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Of all Meshuggah albums that get the most listens, this one would have to be it. It represents an era in Meshuggah alone; where as None - Chaosphere represented crushing polyrhythms that got increasingly faster, and how Nothing thru Catch - 33 saw Meshuggah exploring the possibilities of their music as conceptual art, Contradictions Collapse an album alone. The music here is speed metal with great use of polyrhythms and progressive song structures. The sound resembles if Kill Em All thru Master Of Puppets Metallica had decided to get music lessons and made progressive speed metal, and even Jens Kidman resembles early James Hetfield if he had a slightly gruffer voice more akin to a drill instructor.
The style here is unrefined, sure. The album sounds like it was recorded with relatively good equipment in a large garage, with room-size reverb on all the instruments. This gives the drums a bit more kick in the mix, and this was DEFINITELY before Haake started using triggers, so the sound here is more spacious and pulverizing. Whereas later albums resembled being beaten to death by cyborgs, this is more akin to a drunken fight with a biker on meth who is clearly bigger, stronger, and able to fight than you. Subtle, yes, but there's something inherently more organic and earnest about Contradictions, whether it be the half-sung, half-shouted vocals, or the use of standard Eb tuning (before they used 7 string guitars) that gives this a more "retro" feel.
Make no mistake, though, this is punishing. Most songs go by at a quick pace with drumming that feels less like a drum machine and more like someone who practices a crapton and sacrifices his social life for drumming perfection. The rhythms are mostly headbangable, and that I feel is another area of genius for Contradictions: they got really technical (the guitars are way more technical than their later stuff) without losing the headbangability. In fact, I would say this was when their progressive influence was at its peak, or at least one of the times that it was. The predictability of later works is simply not present here. So, to summarize, the music is spastic, grinding, and stomping, as compared to later works which are more robotic in comparison.
The songwriting is generally cyclical in form; there are few verse - chorus -verse moments, and mostly what you will hear are themes that come in and out of existence, and are recapitulated later, often in a different form. Some riffs will be more central to the song than others, but the structure is often not apparent until later listens. And did I mention the riffs? There's a whole lot of them here. Each song contains enough riffs for 2 more songs, and boy are they good riffs. Hagstrom gets to shine here; unlike later albums where he goes into Thorendal's shadow, he gets to shine here. The guitars, unlike later albums, are not synchronous most of the time, which gives this album a dimension that is absent in some of their other albums.
It's a dead shame this album is overlooked so often, because it's chock full of creation and thrashy sections. It makes me want to get behind a drum kit and bang my head while banging out thundering double bass. It's what makes you wanna get up and destroy something. It's responsible for 50% of my speeding tickets. And, most of all, of every Meshuggah album I have, this one gets the most listens by far.