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Released: 2004, Fractured Transmitter Record Co.
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Meshuggah’s I is easily one of the most anticipated releases of 2004 for me. Not only was 2002’s NOTHING a bit of a departure for the band, but the sheer magnitude of this CD had me intrigued. Some felt NOTHING was a sell-out and that Meshuggah would be leaning to a more commercial sound afterwards. Meshuggah has never followed any parameters set forth my metal’s limiting genres and to prove their critics wrong, they certainly haven’t started now. “I” will not get radio or video play, nor will the band be gracing the cover of Revolver anytime soon. “I” is a single, twenty one minute song that has more twists and turns than a bag full of snakes. This is not the way for a band to become “commercial.” The eight-string guitars of Fredrik Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom continue to create new and strange sounds, while the technical mastery of all the musicians is simply jaw-dropping. Jens Kidman’s throat-ripping growls are the perfect balance between aggression and methodology. I is a logical follow up to NOTHING, but has more in common with the harsh landscape of 1995’s DESTROY ERASE IMPROVE and 1998’s CHAOSSPHERE than that record. In this age of “instant culture,” how does a band keep the listener’s attention for a twenty one minute stretch? Listen to I and you’ll find out.
The cold, staccato first minute and a half is a double-bass assault of the senses before a wall of white noise, backed by Jens Kidman’s screams, lashes out. The pounding arrhythmic drums of Tomas Haake back things before a Middle Eastern riff kicks in around the 3:00 mark. Thordendal’s solos still stick to the “math metal” label placed upon them (don’t miss the mind-boggling one that begins at 5:40) and Haake’s triggered (come on, they MUST be triggered!!) double bass at around 6:50 and again at 10:30 is unbelievable. The frantic brutality does not let up until the eighth minute when only the high-pitched plucking of out-of-tune strings takes over for about a minute. The eerie solace that is set in motion is quickly dispensed with and the same passage that opened the track comes back into play. Another Thordendal solo emerges at 12:45 and the Middle Eastern rhythms are once again explored. The time changes that occur after this solo demonstrate that Meshuggah is not above experimentation and while the odd time changes have been their signature since day one, the slower, moodier sections certainly have not. This, of course, was first explored on NOTHING and though criticized for it, it adds quite a powerful edge to Meshuggah’s sound. Twenty minutes of unrelenting Meshuggah brutality would be too much and the band obviously knows that, as well.
I is a welcome teaser for what is to come when Meshuggah release CATCH 33, their full-length follow-up to NOTHING, in early 2005. I, for one, am salivating like Pavlov’s dog with anticipation. If they can pull of the same level of quality, precision and aggression for an hour that they have with I, look out…
KILLER KUTS: Uh…”I”
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