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Nothing

An album by Meshuggah

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Nothing worth wasting your time and money on. 17%

  • Jul 4, 2012
Rating:
-1
Before I review this particular Meshuggah album, I think I should share my history with the band. I first heard Meshuggah back in late 2006 through their album “Destroy Erase Improve,” which I totally loved and decided to invest in the band's other albums in the following months. I liked a lot of what they cranked out during my initial fandom, with the only album not sitting well with me being “Catch Thirtythr33” (which I'll save for another review). In the next 2-3 years, I'd go in a 180 degree turn and turn my back on the band because they seemed so bland to me at the time. Now, I think they're a band capable of making good music (though I think they're extremely overrated) but have spent the last 10-12 years making self-indulgent “look at me, I'm different” sonic flatulence that has no place in the metal genre. Anyway, on to the album.


Four years after releasing the decent “Chaosphere,” Meshuggah returned in 2002 with the album “Nothing.” This marked a radical departure from the previous album, highlighted by slower song tempos and seemingly-simpler song arrangements.

MUSICIANSHIP

As stated before, Fredrik Thordendal and the rest of his band are clearly capable of crafting good music given their past accomplishments, but it seems like after getting exposed to such blights to music like Tool and Slipknot, they decided to craft an album that's almost like a nightmare-inducing amalgamation of downtuned nu-metal nonsense fitted in half-baked industrial song structures and with some Allan Holdsworth-inspired guitar solos thrown in to break the monotony.

Jens Kidman isn't at the top of his game on this album. While I'd never consider him a masterful metal vocalist, I can sense the laziness oozing from his vocals on this album. In nearly the whole album, he delivers monotinous hardcore barks that don't show any variation or even much emotion throughout. What's sad is that despite the “angry” aesthetic to his vocals, they don't evoke anything from me. The only real variation in Kidman's vocals are in “Spasm,” and while the change is welcome at first, they sound a little goofy after a while. If someone made Ben Stein (a man infamous for a monotinous voice) really angry and got him to scream about cryptic gibberish, that's what Kidman's vocals sound like on this album.

Fredrik Thordendal is the lead guitarist and mastermind in the band, and while he certainly has a lot of technical skill, he's not utilizing any good songwriting in this album. His “riffs” (if you can call them that, they sound like downtuned powerchords) are the main reason why I hate this album. They're so downtuned that they sound like they came out of a Korn album, and give this album a nu-metal flavor that should NEVER be in a metal album. Again, I have nothing against downtuned guitars, so long as the guitarists create interesting riffs with some energy in them, but in “Nothing,” you don't get that. The guitar structure in most of the songs sound really repetitive, and not in a good way like in a finely-crafted Godflesh album, but rather in a mechanically-sterile sense. The only good thing about Thordendal's work on this album is his guitar solos, which I'll cover later.

Marten Hagstrom is the second guitarist and he's in charge of supporting the rhythm. Hagstrom's and Thordendal's guitar work is so downtuned that they sound like bass guitars. The rhythm on this album isn't anything special, as the song structures totally lack the heavy metal thunder that should be in any metal song that isn't atmospheric black metal or drone metal. Last time I checked, Meshuggah isn't either of those, so I don't know why they're crafting guitar riffs that don't have the heavy metal spirit in them.

Thordendal handled the bass guitar on this album, and while it certainly sounds heavy, it doesn't do much since the guitars don't sound any different from the bass.

Tomas Haake is one of the most acclaimed drummers in the metal genre, and like Thordendal, he has a lot of technical skill, but all the technical skill won't save an album whose percussion lacks energy. Throughout the whole album, I heard some complex fills, but no percussion that had any agression that made me want to bang my head furiously (the same can be said for the guitars).

SONGS

Aside from all the nu-metal nonsense Meshuggah pulled here, one of the crimes committed her is that the songs are highly forgettable. This is so because of the previously mentioned poor choices in songwriting, which keep me from getting interested in the songs.

If I had to choose any songs that would qualify as decent, I'd choose “Glints Collide,” “Nebulous,” and “Closed Eye Visuals.” “Glints Collide” and “Closed Eye Visuals” have the best guitar solos on this album. “Nebulous” for its more inspired musicianship and energy, and like most of the other songs on here, has a good guitar solo to go with it. I think its sad that Thordendal's guitar solos sound this good because of the fact that they're coupled with such bland riffs.

The album closer, “Obsidian,” changes things up a bit by incorporating a trance-inducing intro followed by more of the same downtuned nonsense in past songs.

However, songs like “Stengah” and “Straws Pulled at Random” range from being boring to annoying. “Stengah” is particularly annoying with its opening guitar riffs, which sound right at home with a nu-metal album.

PRODUCTION

The production for this album isn't bad, as you can hear all of the instruments and vocals clearly. After sampling the 2002 and 2006 versions of this album, I think the newer version brings the guitar more to the front, but it still doesn't save the album from being the mess that it is.

FINAL WORD

If you're new to Meshuggah, DON'T get this album. If you want to hear Meshuggah at their prime, get your paws on the albums “Destroy Erase Improve” and “Chaosphere.”

If you're looking for technical metal albums that unlike “Nothing,” have the heavy metal spirit flowing through them, I suggest you check out Blotted Science's “The Machinations of Dementia,” Spastic Ink's “Ink Complete,” Cynic's “Focus,” Atheist's “Unquestionable Presence,” and Gorguts' “The Erosion of Sanity.”

If you're looking for metal albums from 2002 that'll tear you up, get your paws on Immolation's “Unholy Cult” and Rotten Sound's “Murderworks.”

Pretend that “Nothing” is just that, nothing.

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July 05, 2012
David, you are really showing your passion to this kind of music. Learning a lot from yah!
July 05, 2012
Thanks, man. A Meshuggah rec I accidentally left out of this one is their EP "I." It's out-of-print, but it's available on Google Play for only 99 cents, which is a good deal for a 21 minute-long song.
 
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More Nothing reviews
review by . January 14, 2003
posted in Music Matters
What a misunderstood album. Simple? Ha. Less complex than past Meshuggah albums? Um, no._Nothing_ is full of illusion. Things are not as they appear. Here, you will find rhythmic techniques never before applied to metal -- ideas likely to be seen in Indian classical music and African music, yes...not metal. For Meshuggah, the Rhythm is an entity on its own. The musicians are an extension of the rhythm. One must study the rhythms to see the light.People complain that _Nothing_ is very slow. This …
review by . November 19, 2002
It was back in 1995 that Meshuggah released _Destroy Erase Improve_, a stunning proclamation of the adventurism possible within a technical metal framework. The rhythmic complexity was astonishing and virtually established a sub-genre of music within the plastic of the CD. A few years later, the band pushed the technical envelope with the shrieking, punishing onslaught of _Chaosphere_, which cranked the speed and violence.Where was Meshuggah to go with their next release? They could have pushed …
About the reviewer
David Kozak ()
Ranked #3
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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Wiki

Sweden's Meshuggah have come up with their most unrelenting and unpredictable barrage of punishment since forming in 1987. Imagine the most thunderous elements ofSlipknotset loose in an ever-changing landscape of riffs. Not that Meshuggah take much from their masked colleagues; the roots ofNothinglie in the technical thrash of lauded 1980s French-Canadian bandsVoivodand DBC. Where past albums have seen the group smirking through the good-natured wittiness of their baffling instrumental changeups,Nothingis a grueling, spiral slam, spring-loaded with eight-string guitars and plenty of surprises. Meshuggah's message? Evolve or be left behind.--Ian Christe
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Details

Label: Nuclear Blast Americ
Artist: Meshuggah
Release Date: August 6, 2002

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