Meshuggah - _Nothing_
(Nuclear Blast, 2002)
by: Jackie Smit (
"Meshuggah -- a death metal band from Norway", exclaims uber-annoying ignoramus Jack Osbourne, and at this very moment one can almost feel the publicists at Nuclear Blast start to salivate at the possibilities that this free publicity could hold not only for one of their most promising acts, but also for their bankbooks. And so it has come to be that the magazines that once scorned Meshuggah are now sweeping under the carpet their many slurs, insults, sneers and all manner of derogatory review, now showering the band instead with catchphrases along the lines of the "next big thing". Similarly, kids who would never give the Swedes the time of day, are suddenly claiming to have loved them "since the beginning". Not that they don't deserve some attention, mind you. If anyone has paid their dues, Meshuggah certainly has in spades. While a bit lazy as far as putting out records is concerned, they are a phenomenal live act and have a sterling back catalogue under their belt -- most notably the fantastic _Destroy Erase Improve_ effort, which in all honesty is still miles ahead of its many imitators. I find it decidedly bewildering though that more care was not taken in the construction of what surely has to be the most important record in their career. Indeed, for the most part _Nothing_ is far more lacklustre than it is excellent -- tracks like "Closed Eye Visuals" and "Organic Shadows" not much more than exercises in sheer monotony, a test of the listener's endurance more than anything else. At the same time, this elevates the impact of a song like "Straws Pulled at Random", with its incredible closing melodic break, to even greater level, and underlines the notion that Meshuggah are capable of so much more than they have offered us. While still avoiding anything even remotely approaching a conventional rhythm, Meshuggah have slowed down and paced their music far more evenly than in the past. Where before they'd flutter through several different beats and polyrhythms over the course of a few minutes, most of the tracks on _Nothing_ are built around individual, tardigrade grooves, from which it very rarely deviates. Compounding this crippling flaw is their persistent overuse of single-note chugging -- no doubt a means to show off their custom-made eight-string guitars, but sadly rendering proceedings even more lifeless. With its few excellent exceptions aside, this record is ultimately so soul-drainingly boring that simply staying awake until its conclusion would be challenging for all but the most hardened Meshuggah fan.
(article published 12/7/2003)
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