Originally written by Dan Staige.
Meshuggah are on a level of metal that is uninhabited by other metal bands, w/ maybe the exception of Gorguts, but combining this kind of technikillity w/ this kind of heaviness is something that is currently a rarity in metal today. Ever since I heard “Chaosphere” back in 1999, I knew that these guys had something different going on when they put together a song. I listened to Chaosphere at least 5 times at the music store before I bought it, mainly because at 1st, I got lost in their music. I could keep up for one measure, then I was doomed. But after I thought about it, it interested me that there was a band challenging its listeners. I had no idea what a polyrhythm was, much less had I heard one. But mainly, I added it to my collection because it had a complex heaviness to it that appealed to me. Since then I have mastered “air-sticking” & “air-guitaring” Chaosphere down to a “T”….. Since 1999, I have heard Meshuggah’s sound blatantly copied by lots of new bands (ex….Sisthema). So I thought, in order for Meshuggah to come out w/ something new & still be “groundbreaking”, they were going to have to do something completely unexpected to preserve themselves as the leaders in polyrhythmic “math metal”…….And they have done so w/ “Nothing”. Firstly, they have forged further ahead w/ the “let’s see how many strings we can fit on one guitar” trend by playing custom 8-string guitars. And it sounds awesome. That 8th string is an absolute monster. Basically, just take the bottom string of your bass and put it on your guitar. It’s a massive, bowel-loosening crunch that sounds perfect for the “theme” that Meshuggah employs in their music. The production on “Nothing” has improved by leaps over Chaosphere. The bass and percussion especially come across w/ heaps more clarity and “closeness”. In contrast, this album is much slower than Chaosphere, but comes across much heavier, due in part to the 8 stringers I’m sure, but also because Kidman’s vocals are raspier and sound less like a shouting James Hetfield this time around. The songs just drag you along behind them, occasionally stopping to reach back and pummel you over the head w/ a bone-crunching technical breakdown. Nothing just moves at a slower pace and grinds a hell of a lot more. One thing I’ve noticed is that the songs are almost entirely made up of single note riffs. There’s a lot less utilization of power chords. Except of course for “Spasm”. That is for sure my favorite Meshuggah song now. And surpassing “New Millenium Cyanide Christ” was no easy task. After nearly an entire week of daily listens (with Spasm on repeat for much of it), it is clear to me that this is a much more focused & stronger release, and w/ more atmosphere. It’s almost like it takes you to a different realm of music. One that’s been there all along, but you’ve never noticed. It takes a brain to be able to interpret this polyrhythmic madness and brutality. It’s brilliant and it opens up new musical possibilities. Off-time drumming can sound like complete shit if not done properly, but somehow they manage to make it work. And following the riffs sometimes reminds me of trying to solve a mathematical equation at times. Even the sometimes jazzy-sounding solos have improved, w/ what sounds like the utilization of a “whammy pedal”. Very odd, very different, but very heavy. Meshuggah have returned w/ a solid and challenging album. Is it 4 years worth of progress, though? I don’t know about that. Who knows what kind of setbacks bands encounter, though. Hopefully we won’t be waiting that long again for a follow-up to Nothing. I’m sure by the time their current sound is copied, they’ll have something else brewing that’ll set the new standard for “cyber-math-metal”……..