You know, it might not be sufficiently established at this point, but I do have a love for long songs. For most people that’s a song of six minutes or more. For me, that’d be a song of more than ten minutes. Ten minutes is extended, Five minutes is average.
Additionally, I happen to like the music of Meshuggah, a Swedish metal band whose rhythmically complex songs bludgeon the listener into submission not through blast beats, but instead jerking the beat back and forth and back again in quick succession.
I is (remember that joke whose punchline was “I am the ninth letter of the alphabet”?) an EP by the aforementioned band, an EP consisting of one single long song, 21 minutes long in fact, and 21 minutes awesome. Opening with a seemingly endless rolling of guitar and drums before vocalist Jens Kidman delivers an almighty scream almost as alarming as the one in Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy. Almost but not quite. Still fun though.
The song continues much as a regular Meshuggah track, with the obligatorily weird guitar solos of Fredrik Thordendal, the beat-shifting grind of Mårten Hagström and Thordendal, the off-kilter-on-kilter drumwork of Tomas Haake, and monotonous voice of Kidman. Wow, that roll call was well disguised.
One solo in particular stands out, around the 5:40 mark, as being genuinely terrifying at high volume. A barrage of ridiculous noodling that just refuses to resolve into a conclusion. It’s not as if the song wasn’t fast enough already.
My single favourite moment in the EP, and perhaps in Meshuggah‘s long career, comes halfway through the song’s 9th minute – a guitar stutters along, propelled by relentless drumming matching the riff hit for hit. This secton is so ridiculously cool, that I could see imagine song would be even cooler if it was just this for 21 minutes. Perhaps that’s an over exaggeration, but hey, that’s what makes writing so much fun… I then shifts into plodding mode. And by plodding I mean marching. And by marching, I mean like storm troopers. Robot storm troopers with jackhammers for feet.
Lyrically, Meshuggah songs are all thematically similar, but specifically unique. This one seems to be about a black hole or similar calamity, but with its own conscious. Either that, or something completely different. Whatever it is, I is littered with wonderfully absurd lines like “The pendulum swings semi-attached to the centre of all” and “I devour this manure of existence”
The latter half of I tends toward the slower aspects of Meshuggah‘s range, including several breakdowns into drones. By the 17th minute, the whole thing has collapsed into something more alien and slow. This continues to the droning feedback that closes I.
I must admit, I had my doubts that Meshuggah would be able to sustain a piece through 20+ minutes. In fact I can, and they do it with aplomb. The song shifts through many different sections, but they remain together and “of a piece”. Maybe you like Meshuggah and maybe you don’t. Point is, Christian Rock all sucks. Oh wait, no… Point is, I is a frigging oresome song, in that it both frigs and is full of ore. Not bore, ore. Also awe. And that’s about all you knead that dough. I mean need to know.