Review Summary: An unnecessary reissue which takes a great album and replaces its personality with sterility.
Meshuggah's 'Nothing' is one of my favorite metal albums, and it is widely regarded as one of the band's best records. However, the band was unhappy with the album, since they created it under a great deal of time pressure and were forced to use downtuned 7 string guitars instead of the intended 8 string guitars. This made their guitar strings very floppy, creating some intonation issues, so the band has decided to revisit this album and align it with their original vision. Unfortunately, they ended up removing much of the album's uniqueness, personality and intensity in the process.
The original Nothing had a very live drum sound which may be the best drum tone the band has ever gotten, but here they replaced that great drum tone with flat and boring superior drummer tones, leaving none of the live sound. They replaced the completely unique floppy guitar tone with a standard boring 8 string sound. The vocals aren't as up front and aggressive, and are processed very strangely throughout the record. They also removed some details - for instance, the awesome ambience at the start of Stengah is absent. The guitar and drum tones were already far blander than the original record, and these missing details make this version even more bland.
The production on this reissue is quite similar to that of Catch 33 (which used programmed drums and guitar pods) and obZen, both of which have sterile production that serves the music and retains the proper atmosphere. While it's true that Meshuggah's music is very mechanical and benefits from a cold, inhuman sound, Re-Nothing's sterility significantly lessens the album's atmosphere, aggression and intensity.
Unlike the band's other work, the music of 'Nothing' is more mysterious than terrifying, and at times it is even downright beautiful and moving, as in the ending of Straws Pulled at Random, the album's only modal-diatonic moment. Nothing has quite a few atmospheric and emotional moments which define the record, and the sterile production kills the power of these moments, as they sound as mechanical as the rest of the record. The original Nothing was the band's most organic sounding record, but this production was perfect for their most positive batch of songs.
There's also the issue of structure - the original album was perfectly balanced, with the aforementioned climactic ending of Straws Pulled at Random coming in at just the right time, and with just the right amount of material following it to allow the listener to wind down. This balance is ruined in the new version, as the last two tracks are extended - Nebulous is slowed down, and Obsidian is drawn out for twice as long. While Nebulous benefits from the slower tempo, there was no reason to extend Obsidian, which was already very repetitive. I imagine the band were aiming to create something especially hypnotic by extending this, but it simply ends up feeling dull and completely redundant.
Admittedly, this version of the album does sound significantly cleaner, and it does have a stronger low end. For example, you can actually hear the thick chords that were originally obscured by intonation issues in Stengah and Organic Shadows, and overall the riffs are more in tune - but this isn't enough to make up for the lost emotion. The dirtiness of the original Nothing gave it a strong atmosphere, and that defining characteristic has been lost.
Pretty sure I bought this version when I was younger specifically because Imd heard about it being a heavier version of the original. If I remember tonight I'll try to give the original a go, even though I love the sound/production on this version.
The problem is that you're assuming that cleaner production is automatically better. Yes, this is much cleaner production, but does it serve the atmosphere and emotion of the songs better? I certainly don't think so - quite the opposite.
the album was mixed and mastered in 3 days (usually takes weeks i believe), their touring schedule conflicted with their
recording schedule, so they had to rush it, and were unhappy with the result. its not just that its cleaner, its way more
powerful, bassy and imo, fits the music way better. if you like it more raw thats fine, but from a production standpoint its
definitely "better"....also, just curious, what are your opinion/rating on the original album?
4.5, the original is one of my top two favorite Meshuggah records (along with Catch 33, where I think the sterile production works better) and one of my favorite metal records of all time.
I'm definitely aware of the constraints the original was created under, and I think it's a pretty incredible achievement considering that. Sometimes things like that end up creating unexpected pleasant results, and in this case it created an album that sounds like other metal album in existence. Re-Nothing just sounds like every other overproduced djent record.
The guitarists were forced to record the original Nothing with downtuned 7-string guitars that didn't sound right. Later their custom made 8-stringed Ibanezes came in (which barely needed to be downtuned at all thanks to the low G string) and they loved it so much they rerecorded all the guitars and made this. It's the artists' direct decision. And I completely agree with them, just like what Clim and Jeremy said it's a huge improvement
And to explain myself a little bit further: to me, the live feel of the original gave it a lot of energy, especially since the music is largely very slow. You really hear the ghost notes, and the drum performance feels very live. There are discrepancies in the guitar tuning, everything isn't perfectly quantized… and that makes it feel exciting. Re-Nothing is indeed bassier, but the quantization, cleaner tones and bassiness end up sapping the energy and excitement from it to my ears.
Secondly, Nothing has quite a few remarkable and very emotional moments - the solo and clean section in Closed Eye Visuals, the ending of Straws, or the last third of Nebulous, to name a few. On Re-Nothing, these moments feel just as lifeless as the chugging riffs. The magic is just gone. What previously gave me chills leaves me cold. These moments defined the album for me to a large extent, so that's a deal breaker.
I'm curious: how many of you who love this version listened to Meshuggah prior to obZen's release? It seems like everyone I talk to who got into the band after obZen prefers this, while the pre-obZen crowd (myself included) prefers the original. Does that hold true here?
I got into them maybe a year or two after obZen came out. But I think it's more just which version of Nothing you listened to first, that's the trend I noticed. You get used to the sound of one and then listening to the other it just sounds weird and off so it's immediately inferior. At least in most cases
i became a fan around 2009. i like the rawer production on their pre-nothing albums, because the music itself is thrashier and grittier in a way, so it fits. this album was a turning point for them, and i think the cleaner, more mechanical production style goes along with how their musical evolution.
you do make me want to revisit the original though, only heard it once whereas ive heard this one dozens of times