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There is much to be said about this record. "Psykisk Testbild", also called simply "Meshuggah", has some clearly distinguishable progressive elements in the background of a thrash environment. This is a lot like Metallica, in more ways than one. For example, Jens Kidman drops his signature growl, and uses a harsh embodiment of what a thrash vocalist would sound like if they tried to over-exaggerate an American accent. Jens does attempt to sing a bit on this album, but maybe he was right to move over to growls later on.
The drums are another thing that would catch anyone off guard, as they are no longer the polyrhythmic hurricane that was in the later albums. A simple thrash "gallop" is used throughout the album, with the occasional 4/4 hi-hat pattern with a snare on the third beat. The drums are still one of the most important parts of the music.
The guitar work is obviously the thing that most people will notice about this album, as it uses power chords instead of the down-tunes chugs that Meshuggah is used to. Jazz riffs play a big part in this album, just like most of Meshuggah's albums, so that is one similarity between the newer stuff.
All in all, this is not a bad record, and if you like thrash, then you should take a listen. If you are more into the djent that Meshuggah employs, then you might want to stay away. The production of this piece is not as good as the newer stuff, obviously, but for people who love a raw metal sound, that should make it more enjoyable.
If I had to summarize this album in one sentence, it would be: This sounds like Contradictions Collapse plus Metallica. Now for those who already detected a little bit of Hetfield in Kidman's voice on Contradictions Collapse, on this demo Kidman sounds like a swedish Hetfield. A good chunk of the riffs are clearly Metallica influenced, and one song (Sovereign's Morbidity) sounds more like Metallica than it does Meshuggah. A good chunk of this is the fact that Hagstrom was yet to be in the band (As was Haake), which were two big cornerstones of Meshuggah's sound. Kidman is both on guitars and vocals here, and the feel is definitely different.
Having described the sound a bit for the reader, I must ask this question: Is this any good? Well, all three songs are fun to listen to, that's for sure. Cadaverous Mastication was later re-recorded on Contradictions Collapse, and it's clearly the most "proggy" of all 3 songs here. However, all 3 songs are a delight to listen to, and present to me a Meshuggah before chugging, before downtuned guitars and atonal riffs. This is Meshuggah when they were simply thrash, not post thrash. So expect elements of their future sound (jazzy interludes, Thorendal's soloing) but this is pretty much 80's thrash with the exception of those elements I mentioned. So for those interested in hearing an 80's thrash version of Meshuggah, enjoy Meshullica.
Long before Meshuggah was known for their robotic-sounding cyber metal, long before their breakthrough success, Destroy Erase Improve, long before gangsta-rapping over power chords was considered metal, this intrepid band was playing speed metal blantantly derivative of their forefathers, such bands as Metallica and Testament. Those days may be gone, but fortunately the metal world has been blessed with a three-song snapshot of their embryonic sound.
The question that comes to mind is, "why do we want to hear some inexperienced jabronies playing Metallica covers??".
The remarkable thing about Meshuggah's debut EP is that it is not fully derivative but includes glimpses of their future in the form of their odd time signatures and exotic lead scales. To those who like Meshuggah's ideas but do not think that a song should be dependent upon them, these three songs are a treat.
To be sure, this is 80s thrash/speed metal. Jens and Tomas sing in the half-shouted but still tuneful way that James Hetfield and Chuck Billy did in the 80s. The guitars chug along, churning out riffs more discernable than anything from their later years. Furthermore, this album was made before Meshuggah decided that hooks and choruses were untr00, ergo the listener will remember how the song goes an hour later.
Despite the trappings of thrash metal, Meshuggah demonstrates they have always been creative. There are a few sections here and there using odd time signatures, and the complex drum rhythms to match, and their use of dynamics and tempos is present, if underdeveloped. The opaque lyrics are another giveaway of whom we are dealing with.
While the first two songs are merely interesting, one being similar to their material on Contradictions Collapse (and actually re-recorded for it) and the other being unabashed Metallica worship, the third song, "Debt of Nature" is worth the price of admission alone. Free of the awkward feel of the first two tracks, it is a forgotten thrash classic with a huge chorus and even more immense riffs.
The downside to this EP is that because of its age, the production is quite dated and dulls the impact the music could have had (although, the production is still miles ahead of that on And Justice for All). Instead of re-releasing these tracks on their Rare Trax CD, they should have re-recorded them and really come up with something that would grab the metal world by the balls. Nonetheless, these songs have a place in metal history, if not as great headbangers, then as prototypes for a metal revolution.