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'Chaosphere' was the first Meshuggah album I ever acquired, and as it stands, it's the one I have the most mixed feelings about. Coming off the heels of the magnificent 'Destroy Erase Improve', the music on the following album dropped a great deal of its original post-thrash roots in favor of pure industrial/technical brutality, consequently resulting in a great deal less variation and a great deal more focus. This is the favorite album of many dedicated Meshuggah fans for precisely this reason: it earmarks the absolute cementing of the band's style, and when you think of the music that Meshuggah does, a song like 'The Mouth Licking What You've Bled' is probably what pops into your mind: refined technical aggression with ultra-low chugging riffs, atonal tapping leads, brutally ejaculated vocals, and an overall sense of attacking the listener from as many angles as possible, all wrapped up in a bow of bizarre time signatures and bombastic delivery and production. It is, however, a somewhat bittersweet change: there's roughly no chance of Meshuggah ever going back to the style on 'Contradictions Collapse', and, at least to me, that's somewhat regrettable.
In truth, though, I probably owe more to this album than any other in the world. My entry into the world of true metal was courtesy of a live Meshuggah concert when they were (rather inexplicably) opening for System Of A Down. When they began their performance, my tiny twelve year old brain was nearly incinerated by the pure brutality, heaviness, and incomprehensible technicality of their performance. But the true epiphany came when they played the second track off this album: 'New Millennium Cyanide Christ'. It was at THAT MOMENT, when that first massive tech riff came in, that I knew that metal was my future. There was just some switch that clicked when I heard that song, one of the classics of the Meshuggah pantheon, being played. For months after seeing them, I downloaded Meshuggah MP3s essentially nonstop, but then discovering other artists as well: Morbid Angel, Gorgoroth, all the other extreme metal bands that quickly grabbed me. So on the strength of that song alone, this album easily holds a certain place in my heart and always will.
That being said, now that I'm more well versed in Meshuggah and metal in general, this is probably their weakest album. Due to the new single-mindedness of the compositions, you can easily describe the music here as being extremely brutal and technical, but also extremely repetitive and laced with a lot of filler. There are many memorable sections, but they aren't memorable in a particularly positive or negative way: a specific rhythm/riff pattern just gets caught in your head for no reason in particular. 'New Millenium Cyanide Christ' is the obvious masterpiece of the album: the riffs are positively crushing, the rhythms are deeply complex, but most importantly, the songwriting is some of the finest in Meshuggah's extensive catalog. It's perhaps the most flawless example of Meshuggah's militaristic might: sections of two time signatures, one common time and another one of Tomas Haake's bizarre bass drum configurations, interweave for long sections of musical space, diving in and out of rhythm, before a half second of silence occurs at the end of the stretch, at which point each band member simultaneously piledrives the music back into action with a collective roar. Additionally, the lyrics are some of the best in Meshuggah's history; I remember poring over them when I was younger, in absolute wonder of something so brutal, fantastical, and intricately crafted.
'Concatenation' is a pretty vicious opener with its flurries of atonal chords, and 'Corridor Of Chameleons' is pretty good all around; additionally, 'Neurotica' has some of the best vocal lines I've heard in Meshuggah's discography. But after the cool first half, the album really fizzles out with another four songs that really don't do anything but qualify as pretty generic Meshuggah tracks. Granted, having fifty percent very good tracks is significantly more than most bands are able to do, but considering that this is Meshuggah, it results in a weaker album that would probably be better as an EP composed of the first four tracks. That being said, I do love it; all the songs on it are ones that I heard when I was younger and when everything in metal was completely novel to me. But objectively? No, this is probably the least essential release by Meshuggah, despite the opinions of many of those who are already fans. It's certainly worth a buy for those who love the Swedes' style, but for the average metalhead, the previous release is much more promising.