Meshuggah are one of the most innovate and revolutionary bands in the history of heavy music. Rapidly moving beyond their beginnings as Metallica-indebted thrashers, the Swedes have spent the last 30 years twisting metal into unfathomable new shapes, leaving the rest of the world trying to keep pace.
To mark the release of stellar new album Immutable, Meshuggah their debut appearance on the brand new cover of Metal Hammer magazine as part of our Innovators Issue, where they’re interviewed by Machine Head frontman and mega-fan Robb Flynn.
But where to start with this visionary band? We dived deep into their nine album to pick the Top 20 greatest Meshuggah songs to help answer that question. Prepare to have your ears melted and mind blown…
Metal Hammer’s brand new Innovators Issue, featuring Meshuggah interviewed by Robb Flynn, is on sale now (opens in new tab)
20. Humiliative (None, 1994)
Arguably the moment when Meshuggah evolved beyond the progressive thrash of their early efforts and became the epoch-shattering beast we know today, Humiliative provided a bridge between the post-Metallica crunch of their early records and the mind-bending math-metal forged precisely one year later. Metal would never be the same again.
19. War (2001)
The opening track on 2001’s odds ‘n’ sods collection Rare Trax, War is Meshuggah in flat-out extreme metal bludgeoning mode. The band’s first song to feature a drum machine, it has little in common with the rest of their catalogue, but does prove that Meshuggah can match any death or black metal band when it comes to neck-wrecking brutality.
18. Soul Burn (1995)
Early proof that Meshuggah are most effective when the tempo drops, Soul Burn was another brutal, polyrhythmic puzzle designed to confound and delight open-minded ‘90s metalheads. Superficially straightforward, at least by the Swedes’ standards, it veers off into scattershot, jazz fusion insanity midway through. In 1995, people didn’t really do that kind of thing.
17. I (2004)
A 21-minute math-metal monolith, I was released in between the imperious crunch of Nothing and the psychedelic odyssey of CatchThirtyThree and sounds nothing like either of them. From churning, hyperspeed grind to oppressive, sub-industrial dirge, stopping off at some of the wonkiest Meshuggah riffs ever, it’s a profoundly weird and uncompromising thing.
16. Neurotica (1998)
Chaosphere is by far the most frantic and extreme Meshuggah record, but Neurotica provides a rare moment of groovy respite. A tense and sinewy collage of riffs that ebbs, flows and fidgets across five furious minutes, it sounds like an early blueprint for the slower, heavier intricacies of Nothing, released four years later.
15. I Am Colossus (2012)
It’s always good when a song matches up to its title. I Am Colossus sounds huge, menacing and unstoppable. With vocalist Jens Kidman in a particularly vitriolic mood and a slow-burning spiral of deliciously counterintuitive riffs, this is the sound of Meshuggah reminding everybody that this is their turf, and theirs alone.
14. Demiurge (2012)
The twisted dark horse of Meshuggah’s seventh album, Demiurge slams and scythes with unrelenting, psychotic power. Built upon some of the simplest and most dissonant riffs in the fivesome’s history, it’s another one of those magical Meshuggah moments where time seems to stand still and a looming, pitch-black vortex beckons. Fun times.
13. Combustion (2008)
The most explosive album opener in Meshuggah history, Combustion goes off like a billionaire’s penis-rocket and only relents to make the next slap-down even more brutal. A violent and slightly unhinged flipside to the slower grooves that the Swedes had explored a few years earlier, it represents yet another monstrously heavy evolutionary step.
12. Clockworks (2016)
Another stellar album opener, Clockworks rattles through at least ten different riffs and moods before it’s even halfway done. With Tomas Haake on imperious form as usual, and Meshuggah’s bottomless well of ingenious riffs coming up trumps yet again, the only sensible response to songs like this is to stand and applaud.
11. The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance (2012)
Never a band to concern themselves with writing catchy pop bangers, Meshuggah get their point across pummelling listeners into submission. Mercilessly direct but fiendishly complex, The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance is an outright assault on the senses. Built on an insistent, machine-gun groove, it’s a song that won’t take no for an answer.