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1993’s None is a transitional release for Meshuggah. The dissonant, proggy and polymetric thrash of Contradictions Collapse has morphed into dark, dissonant and technical groove metal with a lot of mid paced riffing. There are still some fast and thrashy riffs on this EP, but there is also an abundance of monstrous, mid-tempo low end grooves like those that are the basis of tunes like “Sickening”’s relentless grinding. None sees Meshuggah anticipating the full on industrial/groove thrash fusion-influenced metal of the breakthrough Destroy Erase Improve (who's sound it most resembles, despite being included in the reissue of CC) album two years later. There is more of an ambiance here, with some weird synth passages showing up in both “Sickening” and the varied tempos of “Gods of Rapture”, which features a startling solo from Fredrick Thordendal. One track, “Ritual”, is mostly clean sung by Kidman and starts out sounding uncannily like Alice In Chains before those churning heavy grooves return to back up one of Thordendal’s jazzy leads with machine-like precision.
The lyrical themes have begun to drift into dark existential realms, instead of the environmental/political and addiction themed songs of the debut, foreshadowing the eventual esoteric direction showcased on later albums like Chaosphere and Nothing. The guitars of Thordendal and Hagstrom (who makes his debut with the band here) are further downtuned on None, and accompanied by rumbling distorted bass which still holds down the majority of the low end at this point (no eight stringed guitars yet). Jens Kidman isn’t quite at his “drill sergeant” technique yet, more like a melodic shouting with some anguished hardcore sounding vocals, and as mentioned even does some singing. The “gang shout” thrash backing vocals are still present, vaguely recalling the first album, and are used in much the same way. Haake displays inventive and infectious beats as ever, even at this early stage. I especially like what he does with the snare and hi-hat. The overall sound of the EP is quite raw and live sounding, with an urgency that really helps to drive the tunes. Of course, its not as stupidly bassy, or heavy, or as polished as some of the later stuff, but this only an EP and an early one at that.
This is the first release where Meshuggah’s distinctive drum/guitar interplay begins to really come into focus, which would later define their sound from DEI onwards. Riffs and rhythms seem to shift and permutate subtly over the course of repetitions. There is a quasi “nu metal” feel to a lot of this EP, but its really only there at a superficial level and overall what they’re doing is far more musically interesting. The “true” Meshuggah sound arguably begins on this EP, which makes it of some significance in their discography. Personally I think it is a strong highlight of their early career and good companion piece to Destroy Erase Improve.
Though this particular EP was eventually reissued with Meshuggah's debut album, Contradictions Collapse, I personally find it closer to the sound of Destroy Erase Improve, which is really a good thing, seeing as Contradictions Collapse was never great in the first place. Either way, this is a great EP, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who even has a passing interest in Meshuggah.
With None, Meshuggah says good-bye to their early thrash metal sound and adopts what would become their innovative mix of thrash, groove, death, and progressive metal. From the first track, Humiliative, one can recognize some elements that would eventually be in Destroy Erase Improve, specifically in the guitars and bass. That being said, there are some unique tracks on here, specifically being the songs Ritual and Aztec Two-Step. On the former track, it is a rather melodic song (for Meshuggah standards), as Jens Kidman uses clean vocals for the most part here, a rarity in Meshuggah's discography. On the later track, it has a rather dark feeling, as Jens Kidman's vocals are slightly distorted in an industrial-esque way, as well as being the only track on the EP to be over 10 minutes long (though much of it is silence). Of course, that doesn't mean the other tracks aren't worth a listen, as they bring their own surprises.
If you enjoyed Destroy Erase Improve, I would highly recommend this EP, as it basically serves as a sneak peek of what was to come from Meshuggah in 1995. Even if you didn't, there are enough twists to make it worth a listen for any Meshuggah fan.
On this EP Meshuggah are mostly mid-tempo, try out strange but not overtly technical grooves, remain pretty thrashy and are about to change their lyrical themes. Every song is very tight, though unusually composed in the sense that repetition is minimal. It's just a groovy riff after another, with changing dynamics and verses, assorted in an order that will seem pretty unfulfilling first. This takes time to get into.
Slow progression through mechanized emotions is the core of this music. Countless of subtleties make the soundscape rich in its agonizing sterility. Meshuggah portray an impossible state of mind too nasty to touch with mere words.
Unlike in their future works, they use acoustic guitar somewhat often in the songs and Kidman's shouts are much more melodic (especially on "Ritual", where he practically sings). Overall it's an interesting chapter of this band's history... An useful listen to this band's fans or people who care about dark concepts in music.