Freshman year was—let’s just say—less than satisfactory. Getting sick with an ailment that doctors couldn’t diagnose for almost 7 months, missing half of my first semester, and not being able to spend time with friends was a real bummer. The two things that really kept me happy were my poetry and my music. My library grew extensively over that year, mostly due to me being bedridden most of the day. The only joy I got was when I could get the newest releases from my local music store or Amazon. I remember searching endlessly through the internet trying to discover the next band that would floor me. I came across this one band from Sweden that released an album earlier that year. The album was called obZen. I dug a little deeper and found that the band actually been around since 1989, and that it was their sixth album. Now, naturally, whenever I find a new band, I begin from the middle or early portion of their discography, so that I can hear them morph over time. I chose their album from 1999, Chaosphere, and gave their song ‘New Millennium Cyanide Christ’ a listen, and liked it enough to buy the album.
I listened to the first track, and had to stop after about 45 seconds. It was WAY too intense. I couldn’t follow it to save my life, the vocals were abrasive, the drums all over the place. I thought, “Maybe it was just that one song”. After NMCC, the album was ridiculous. Every song was really scattered, out of place. The players didn’t seem to get each other at all. I thought it was garbage. I removed their CD from my collection and threw it in my closet. It was like the demon seed of my musical libary. I was almost angry that I wasted my money on something so terrible, then I stopped whining about it and moved on.
One year later, while I was cleaning out my closet, I found the CD dusty and buried under heaps of old Car & Driver magazines. I love finding old music of mine, mostly because I laugh at my past since I moved on to way better things. I decided to put the CD on, just for kicks, and listen to it once more I pressed play, and what entered my ears was beyond amazing. It was pure genius, beauty in its finest form. It was a math lesson that I could actually enjoy. It was brutal. It was heavy. But mostly, it was unlike anything I had ever heard before.
From the moment ‘Concatenation’ began, I couldn’t stop listening. And to be honest, ‘New Millennium Cyanide Christ’ became my least favorite song, being surpassed by more challenging, intense songs like ‘Neurotica’, ‘The Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled’, and my favorite, ‘The Exquisite Machinery Of Torture’. Every inch of this record is stuffed to capacity, brimming with excellence and technicality and amazing precision that Descartes himself would drool over. The band has stated in numerous interviews concerning their song structure that nearly all of their songs are in 4/4, but have layers on top of them that make them appear complex. This is why I loved it; it wasn’t what it appeared to be. The more I listened, the more I found the beats were relatively simple once you broke them down into their natural forms.
The thing about this record that I really appreciate is its simplicity. I know, I’ll be seeing your shock in the comments about how anyone could ever call this band simple, but hear me out. I have a very logical explanation. To me, complex is a very misused term. Many people describe Meshuggah as being a very difficult band. In reality, their music is very simple. Listen to ‘Concatenation’, for example. It sounds very disjointed, especially with the intense intro. But once you reach the verses, it becomes a simple 4/4 beat, like AC/DC. It is just played around the beat instead of with it. It’s as if they are doing a slalom around a straight track, but always, at one point, ending up back on the straight line. They use it to create their own unique brand of time, which is unmatched by any band out there. So, in actuality, their music is pop music played around the beat, with drop-tuned guitars and heavy vocals. Now, that’s not to say Lady Gaga will ever be doing this, but it’s just another perspective on things.
This album remains a challenge for me to play along to, however. I am still stuck on ‘Corridor Of Chameleons’ and ‘The Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled’, and still can’t get used to playing those patterns. It’s mind boggling that a human can not only come up with this stuff, but play it flawlessly live with the intensity you hear on the records. Tomas’ drumming has always been some of my favorite, and he is one of my drumming idols. Because of him, I began keeping time with my non-dominant foot on the hi-hat pedal, and have developed a new sense of what “time” really in the musical world, and how I can work around it and think outside of the box to create something new and unique. I have yet to see them live, however, but will most likely do so within the next year, barring tuition costs in school.
This album is one of the most played on my iPod, right beside giants like Cloudkicker’s Beacons and Opeth’s Blackwater Park. But this album will always hold a special place in my heart, because it introduced me to five dudes who know how to make you think about and enjoy the music simultaneously, which is rare nowadays. I want you, reading this, to do yourself two favors. First, if you were ever in my position, where you gave up on an album because you couldn’t get into it or it “wasn’t your thing”, stop. Go revisit it. What you find may surprise you, especially after a few months or years. Hopefully, that album you revisit will have the same effect on you as it did me. And second, go pick this album up ASAP. It is one album every metal fan must own before they slip into the unknown, irons raised and ashes spread.