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An album by Meshuggah

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Nothing is better.

  • Jan 14, 2003
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 is largely true, but maybe even Meshuggah would find it tough to play this music any faster. The rhythmic techniques implemented here are much easier to play at a slower tempo, and they are easier to hear for that matter. "Nebulous" is an slightly different example -- it's SLOW in quarter-note 45 bpm. And it is exactly for its dearth of speed that I figure it would be extremely challenging to play live. The polyrhythm is extra twisted at this laggard speed -- these drum parts are very tricky precisely because they are so slow.

_Nothing_'s music warps the mind. Rhythmic chimeras distort one's perception and confuse, until one deciphers the real technique involved. In many cases, Meshuggah makes groups of sixteenth notes sound like quarter-note triplets, and the feats they accomplish with this is remarkable. Apparent changes in meter are actually the same time signature. Sometimes a "new" riff appears when actually it is the same group of sixteenth notes.

Following the 16-beat cycle sometimes makes it easier to see what is happening. "Straws Pulled at Random" is a good example of this. The last riff of this song (you hear it before the solo at the end) is SO sick. While it sounds like it is based on subdivisions of quarter-note triplets, this is not actually the case. This creates a very strange effect, since these imaginary triplets are slower than real quarter-note triplets should be. Psychoacoustically speaking, this makes the riff sound like it is lagging behind until it comes together with the 16-beat cycle (it adds to 64 sixteenths, which equals 16 quarter notes). I was really confused about how this worked until I broke it all down. Very interesting stuff.

Another good example is "Nebulous", which I mentioned above. There is a riff that comes in at 1:58 that is very confusing. The riff (which presumably breaks down in short sets of eighth notes) doesn't fit with the 16-beat cycle, so the progression which *seems* obvious must logically be incorrect. The actual progression (in sixteenths notes) I can't quite figure out yet, but interestingly -- 20 seconds later -- the next riff kicks in and it appears to use the same primary units of sixteenth notes grouped in 3s -- 8(3+3+3+3+3)+(3+3+2) (in sixteenth notes). However, it sounds like a completely different riff.

Other people complain about a lack of structure on this album, and sometimes with Meshuggah's music in general. The songs are difficult and strange to a new listener, but to claim they have a lack of structure is just false. Plus, the structures are often very inventive and clever. "Closed Eye Visual" is one of my favorite songs on this album. The main riff's permutations of the phrase in relation to the 16-beat cycle is stunning. Even more interesting, one probably knows that Meshuggah had a knack for creating the illusion of playing in odd-times when they were not actually doing so. In "Closed Eye Visual", they expand this concept to other areas. During the soft part, as Fredrik plays a repetitive texture, the counter melody on the second guitar is derived from earlier measures (during the guitar solo, I'm quite certain). This is quite ingenious, in my opinion, because it makes one think that there has been a big change in the song when in fact the same musical elements are being applied.

To the folks who saw Meshuggah on tour with Tool and condemn the band as noise...well, they are partially right, although they display an unfortunate ignorance about what Meshuggah is doing. I love both Tool and Meshuggah, although they are quite different and fans of one are often antagonistic towards the other.

The REAMS AND REAMS of complexity in this album has made it not only my favorite Meshuggah album, but also one of my favorite albums ever. In fact, this album has inspired me to get back into studying rhythmic technique, because I can't live without understanding this more fully. While others wanted faster, more overtly technical songs, I value _Nothing_ for its deeper evolution.

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More Nothing reviews
review by . July 04, 2012
posted in Music Matters
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 …
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 …
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Clayton Reeder ()
Ranked #434
Rogue capitalist in search of all that is interesting, weird, or beautiful.      Collected here are my hundreds of reviews from Amazon.com, covering mostly music that is offensive … more
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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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Label: Nuclear Blast Americ
Artist: Meshuggah
Release Date: August 6, 2002

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