_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.
What did you think of this review?