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Great, if repetitive, display of technicality - 86%

ReapingTalons, November 10th, 2003

Meshuggah, for those who don't know, is a band that masterfully blends the speed and energy of thrash metal, the driving, mechanical riffs of industrial, and the blazing technicality of progressive metal, making for one of the most popular "real" metal bands of our time. "Destroy Erase Improve" is definitely the zenith of their innovative efforts.

Let's start with the good. The most instantly noticeable thing on this album is the odd meter. Very few of these songs use conventional time signatures, and almost all have polyrhythms. The band's insane drummer, Tomas Haake, somehow keeps all of the rhythms straight in his mind and pulls this extremely technical drumming job without a hitch. Haake is an incredibly impressive drummer: he displays a perfect balance of timekeeping, technicality, and power.

The guitarist, Fredrik Thordendal, is also quite talented. Of course, Thordendal is also able to play around the odd time signatures, and oftentimes, breaks in the fast and schizophrenic music will be followed by a strange, atmospheric, warbly guitar solo with an eerie and lucid tone. This is used to great effect, creating an unsettling dissonance within the music.

Now on to the music itself: as mentioned several times, the songs have seldom-used rhythms and precise timekeeping. The music is a blend of thrash, industrial, and progressive metal. This style is accompanied by harsh and loud vocals, and it's easy to imagine the singer (Jens Kidman) running toward you with a knife and screaming just as he does on this record. The verses and intros to most of the songs are loud, fast, and grinding, with calm but intentionally jarring breaks in between. The album, as said before, is rife with hypnotic solos that add greatly to the mood of the album.

Finally, I'll get the bad out of the way. There is only one thing really wrong with this album: after 25 or 30 minutes of angry industrial thrashing and shouting about robots taking over the world, all the songs seem to blend together and it's hard to discern which is which. It gets repetitive. That's pretty much all that's really bad about this album, but the great and totally original music definitely outweighs the repetitiveness. Chances are, you already know of Meshuggah and either have/don't want this album, but if you're undecided, I'd definitely recommend it.

Highlights include Future Breed Machine, which sounds like a subway crashed into a crowd of babies; Soul Burn, the best example of their polyrhythmic insanity, and Acrid Placidity, a testament to their atmospheric abilities.

Lowlights include pretty much the whole rest of the album. It's most definitely not bad, but isn't as discernibly excellent as the three tracks listed above.