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Imagine sitting in your living room, quietly reading a book. The sun is shining, the birds are tweeting. Then KABOOM!! An explosion in the front yard knocks you out of your seat. The windows smash. People are screaming in terror. Disorder and panic ensue.
This is akin to starting Meshuggah's 1998 release "Chaosphere". No introduction, no warning, just straight into the unrelenting, brutal music.
Many fans (and haters) believe that "Destroy Erase Improve" was the start of this band becoming popular. While it was a good album, in terms of brutality and catchiness, however, "Chaosphere" shits all over it. This, for me, was the start of Meshuggah's excellence.
The usual jazz intermissions and melodies are nowhere to be found here. Instead, it is dominated by ultra-crunchy guitars and pin-point drumming, never relenting to give you breath. From start to finish, all the instruments just pummel you until you're a bleeding wreck.
The guitar work really gives this album it's heavy edge, surpassing DEI in all facets of playing. It's crunchier, faster, and the riffs are more thought out and played much tighter.
The very best example of the quality of riffing is at 0:13 into "The Mouth Licking What You've Bled". At first listen, it sounds like just a plodding riff which doesn't really go anywhere. Repeated, and deeper, listens will reveal that the secret to this riff being as spectacular as it is is the drummer. He's keeping the 4/4 rhythm with the hi-hat, but he's doing something else (7/8, maybe?) with the snare drum. I have tried, and repeatedly failed, to replicate it. He is a master.
The strangest thing about this album is easily the outro on "Elastic". At 4:13, the song riff suddenly changes, turning into single hit drum-guitar pieces, with atmospheric guitars in the background. Then, at around the 6:00 mark, a weird reverberation sound comes in, getting louder and louder until your eardrums nearly burst. Then that finishes at 11:18, with the first three tracks being played at the same time, and then it suddenly ends at 15:30. Definitely a strange way to end the album, however it seems almost fitting to the music. Not for the faint hearted (or hearing sensitive!).
There are plenty of catchy riffs throughout the album, and it would take forever to list them all here, but guaranteed, this album will never get boring, as the endless polyrhythms will keep you guessing and coming back to refresh what you just heard.
So, is this their heaviest album? Definitely.
Is this their best album? Well, no. While it's the catchiest, 2002's "Nothing" does surpass this.
Will Meshuggah ever create another album that recaptures the intensity of "Chaosphere"? Who knows. Hopefully.
All I do know that if you're a fan of intense, insane, and completely off-kilter music, this has to be in your collection.
Best tracks: New Millennium Cyanide Christ, The Mouth Licking What You've Bled, The Exquisite Machinery Of Torture.