Don't Meshruggah This Band Off: a six-track introduction to Meshuggah

Meshuggah is a long-running metal band which set off a lot of modern trends, especially the "djent" genre & timbres. Their music deals heavily in rhythm and groove via minimalist repetition, with textural additions from harsh vocals and additional guitar lines in the high registers. One of my favorite standout elements is Frederik Thordendal's atypical guitar solos, which often work on completely different logic than most solos but are very intriguing and tasty regardless.


New Millenium Cyanide Christ – Chaosphere, 1998


One of their hits, this is just a solid Meshuggah piece that establishes some of their vocabulary – their earlier stuff like this tends to have more thrash metal influence, and less introspection on the riffs. Especially of note is the idea starting at 4:12, which is a salient characteristic of Meshuggah pieces. They use rhythmic ideas which are set in standard 4/4 time but have unintuitive or polyrhythmic divisions in them to imply other ideas on top of 4/4. I call this "metric superimposition" because one (or more) meters/rhythms is being superimposed on a base (that being 4/4). This lends a depth to their repetition, and is used to great effect in most all of their music.


Marrow – Koloss, 2012


This is a personal favorite of mine. It uses a pretty complex collection of mixed-meter on top of their traditional 4/4 coupled with interesting guitar tonalities, but it's pretty accessible I think. One of my favorite Thordendal solos as well. This whole album is probably my first suggestion for anyone new to Meshuggah who wants a full course. (Also, one of the lyrics to this is "Tar-black ejaculate".)


Rational Gaze – Nothing, 2002 (remastered 2006)


Another very percussive one, with less focus on tonality and more on just feeling the churning of a motive against 4/4. I think I might just end up mentioning that I love these guitar solos in every blurb... but I do, a lot :s


Future Breed Machine – Destroy Erase Improve, 1995


From their first major album. You can really notice the thrash influence in this one, especially with those shouted vocals '-n- However, this also shows more of their dramatic sensibilities in its midsection.


The Hurt That Finds You First – Koloss, 2012


I read this piece as a program mimicing the sensation of being stung or otherwise manipulated by a kind of physical or mental venom – Meshuggah's work as a dominating force is certainly easily established, and to me, easily extended with their complex yet primal polyrhythmic vocabulary to an erotic state if one wishes. From the lyrics:


    Euphoric state. You gag, you choke
    Words, virus. They echo in your ears
    True bliss through bondage and, oh, here come the tears


Anyways, this one is a quite effective decrescendo of songwriting.


Bleed – ObZen, 2008


A definitive piece, taking their dominating repetition and metric superimposition to logical limits; a full work of cathexis. Speaks for itself.