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This was probably the first Meshuggah release I listened to; I discovered it at the same time as their later album Catch 33. There was an article in the local newspaper (Meshuggah hail from Umeå, where I live) about the band and their upcoming Catch 33. The article mentioned their "math metal" style and that Catch 33 would be one single, continuous 47 minute song, and also that this was not new for them, which of course, was referring to the 2004 EP I. At the time, I did not listen to extreme metal, I was, so to speak, a real metal newbie, but I had always enjoyed the more complex and longer songs, such as Iron Maiden's Rime of the Ancient Mariner and appreciated the song-writing skills involved in such compositions. (Incidentally, listening to Meshuggah would lead me to discover Opeth, who certainly meet these criteria) This, coupled with my fascination for mathematics, made Meshuggah seem like a band worth checking out. And it was definitely worth it.
Being 21 minutes long, I cannot go into a full description of the song, but I will try to give an overview.
I begins with a chugging down-tuned guitar (only slightly above the standard tuning of a bass guitar) playing a single note and a constant beating of a tom. But is it repetitive? Not at all. The strange rhythms and time signatures will prompt you to find patterns, which is not very easy. This lasts one and a half minute, after which Jens Kidman unleashes an unearthly 30 second scream. The song continues with staccato riffs and very heavy percussion, then one of Thordendal's solos.
The next section is one of the highlights of the record. The drumming and the rhythm here are, to put it mildly, insane. Despite the seeming madness, it is a really catchy part and one of my favorites. Definitely a headbanging-friendly section.
And so it continues. Verses, all with Jens' guttural singing, bordering on death metal growling, but different, staccato riffs, lighting fast, clean Thordendal solos and Haake's manic drums, all . The heaviness is very hard to express with words; it must be experienced. So is the skill of these musicians.
Some other killer moments include the riff around halfway through the song and the solo at 12:40. This riff is most likely best described as the musical equivalent of being hit by an eighteen-wheeler at maximum speed. The outro riff is amazing as well. It's a crushing, rolling riff that spells imminent doom and destruction. Again, a very headbanging-friendly section, especially during the last three lines, which feature a riff similar to the eighteen-wheeler riff.
While the length of the only song on this record is extreme, it is by no means repetitive. There are no boring or bad sections, except for two brief interludes, the disc is wholly composed of the aforementioned killer riffs and insane drum patterns. Its length also adds to the value of listening to it a second time: often, one finds new things one had not noted before.
I is a must-have for any metalhead.