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Jazz from Hell - 90%

woland, September 20th, 2004

A mindbending solo effort from Fredrik Thordendal, the guitarist with the Swedish metal machine Meshuggah. Released under the project name Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects, this slab of music takes the Meshuggah sound and mutates it into a sonic equivalent of a genetic laboratory project gone horribly wrong. The whole piece of work is divided into 29 short tracks that flow seamlessly into each other, resulting in a long and disjointed musical trip.

The music, written by Thordendal, ranges from Meshugganian polyrhythmic crunch to faux-jazzy fretboard excursions reminiscent of Allan Holdsworth, occasionally stumbling on cacophonic church organ improvisations, ambient hovering and saxophone interludes. On top of this add the slithering, rasping, reptilian vocals (courtesy of a Meshuggah bandmate, the human drum machine named Tomas Haake) spitting out a cryptic jumble of philosophical, theological, psychological and physical ponderings; some bloodcurdling screams and roars which seem to appear from nowhere and soon disappear back into the void again; and sonic effects and trickery evoking disturbing visions and thoughts in the mind of an unprepared listener, and you have an enormous musical puzzle not suitable for the faint of heart.

I once listened the disc through around 5 AM, before going to sleep. As a result I just couldn't sleep at all -- when I closed my tired eyes, my brain was still hyperactively trying to figure out what it had just experienced and would not shut down. The anecdote tells a lot about the nature of this record.

The album has its flaws and weaker points -- namely, some of the overlong and pointless free-improvisation and noise sections; the tormented English accent of Haake; and the occasional lack of direction and cohesion. But all in all, the album is a brave and wholly original body of work of an unbridled mind and thus deserves a fair share of praise. Certainly many listeners are going to hate this record with a passion; but just as certainly many others will accept and embrace it as a fresh breath of air in a stagnant musical scene.