Home > Music > Meshuggah – Since when did drumkits come with guitars and bass?

Meshuggah – Since when did drumkits come with guitars and bass?

From the moment you first listened to “Destroy Erase Improve” – wait, you didn’t listen to it? You’ve never even heard of Meshuggah? You’re confused as to why I’m writing this bit of the post as I was here in person and speaking directly to you? Tell you what –  you should probably ignore what just happened, and if necessary, brush up on the band’s work. One warning though:  “Contradictions Collapse” probably won’t help you, since while it has those Meshuggah touches, it’s essentially them putting their unique spin on the relatively defined styles of extreme metal of time.

But anyways, with “Destroy Erase Improve”, what shows up in Meshuggah is a droning, minimalistic approach to metal. Then came Chaosphere, which mostly dispersed with tonality, and then Nothing, which basically took everything they had done, dropped it in groovy sludge, and added more ambience. And I’m not nearly as familar with their latest developments, but from this relatively broad amount of time we can deduce a few things about the bands’ intents:

1. CRUSH KILL DESTROY – Meshuggah has arguably some of the heaviest guitar tones and best productions that any metal band has ever had, so if we were to (poorly) judge bands solely on terms of how heavy they “sounded”, Meshuggah would be considered the heaviest.

2. Rhythm takes precedence over everything – By the time that Chaosphere came out, the band was writing riffs more as rhythms with the occasional bit of tonal information built in. Such things as melody and chord progression were left to the leads and solos, which developed away from one purpose of shredding to convey violence, to being themselves regimented to provide counterpoint to the rhythms being played.

3. Convoluted song structures – Arguably relative simple ones. But Meshuggah does not exactly write verse and chorus, but rather in terms of sections which are distinguished by what’s being repeated and droned, and the transitions between them. They arguably peaked in ability to do this on “Catch-33”, but I have yet to listen to that album. Still, this is something that seems to happen when you plunge into minimalism – since you’re not using catchy hooks or riffs to differentiate your stuff anymore, what else do you have?

But with all of these things coming together, Meshuggah has taken up a niche that we rarely see in music, and obviously much less so in more popular sorts of music – a machine and mechanical intent encoded in music. What may appear chaotic and random to the outer observer is more of an order. “Chaos”, in the mathematical terms I want to use, is never truely random. Small fluctuations produce wildly different results that nonetheless can be determined by knowing the basic rules of the system. In Meshuggah’s case, this is probably going to be a case of slight changes in the beats, the guitar, and so forth. And while it’d be interesting to analyze the entirety of the band’s discography with that in mind, attempting to explain each song in terms of that theory, it’s not exactly neccesary.

In the long run, it’s better to think of Meshuggah in terms similar to “industrial” metal bands like Godflesh than in technical/progressive terms, like Athiest (who only resembles them in that they produce an aggressive yet complex brand of music). The songs often sound like an attempt to encode an extremely precise manufacturing process in the form of song – make seven incisions spaced by an angle of 5 degrees 25 minutes 10 seconds here, each incision must be exactly 0.005 milimeters thick and 2.65 millimeters deep, that sort of thing. The rhythm and structure are the important aspects, while such things as melody, texture, timbre are used mainly to convey extra parameters and requests to the machinery.

Interesting, eh?  The band also writes large amounts of somewhat estoric lyrics to go along with these songs and be announced in an constant tone by our friend Jens Kidman, but I didn’t really think about them when I was writing this. Maybe in the future I will incorporate them more directly into my analysis of this band.

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