Review: Meshuggah

(Nuclear Blast)

It’s been a long wait for the Meshuggah fan.  1998’s release of “Chaosphere” and first US tour opening for Slayer cemented these Swedish musicians as one of the most critically heralded metal acts of the century.  “Nothing” solidifies Meshuggah’s brand of crushing mathematical riffs and off-time structures into their most straightforward offering to date.  Spinal guitar work is choked, caressed and smacked from custom made 8-string guitars that is often laid against contrasting, sporadic drumbeats.  A very controlled chaos, collapsing apart and falling together in unison.

Jens Kidman’s vocals are still huff and gruff, but you can feel the veins on his neck standing out with every slowly punctuated word.  The track ‘Spasm’ shows a leaner, crispness and (doubling? Effect?) of Kidman’s vocals, making this track a standout for the vocal presence alone.

Meshuggah tend to trade melody and hook for expansive and crawling structures, meant to pummel with their accuracy and technical dissonance of what often feels like contrasting time signatures (especially in the interplay between percussion and guitars).  A stark crispness to their minimalist use of sound gives an even harsher tint to an already abrasive sound (speed is not a Meshuggah device, rather the delivery is punchy and singular in the guitar approach).

The guitar solos are simply amazing.  Virtuosity and almost experimental approaches to how a solo should ‘fit’ into a song are commonplace in a Meshuggah song.  This is the kind of band that gets asked to play Ozzfest and personally invited by Tool to go on tour.  And for damn good reason.  Unique Metal.  A truly rare commodity.