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When it comes to the music of Meshuggah, a lot of things come to mind; technicality, polyrhythmic drumming, experimental structures, chaotic riffing. But revered above all in the holy church of Meshuggah is heaviness. And 2002's "Nothing" is the epitome of that heaviness.
Perhaps the least technical of Meshuggah's releases (though it is still quite technical by general metal standards), Nothing focuses on heavy, infectious guitar grooves as well as those odd rhythms and time signatures that mark the group's signature. Each song follows a rough pattern; find a groove, build up, find another, repeat. Although many bands who might try this approach would soon become worn out and boring, Meshuggah gives enough energy, variation and the proper execution to do it well.
The basis of all this, of course, is the guitar. The tone is crushing, and the tuning is low; as in, as low as possible. The bass is barely discernible, but that hardly matters; the guitar is so low, thick and bassy that the two guitars and bass morph together into one monolith of groove. The riffs are technical, varied and heavy. They're experimental and rhythmically diverse enough to hold your attention, yet perfect for head banging at the same time. The solos are few, and seem to be less technical in some ways than many of the riffs (at least rhythmically speaking), though they fit when applied. They have a less jazzy nature than the solos on Meshuggah's other albums, and serve more as another layer of the groove.
The drumming is both excellent and multifaceted. It keeps time (very important in an album as complex as this), but does so much more than that. It provides a neccesary backing to the guitar riffs, and completes the rhythm. However, Haake's performance also layers plenty of raw technicality onto the songs as well as accents the grooves, rather than simply going along with them. "Nothing" is so steeped in its rhythm section than anything less than a stellar drum performance would let it down. Thankfully, the performance is nothing less than that.
The vocals are simply another layer to the chaos. Jens Kidman finds a place within the groove to mount his verbal assault, and pulls it off right. The vocals are harsh and chaotic, the lyrics strange a strange, science fiction odyssey. They are a perfect fit for the music.
If I had to choose one word to describe "Nothing", it would be "mechanical". The pure technicality of the instruments, combined with the machine-like grooves makes for a wholly different approach to the genre. The album sounds sort of like an army of robots laying waste to a futuristic industrial factory. Only, the robots are shooting detuned guitar riffs and the factory produces odd, technical drum patterns. Overall, "Nothing" is not an album everyone will want to swallow, but anyone even remotely interested in the depths of extreme technical metal will want to take a bite.