The first time I… listened to Meshuggah

 

“The struggle to free myself from restraints, becomes, my very shackles” — Disenchantment by Meshuggah.

Discovering Meshuggah was the closest thing NSNTM has had to an epiphany.

 

We were a fan of Tool for a number of years so polyrhythms were not unfamiliar to us, but we somehow arrived late to the mind-frying, djent-tastic, time-signature horror-show that is Swedish heavy hitters Meshuggah. Despite the title track from Bury Tomorrow’s Lionheart and Periphery’s delightful ‘Scarlet’ (from their sophomore effort Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal) being on our radar, we were largely oblivious to the whole djent movement. However, interested to learn more, we sat down to listen to Meshuggah’s fifth studio album Catch ThirtyThree – eight years after its release in 2005.

And immediately our mind(s) melted.

‘Autonomy Lost’ kicked in and we didn’t so much hear the ensuing 81 seconds of sound as see it. We saw an assembly line in a dark, deserted factory with construction arms moulding a sculpture at random. We saw the ice cracking beneath our feet and water rushing up to swallow us in an arctic tundra. We saw whole worlds spinning away off their axes and smashing into each other.

The first impression of ‘Catch ThirtyThree’ was of chaos, coldness and carnage. We must have had seven or eight attempts at listening to this album, each time failing to get more than about two thirds of the way through.

The difficulty encountered was not having a bloody clue how to listen to music like this. Every time focus was placed on one instrument, another would cut jarringly across it like a hell-bent anglegrinder. Every time we looked for a melody, our ears were met instead with a brutal bludgeoning of bastardised riffs.

But if you persevere, eventually you began to zoom out and comprehend the bigger picture. The nefarious designs of the factory start coming to fruition, the cracking ice results in an iceberg splitting from an arctic shelf, the planets become only a small part of a much larger galactic drama. You start noticing that every 19 or so notes the instruments might actually be aligning.

Then a new mad experience begins. As you start to relax and listen to the music as a whole, you begin to comprehend how completely unrelentingly brutal and bleak it is.

Apart from being pretty much the only lyrics we can make sense of when listening to this, the quote at the start of this post beautifully summarises the hidden joy of this album. It’s the physical battle against a fleeting enemy that, when they do finally reveal themselves, repeatedly smashes your head against a metal door. It’s fucking great.

Verdict: Perceptions Realigned.

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