Meshuggah is one of those bands that make me want to grow my hair out and head-bang for hours on end. When I was around the age of 11, I wanted nothing more than to sport some long flowing locks. Why? At the time, I was attending private school, so we had a fairly strict dress code, one that included having well-kempt hair. Well, that wasn't the sole reason; I was listening to a lot of a Slayer at the time too. So here I am, some thirteen years later, listening to the blistering new EP from Sweden's math-metal masters, and all I can think about is growing my hair long and doing some serious head-banging.
Meshuggah gathered quite a cult following after their 1995 release Destroy Erase Improve, which in my book rivals Reign in Blood as the greatest metal album ever recorded. While 1998's Chaosphere was equally as volatile, the band's most recent full-length Nothing lacked the intensity of its predecessors, instead focusing on the ambient. That brings us to the band's newest effort, I, a one track, twenty-one minute opus released through Fractured Transmitter Record Co.
The EP opens with literally a minute and a half of straight double-bass from Tomas Haake before the mood is broken by a split second of silence. And then it begins. Meshuggah travel back in time and dig material out of their vaults that never should have been locked away. While Marten Hasgstrum provides the rhythm with heavy dissonant guitar riffs, layered below is a melodic guitar piece by Fredrik Thorndendal. Around the 5:39 minute mark we hit one of Thorndendal's textured-laden guitar solos, where he slays faster and more proficiently than Jeff Hanneman ever could have dreamed. This incredible solo flows directly into a punishing breakdown of mathematically calculated guitars and drumming. The break is further accentuated by the unrelenting vocals of Jens Kidman. Starting after 14:00 minutes the band enters into one of their atmospheric moments, similar to the some of the moments found on Nothing. It continues for several minutes, and slowly builds as heavy guitars re-enter the formula. Kidman screams a few verses over the top and the album slams out in typical Meshuggah fashion, repeating the same off-tempo guitar sequence over and over.
There were only two flaws that I found with this release. First, I found the opening sequence to be rather unnecessary. It's nice to know that someone can play double-bass for more than a minute straight, but after a while, I just wanted to skip ahead. Perhaps I was just anxious to hear the new material. Secondly, there is a period towards the beginning of the album where the snare-drum hits really high and out of the mix. This kind of detracts from the rest of music at this time; I wish I had an equalizer to bring it down just a hair. Other than that, the production on I is flawless.
Meshuggah's I is a mixture of the two personalities that the schizophrenic head-bangers have shown us. While the majority of the release takes root in the bands time-changing math-core days of Chaosphere, it does contain those spacious and free-flowing moments showcased byNothing, making I the most mind-bending release of the year.
9.0 / 10
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