driving a song forward while at the same time providing the listener with a tool and the want to “get” it and catch on. This is very important in a genre like metal, since there is normally so much going on that listeners with an untrained ear desperately search for anything familiar to grasp onto, before dismissing it entirely as “just noise with screaming” or "screamo" (ugh). Any inkling of a beat or rhythm is much appreciated to any newcomer digesting a metal song for the first couple of times. Once the listener knows how the song “goes” it’s much easier to catch onto melodies or distinct nuances and grasp the overall sound the artist was working towards. Whichever way it’s done this idea of “getting” something as complex as metal can leave one believing they have just accomplished a great feat or solved a difficult problem. It leaves a listener feeling so satisfied that they will begin listening to music in a different light and heading down a road of discovering an entire new world of listening delights.
It’s for this reason one can say that Meshuggah’s 2002 release Nothing
is the biggest landmark in their 20+ year career and is the album which put them on the map through the constant, unrelenting emphasis on heavy rhythm sections. The chaotic and sporadic nature of their previous full lengths and EPs catered toward a narrower, more thrash loving audience. These releases, while excellent in their own rights, resulted in Meshuggah getting somewhat lost in the fold and stuck at a crossroads: continue down their thrash-leaning road, or take the more powerful aspects of their sound and refine them. The result is a culmination of grooves and off-time beats in the lowest, heaviest tuning which changed an entire metal landscape and sparked a new era in extreme music.
The release stands almost entirely as a rhythmic assault, with each song providing an abundance of downtuned riffs and groovy passages. With all of the complex riffing of the album, essentially syncopated to a 4/4 beat, Meshuggah utilize the best of both worlds and provide a template any listener can easily digest. From the opening riff of “Stengah”, Meshuggah simultaneously pummel and serenade their audience through the use of intense brutality and scattered, floating guitar leads. “Straws Pulled At Random” and “Closed Eye Visuals” are perfect examples of this, where in all the chaos and brutality of the songs they allow the music to breathe and emerge in a way that was previously more sporadic. The mesmerizing leads are perfectly built into the rhythms, allowing the listener to better follow the intricate soloing guitarist Fredrik Thordendal is seamlessly executing. Many sections of Nothing
take advantage of Thordendal’s creative genius, as shown on previous releases, and allow for their music to take a step back in the midst of the rhythmic madness and toss in jazz territory feelings of floating and airlessness which help captivate listeners.
As drummer Tomas Haake has explained, when you find a cool rhythm it’s like a tribal feeling, everyone picks it up. This cannot be any more prevalent than during one of their shows, where the audience is packed to the brim and simultaneously headbanging with the band as if in some sort of trance. It is this powerful, left-hand path, focus on rhythm which has solidified Meshuggah’s legacy and has brought them to the forefront of the metal world. They do an amazingly good job of making their music incredibly difficult in technicality, yet simple at the same time. What Meshuggah have done on this album is take the heaviest possible sound they can achieve, and make it so simple to listen to that in all of it’s underlying chaos it results in a calming, almost euphoric thing to listen to. This notion was cemented on 2002’s Nothing
, and the result has seen it being cited by many modern metal musicians as one of the most influential records in the past couple of decades.