This article is from 2008.
Sometimes the devil is in the detail, but there are also times when the more you explain something, the less sense it makes. In Meshuggah’s case both are true.
As regards the first notion, their music is arguably among the most complex and sophisticated of its kind. Meshuggah is almost metal by mistake. It is only its heaviness that characterises it as such. In truth, they have as much in common with techno or jazz musicians than Iron Maiden. The more you listen, the more you find layers of rhythm upon rhythm upon rhythm, folding outwards on itself again and again. It’s like an onion. With a Rubik’s cube inside. Set inside a weird computer game. From Sweden. See what I mean? The first point proves the second. The more you try to explain Meshuggah the more confusing it gets, making the name – it means ‘crazy’ in Yiddish – seem all the more appropriate.
They started out in the 80s, aspirant musicians throwing down Metallica licks for fun. It took four years and several line-up shifts to find their first groove. Since then, they have explored the technical limits of rock, the most apt description being All Music’s description of them as ‘calculus metal’. Theirs is a crunch, a growl, a thud, but also a groove; an enormous slow, deep twang, generated from the battery of drums from the uncomfortably talented Tomas Haake and a team of shredders riffing on eight (yes, count ‘em) stringed guitars.
Meshuggah have truly earned the title of pioneers within rock, exploring its outer limits without ever disappearing up its tender nether regions. Accepting the nominal notion that music can go anywhere, you just have to be able to keep up. Meshuggah can keep up.
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