Meshuggah – Nothing

This review was written about an age ago, but I never got round to uploading it to the old site because it was a pain to do so, and I’m lazy.

Meshuggah are a really rather impressive and technical metal band whose spine-shatteringly heavy music is one of the most interesting anomolies in modern musica; while being ridiculously confusing and mind-bending, they are also visceral and heavy enough to appeal to the average metalhead.

NothingSo this is where we jump through a short history of the band up to this point: Meshuggah. Destroy Erase Improve. Chaosphere. Nothing. Surprise!

Nothing is slower than their previous works (I can see this review will be full of confusion), moving the band in a more subtle and ponderous direction. By slowing their music from the breakneck pace of Chaosphere and increasing the gap between notes, the music actually seems heavier. You should note that this album was re-released recently in re-recorded and remixed form. This review deals with the original version, because I do not have the newer version, and being so used to the original I doubt I’d be all that enthused by the changes.

We open with Stengah which is particularly plodding. The use of guitar on this track is unusually sparse. Rational Gaze is slightly faster and full of confusingly placed snare hits. The track also includes the world’s weirdest guitar solo. Perpetual Black Second is a fan-favourite with more of the sparse arrangement, and a very staccato feel. I’m not quite so smitten with the body of it, but the ending is spectacular. We move swiftly onto Closed Eye Visuals, a gigantic field-ploughing mutated monster of a track. It’s the longest on the record, and it features the longest and slowest guitar solo too.

If there’s one thing that annoys me about Nothing, it’s the fact that most of the tracks fit the same formula with a token weird Fredrick Thordendal guitar solo thrown in in the last third. Glints Collide opens with some furious drumming, particularly on the toms. This track is quite hypnotic and repetitive, but it manages to do without the guitar solo somehow. Organic Shadows continues this tribal tom drumming idea, but far slower.

But then, almost without warning, we hit the real meat of the album, beginning with Straws Pulled at Random, which is quite frankly beautiful. The “mellow” section at the end manages to articulate much more emotion than the average Meshuggah song, generally being desolate and dark, and yet, whilst the cleaner guitar section is beautiful in itself, there is also a stunningly ethereal quality to the heavy riff that leads into and out of it. Spasm features processed spoken vocals, and a particularly interesting focus on the utterly unparalleled drumming of Mister Tomas Haake. And then Nebulous hits with a phenomenal powerful descending riff marching into a stream of breathtakingly brutal and restrained riffs which quite frankly move me to grin with maniacal glee. Obsidian is appears at first to be a quiet closer, but it builds into a painfully slow dirge.

So, the verdict is this: Nothing is a great and impressively measured statement, especially once you get past the first few headache-inducing listens. The mix is kind of unforgiving, and the arrangements are generally the same on every song, so it can be quite a difficult listen sometimes. Still, it’s worth making it through the first half to get to the absolute gold awaiting you from Straws Pulled at Random right through to the closer Obsidian.

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