Home > Music > Meshuggah – Chaosphere (1998)

Meshuggah – Chaosphere (1998)

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Welcome to Sweden, where even the hardcore gangsta rap is metal. Chaosphere is… uh… distinctive.

Meshuggah’s output took a turn for the extra abrasive the last time we discussed them, but Chaosphere intentionally pushes the repetitive, mechanical aspects of their sound up to eleven. Where previous albums had room for dynamics and subtlety, all that disappears in favor of brute force (unless you’ve got an edition of the album which includes “Unanything”). You’d think this would be a recipe for headaches and/or crappiness, but for whatever reason, I instead find Chaosphere to be oddly compelling.

At the risk of sounding like a pretentious academia nut, or at least a Devin Townsend Project fan, I hypothesize that this album functions as a sort of deconstruction of extreme metal, although I’m not willing to go the distance and suggest that’s intentional. Everything here is, however, stripped down to a bare minimum – simplistic, monophonic guitar riffs, shouted vocals, basic song structures, an overarching emphasis on rhythmic complexity, and so forth. Meshuggah’s desire to express transhuman/futurist thoughts in a metal framework earns my focus because there’s barely anything else to focus on, but I keep getting pulled back to the sheer overwhelming force of the sound – not yet as immense as it would become on later Meshuggah albums, and yet like shining chrome where previous albums were thinner and lower budget. This is where the hip-hop comparison bares itself – the vocal delivery and otherwise simplistic backing might be far more aggressive than even the 808 comptonest gangstas on the planet, but the overall effect is weirdly similar.

Even on this harsh and uninviting album, though, Meshuggah leaves a few traces of atmosphere and variety in places. Even the least tailored of ears will hear the guitar solos and occasional sound effects that punctuate tracks here (most notably “New Millennium Cyanide Christ”, which has become one of the band’s signature songs). I can’t think of any good reason for the band to get rid of them, but were they to disappear, so would Chaosphere‘s reputation; I say this knowing that Meshuggah would never remove them from their repertoire, at least on an album this minimal and brutish. Still, for being so sparse, the occasional moment of reverb or guitar chords or breakdown is used to great effect, and for better or worse, that’s part of the appeal.

Chaosphere ends up being the antithesis of what I look for in music (although there’s a good swathe of music I listen to and enjoy that similarly works like that), and yet it like the rest of Meshuggah stays in my rotation. To be fair, I think Meshuggah peaked on their 1994 EP None, but I can at least hear the lineage here. Try tossing some tracks here into your average nightclub and see what happens.

Highlights: “New Millennium Cyanide Christ”, “Corridor of Chameleons”, “Neurotica”

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