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The visual of a mechanical entity experiencing the precursor to what we humanoids refer to as "the call of nature" might seem a compelling fit of originality by modern metal standards, as well as by the likes of Rolling Stone magazine and Alternative Press, but minds less bound by the bizarre world of random aesthetic interpretation can relegate such a concept to the commonplace realm of farts. While maybe a somewhat harsh indictment of Meshuggah's pioneering "djent" offering Nothing and the hype surrounding it, it stands as a fairly good description of the auditory junkyard of nu-metal influences and jumbled progressive quirks that somehow manage to produce an overtly banal waste of an hour's worth of time.
The spontaneity of ripping off an impressive one can make for an occasional treat at a frat party or band practice, but it's a bit excessive to sample a couple dozen different sounds of methane expulsion and turn it into a cacophony of mixed meter rhythms with drums triggered into oblivion. To be clear, the organization of the riffs themselves is impeccable, which hints at why the cybernetic aspect of the displeasing aroma causing sounds needs to be underscored. The employment of down-tuned 8-string guitars leaves one wondering why Meshuggah even bothers keeping a bassist in the fold, as it does little more than double the low-hanging rot attempting to pass as groove riffs. Occasionally an atmospheric middle range guitar drone comes in to provide an additional layer of atmosphere, and the semi-frequent employment of guitar solos does provide a fleeting yet needed distraction from the monotony of the arrangement, but their effectiveness is stymied by the pervasive, percussive punches of the overemphasized rhythm guitars.
Zeroing in on an individual song is largely a pointless affair as the stilted minimalism of Meshuggah's pioneered style doesn't bother to escape its one-dimensional confines, though one might be able to separate the closer "Obsidian" from the pack given that it drones on with even more boring results than its 9 predecessors and lasts almost twice as long. Everything seems to be an exercise in repetition and sectional contrast largely comes in shifting a couple rhythms around here and there, and woe be anyone who expects even a few seconds of this thing to venture anywhere beyond a frustrating slow mid-tempo trot. Likewise, the vocals prove to be a perfect fit for the rest of the arrangement, taking maybe one or two different versions of a mid-90s Phil Anselmo gruff scream and occasionally switching out for a random spoken section. In other words, the vapidity pervades the whole, and no crevice is spared.
Dealing with the latest fixation that modern rock listeners drool over is an exercise in discovery, and the discovery often found is that in spite of new fads being a frequent affair, they don't seem to change all that much. The succession from the mid 90s nu-metal craze to what would become djent is on full display here, almost as if Meshuggah simply took a topical mechanistic character with some progressive trappings and simply revamped what was heard on Roots and The More Things Change. This isn't to say that Meshuggah's entire catalog isn't worth a look for those inclined towards groovy modern metal, but the masses and the media will often flock to a band's worse outing and hail it as a new awakening, when in truth, this album is dangerously close to being worth what its namesake denotes.
Sometimes, you'll find re-recordings of albums that were at the time, validated of being a solid re-recorded effort (example: Stormblåst by Dimmu Borgir) or exceptionally awful and pointless re-recordings (example: Under the Sing of Hell by Gorgoroth) but above all; some albums take an alternate route in bearing the lines between officially and completely "re-recorded" or just reissued with some modifications. Nothing can be beared in as an example for the last critique I just made along with After the Burial's Berzerker album. The reissue of Berzerker by After the Burial was completely re-mastered and had actual drums used in placement of the previous triggered drums...
...However, in terms of Nothing by Meshuggah, we see a lot more complication here. Not only were the rhythm guitar tracks completely redone with updated amplifiers, but song lengths were altered, drums were completely redone and all-in-all it seems that the only thing really left untouched in the end of it all were the vocals, which were not re-recorded, but were given "extra dramatic effects." These complications almost bear the lines upon a total re-recording or just a reissue with modifications, but what most asks the question here is the quality between the two records. The original issue of Nothing and its re-recorded counterpart has always been of much discussion. But what concerns me the most is the disregardance of its re-issue simply because it's "different."
Nothing is probably the most recognized Meshuggah album and the band deciding to redo most of the tracks was on their complete decision as it is with bands deciding to re-record earlier songs onto later albums. While the production here is greater, and be it "cleaner" than that of the original record, some sacrifices were made to achieve this matter such as the dim and hollow programmed drums used on this version. Tomas Haake did great on the original version, but here the album sounds artificial because of computerized drums being used in response to his actual drumming on the original.
Too many of the songs also sound too unvaried, the original album's tunings that were somewhat different amongst each song's sound come off as exactly the same here merely only because reportedly Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström were so pleased with their new guitars and equipment that they wanted to do 2002 all over again. But again, I will admit that some shines persist such as the production, which basically serves as the biggest highlight here which is in-contrast to the production of the 2002 original.
All in all, I would highly recommend hearing the original version several times before even hearing a track on here. I won't say that this version is terrible; because it's not. The only thing I can recommend is listen to both versions thoroughly and make your own decision on which you enjoy the most and if this big modification/re-recording of the record was really as necessary as the members themselves saw it as.
This is a supplement to my review of the original 2002 release of this album.
Even a broken clock is right twice a day. This album sounds like a broken doomsday clock grinding away at several different speeds, clunking between one tone and another, metal whacking metal and producing horrific mechanical sounds and the distorted flapping of power lines being pulled in the apocalyptic storm. As we all know about doomsday hoaxes, the world isn't ending any time soon, and neither is a Meshuggah song, because the ten tracks all sound like varied arrangements of the same two songs.
Apparently the rushed production of the original version of this wasn't good enough for Meshuggah, they had to go for the full modern production experience where the music sounds like a wall of robots, rather than some dudes playing guitars and instruments. Everything is unpleasantly mechanical, pushing the sound of guitars as close to slamming machinery as a non-noise artist would attempt. Instead of the thumpy, groovy feel of nu-metal, it's now more like the hammering feel of overproduced deathcore.
This album is an extensive polishing of some old material so that it has a massive impact based on the sound alone. Listening to one song while surfing through MySpace pages might give the impression that this is the heaviest band in the world. That is an unfortunate consequence of the times. The album as a whole is musically negligible - any minute of it pretty much sounds like any other minute, unless you're analyzing it for math homework.
Highlights: Any 45 second segment of the album, listened to only once.
Meshuggah are one of the most influential metal bands to ever exist. The mere guitar tone o Fredrik Thordendal has inspired an entire 'djent' scene in modern metal, after all. They are a band whose detractors even acknowledge their sheer talent and accomplishment as musicians. Sadly, I would have to include myself as one of those detractors. While their (at the moment) latest album 'ObZen' wowed me, most of their discography passes me as being painfully monotonous, without much in the way of surprises or emotion. Despite a fancy re-cording, Meshuggah's re-recording of their album 'Nothing' still does little for me. Their music is technically impressive and they do brilliant things with the one apparenty musical idea they work with, but as a whole, there is something about 'Nothing' that is sorely missing.
Anyone who has heard Meshuggah will know that the band has a very clear sense of style, and they are rarely keen on deviating from their chosen course. In Meshuggah's case, their music revolves around chugging guitars, heavy drums, and the robotic, aggressive vocals of Jens Kidman. Occasionally, Thordendal will throw in a brilliant jazz solo, but this concept of having the entire band function as a rhythm section is what drives Meshuggah forth. In the case of this re-recording, Mesuggah sought to redo 'Nothing' due to poor circumstances revolving around the recording of the original. At the time of the original 'Nothing' recording, Meshggah did not have the 8-string guitars they wanted for the job, so they had to settle with something less bass-heavy. The result was a less meaty sound, and while other measures have been taken to polish up the sound of the album- including a redone drum production- 'Nothing' remains very much the same album that listeners will have possibly heard before.
Performance-wise, Meshuggah are a group of musicians who know what they want, and pull it off with flying colours. Despite the legions of soundalikes, there is not a band out there that really sounds like Meshuggah. On the other hand, Meshuggah's sound here is quite narrow, almost never straying from the prescribed chg-chug rhythms. The band's music has inspired a joke that they have only ever used one note in their entire career, and while that's obviously an exaggeration, it makes a bold point. The rhythms of Meshuggah are powerful, but it comes at a total loss of melody and emotion. Jens Kidman's soulless bark does not help things any; despite philosophically sound lyrics, the shock value of his aggressive vocals wears off within minutes. 'Nothing' is a technically impressive album, both in regards to the old and new version, but much of what I enjoy most about music seems to have been overlooked by Meshuggah.