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Meshuggah - Topic

Chaosphere Play

When the likes of Cannibal Corpse and Obituary came about and pleased every butt-rocking wannabe Satanist out there, a term such as "intellectual death metal" was only thought of as just an oxymoron. That was before Meshuggah came out and outsmarted all these suburban burnouts. Sure "Chaosphere" flaunts the flaming guitar solo every now and then, and don't forget their tendency of trying to come across as all dark and evil. But what Meshuggah have over all the carbon copy death metal acts out there is that they focus primarily on knowing how to play their instruments and segue tempo changes rather than trying to outspeed and outgrowl everybody. Seriously, each song will have one guessing on which direction the band is going to take next. Who would have thought that there would be a band that could respark a genre that was long thought overdone after the second Napalm Death record? ~ Mike DaRonco, Rovi

Destroy Erase Improve Play

With Destroy Erase Improve, Meshuggah shattered any preconceived notions about what death, thrash, and prog metal could be with one astoundingly accurate, calculated blow. The Swedish outfit managed to surpass their startlingly original, if relatively immature debut, Contradictions Collapse, with a record so pure in concept and execution, it borders on genius. Lyrical themes visualize the integration of machines with organisms as humanity's next logical evolutionary step, while the music backing it up is mind-bogglingly technical, polyrhythmic math metal -- the work of highly skilled men with powerful instruments. While the idea looks unwieldy on paper, Meshuggah handles it with a balance of raw guts and sheer brainpower, weaving hardcore-style shouts amongst deceptively (and deviously) simple staccato guitar riffs and insanely precise drumming -- often with all three components acting in different time signatures. Guitarist Fredrik Thordendal adds an element of weirdness with Allan Holdsworth-style neo-jazz fusion leads that serve as melodic oases amidst the jackhammer rhythms. While such bold, challenging arrangements could result in a wank-fest or, even worse, a chaotic mess, Meshuggah carefully synchronizes their bludgeoning instrumentation, embracing minimalism without excess and playing to the power of the song so the listener isn't neck-deep in over-composed indulgences. As a result, "Future Breed Machine," "Suffer in Truth," and "Soul Burn" are mind-bogglingly profound, integrating body, mind, and soul into a violently precise attack, the point being that change can be extraordinarily difficult -- if not maddening -- but the results are transcendent. While industrial metallers Fear Factory have attempted to tackle similar themes, Meshuggah outclasses them on all fronts, proved by the stunning brilliance of Destroy Erase Improve. The album is a bona fide '90s classic, a record boasting ideas so well-balanced -- natural yet clinical, guttural yet intelligent, twisted yet concise -- it muscled simplistic subgenres out of the way and confidently pointed toward the future of metal. ~ John Serba, Rovi

Koloss Play

Rather than trying to beat their ever-growing legion of imitators at their own game, Swedish prog metal destroyers Meshuggah look to prove that other bands not only aren't in the same league as them, but aren't even playing the same sport. On Koloss, their seventh album, they call upon all of their technical mastery as they take a slower, more groove-oriented approach to songwriting that's more about the perfect execution of precisely syncopated riffs than simply getting out there and proving that they've taken guitar lessons. While restraint isn't necessarily a word one would seem likely to use while describing a band as extreme as Meshuggah, it's exactly that quality that makes Koloss such a solid, even airtight, album. With so many years of experience as innovators under their belts, they have the kind of restraint and patience required to not overplay songs like the album-opening "I am Colossus" and the later track "Swarm." Rather than feel the constant need to dazzle the listener with guitar heroics, Meshuggah let everything just unfold in the most brutally heavy and effective way possible. With their status as the old guard on the more progressive end of the extreme music spectrum, Meshuggah have easily proven to listeners time and time again that they know their way around their instruments better than most, so even though Koloss isn't the band's most daring or experimental work to date, it's definitely worth any metal fan's time. ~ Gregory Heaney, Rovi

None [#1] Play

Four years passed between Meshuggah's 1991 debut, Contradictions Collapse, and their second full-length album, Destroy Erase Improve. During those four years, Meshuggah weren't idle; they performed plenty of live gigs, and they provided the EP None. In 1994, fans of Contradictions Collapse were hungry for more -- and while None wasn't the gourmet alterna-metal feast that Destroy Erase Improve turned out to be, it was an enjoyable, if imperfect, appetizer. Stylistically, the blistering selections "Ritual," "Sickening," "Gods of Rapture," and "Humiliative" were not a major departure from the material on Contradictions Collapse; Meshuggah still sounded like a pummeling blend of Slayer, Metallica, and Sepultura. None, like Contradictions Collapse, hinted at the greatness that was to come, although it fell short of that greatness. None isn't as experimental or as challenging as Destroy Erase Improve (which was Meshuggah's first truly superb album) or Chaosphere (another gem), but it is an exciting listen nonetheless. Headbangers who became Meshuggah enthusiasts after hearing Contradictions Collapse continued to be Meshuggah enthusiasts when Nuclear Blast released None in 1994 -- and that enthusiasm would only increase thanks to Destroy Erase Improve in 1995 and Chaosphere in 1998. It should be noted that when Nuclear Blast reissued Contradictions Collapse in the United States in 2008, four None songs were added as bonus tracks; that was a wise move on the part of Nuclear Blast, because even though None isn't among Meshuggah's essential releases, it is still a respectable footnote in their history. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi

Nothing Play

Within the realms of metal, few bands are more esoteric and left-brained than Meshuggah. These Swedes make music for clinically minded deconstructionists, and one really has to reduce Meshuggah's sound to its individual elements before seeing the overall picture. Nothing, their fourth full-length slab, only further cements their place as masterminds of cosmic calculus metal -- call it Einstein metal if you want -- and, to their credit, they're really the only ones to fall into said sub-subgenre. When odd riff cycles, robotic death vocals, neo-jazz chromatics, and mathematical songwriting are your primary weapons, it would seem easy to paint yourself into a corner creatively -- so where is Meshuggah to go after Destroy Erase Improve, the band's powerful statement of intent, and its follow-up, the suffocatingly violent and clattery Chaosphere? Well, besides being heavier -- guitarists Marten Hagstrom and Fredrik Thordendal used eight-string guitars to give extra growl to their off-kilter, occasionally dissonant chording -- the appropriately titled Nothing boasts more spacious arrangements, the jarring tempo and time shifts colliding with each other until the songs collapse on themselves like black holes (see "Glints Collide" and the seven-plus minutes of "Closed Eye Visual"). From there, light bends into "Nothing," the theme of the record rooted in existentialism and the psychic trauma it causes on the brain -- and so goes the cranium stretching, through "Straws Pulled at Random," "Spasm," and the creepily invigorating lunar strains of "Obsidian," all being anti-melodic, teeth-grinding jaunts into opaque mathematical regions, importing small amounts of Tool's psychedelia into the group's Death-by-way-of-Gang of Four sonic maelstrom. Nothing truly gives new meaning to the word heavy, redefining boundaries by pushing metal into the realms of abstract science; for those lucky enough to be tuned into Meshuggah's unique wavelength, the album, like all good art, tickles the subconscious while probing both the internal (the mind) and the external (space). And when Meshuggah explores, it's into uncharted territory. If only more metal bands could be so daring. ~ John Serba, Rovi

ObZen Play

On first listen, the sound on Obzen, Meshuggah's sixth full-length, is startling, not for its trademark rapid-fire key and tempo changes, or for the intricate, insanely knotty riffs that careened over 2002's Nothing or 2005's Catch Thirty-Three. Instead, it is the rampaging charge that leads off the set on "Combustion," a balls-out sprint that recalls the band's earlier catalog albums like Contradictions Collapse, Destroy Erase Improve, and even Chaosphere. Power, focus and attention to the bone-crushing power are at the center of Obzen. That said, it loses nothing in terms of the band's keen focus of musical or technical innovation or drummer Tomas Haake's songwriting. What it does leave behind is some of the mathy quick-change-for-the-sake-of-it annoyances that were more a show-off of athletic prowess than actual compositional tropes. The melodic orchestration of Catch Thirty-Three has all but disappeared, and in its place is a direct, almost machine-like sense of communication. What's most remarkable is the live drum kit work by Haake. He's constant and startling -- the completely crazy bass pedal work on "Bleed" would leave most drummers in the dust. You have to wonder, since the last album featured so many triggered laptop tooled drums. Again: power, compositional ethics, and musical acumen are all tied to one thing, building a foundation that just gets wider, deeper, and more intense as the album wears on. Check the frenetic slash and burn ethos in "Pineal Gland Optics," where both guitars stagger their rhythmic attack keeping vocalist Jens Kidman on the money the whole time. It gives way to the unwound pummeling drum and guitar solo riff that introduces "Pravus," with its sense of taut dynamics, hair-trigger tensions, and an explosiveness that is literally unequaled. This is sheer attack metal, played by a band that has run from simplicity to excess and incorporated them both into a record that is on a level with anything else they've done, even if not all the elements marry perfectly yet. Just get it. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

Contradictions Collapse/None Play

Meshuggah's debut album, Contradictions Collapse, was originally released in 1991, albeit not in the U.S.; Nuclear Blast''s 1999 stateside reissue appends the None EP. In contrast to their later, more progressive-oriented work, the album generally falls into the alternative metal category, with ultra-heavy riffs and hints of hip-hop or industrial dance in the drum patterns. Although it's not quite as accomplished as their later work, it's certainly a worthwhile listen, especially for devoted fans. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi

Rare Trax Play

As the name implies, Rare Trax is a compilation of hard-to-find tracks from the distant Meshuggah past. Included with a digital reawakening of the band's limited-to-1,000-vinyl-LPs debut (known as Psykisk Testbild even though it was technically eponymous) are demo cuts culled from throughout the band's history. It is interesting how the likes of "Sovereigns Morbidity" have an Exodus-like quality to them, especially since the band has since left such influences behind, and the self-effacing self-penned liner notes are amusing. However, Meshuggah has progressed to a much different (dare say, better) place over the years, and like most odds-and-sods comps, Rare Trax is best saved for nostalgic completists. ~ Brian O'Neill, Rovi
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