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Meshuggah are a groundbreaking band for many reasons. Not only have they managed to refresh their ideas and their lyrical concepts from album to album, they have also introduced new elements to the burgeoning death metal scene of Sweden and on an international level as well. Exploring death metal, thrash metal, progressive metal, jazz fusion and avant-garde metal and melting them into a horrific sculpture of art over the last twenty years, they added a polyrhythmic aspect into their unique sound. All of this truly began in 1995 with their second full-length effort Destroy Erase Improve; an album that has shaken heavy metal forever and became the benchmark for everyone who claims to be as experimental as every other band.
Starting with the legendary hymn “Future Breed Machine”, you can immediately tell the ferocious aggression that this Swedish quintet possesses with Jens Kidman’s frantic and possessed wails, Peter Nordin’s subtle bass lines, Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström’s scattered sub-human riffs and Tomas Haake’s impeccable and calculated percussion. This song immediately caught my attention with its speed, its precise and somewhat solid structure, and also its unpredictability, when near the second half of the song, a jazzed-up passage makes its way into the nervous system of the song. It blows away every preconception that you might have about this band, especially when Thordendal unleashes a discordant and almost computerized solo near the four minute mark, making this opener is one of the best in metal history, period.
“Transfixion”, “Vanished” and “Terminal Illusions” possess the same characteristics mentioned here. However, some songs tend to lean more on groove like “Beneath” with its calm introduction and its multi-dimensional, almost bouncy riffs, “Suffer in Truth”, with the thunderous percussions and the agonizing, low tempo that invades it and “Inside What’s Within Behind” as well, with its experimental aspect, vocal-wise and structure-wise. It uses a lot more variety than any other songs on this album. “Soul Burn” has that same effect, but explodes into a polyrhythmic fury after its first half. After all this, the band finds its equilibrium in “Acrid Placidity”, a short but impactful instrumental with its echoic riffs and its artificial atmosphere.
Finally, we have “Sublevels”, the best track of this album in my view with its labyrinthine passages, its jazz fusion-influenced elements and its spoken-word performances. The riffs are furious, yet crystallized moment by moment. The percussions are intricate and very mechanical. At the end, everything fades out into a void of confusion and suspense.
Overall, Meshuggah have opened the doorway for experimental metal by introducing beyond-philosophical meanings and paradoxes into their lyrical content, polyrythmic and acrobatic textures into their sound with Destroy Erase Improve, making it an immediate classic and an unmatched effort, even today. It is the paradigm shift of the 20th century that redefined metal music and introduced a whole new signification to it.
Note : 90/100
Standout tracks : Future Breed Machine, Soul Burn, Transfixion, Terminal Illusions, Suffer in Truth and Sublevels