Monday, 22 December 2014

Meshuggah "Chaosphere" (1998)

Meshuggah, Swedish for "Crazy", are one of the most important and innovative bands in this modern era of music, especially in the context of extreme metal, a genre which hasn't undergone much evolution over the last decade outside of Meshuggah's massive influence in the context of rhythm and the "Djent" tone. Chaosphere marks the inception of Meshuggah's ascension into their own stratosphere of sound, one unlike anything that came before it. Previously this band were a group inspired by the American Thrash sound of the late 80s, introducing odd time signatures and experimental rhythmic approaches with their debut "Contradictions Collapse" in 91. They followed up with "Destroy Erase Improve" in 95, a classic Post-Thrash record that saw the band home in on their approach to rhythm and timing, executing polyrhythm guitar riffs and bass kicks against 4/4 arms on the kit. The result is a landmark record, but one that would not deter the band from progressing to bigger peaks. I decided to write about this record after catching them in London, where they put on a phenomenal show. I completely lost my sense of self to the mercy of their rhythmic tribal onslaught.

On this record Meshuggah take their sound to the extreme, ditching the power chords and taking their guitar tone into a new dimension unheard before. The "Djent" tone captures the crunching lows and powerful persuasion of distorted guitar picking textures, amplifying it to create a monumentally abrasive and uncompromising sound. Alongside the guitars, the bass receives a tonal depth and distortion that has is wavering around the guitar tone, further adding to the intensity that is put to effect with a simply genius approach to rhythm that appeals to the primitive and tribal rhythmic instinct inside oneself. Meshuggah's genius here is in their ability to execute two distinct rhythms simultaneously. The polyrhthms are elasticated and magnetized by their relation with the 4/4, sounding impulsive and sporadic inside a measurable pace that in its best moments bleeds a relentless and uncontrollable rhythmic energy that mesmerizes the listener with its infectious tribal instinct.

Although the concept may sound simple, many inspired bands have popped up over the years and it has to be said no one does it like these guys. Their riffing and compositional choices are sublime. Drummer Haake has to be complimented for his double brain. Playing 4/4 with his arms and varying unique time signatures with his feet, the man is a drumming machine and complete legend! Singer Yens also plays an important roll in their sound, his monotone and forceful shouts add to the chromatic texture of their sound and serve as a compliment to the 4/4, adding strength to one half of their timing make up. His lyrics also come with a unique approach, see "New Millennium Cyanide Christ". Much is also to be said about this bands overall "sound". At first they may sound somewhat one dimensional and tonally aggressive, but this simplistic and colorless sound just further emphasizes the importance of the relation between rhythm and polyrhythm. Fully aware of this aspect of their sound, the band blows the dimensional door wide open with Thordendal's alien lead guitars that burst into fold out of the void with an expansive and colorful tone as he shreds through the most unusual arrangements of notes at lightning speed. See "The Mouth Licking What You've Bleed" for an example. This unique almost sounds as if hes trying to hit every note arrangement that isn't in a scale. Its just another beautiful dimension to their sound which is also executed in the opposite fashion with his leads often being extreme or completely minimal. See "Corridor Of Chameleons" for both. His style is most comparable to Avant-Guard Jazz music.

Chaosphere is where it really happens for this band, from this point on they only expand their horizons and evolve their sound. This isn't a perfect record. I feel like the best of Meshuggah is found across multiple records and on this one their a few moments here and their where, if not in the mood, the constant onslaught can be tiring. My favorite way to describe this band, "being grabbed by the ankles and having your head slammed to different sides of the room to uncontrollable rhythmic madness". If this band intrigues you but you can't get into their music I would encourage you to persist. Their is something genius, tribal and totally unique at work here.

Favorite Tracks: New Millennium Cyanide Christ, Corridor Of Charmeleons, Neurotica, The Mouth Licking What You've Bled
Rating: 7/10