Meshuggah were never a basic metal band. The signs for polyrhythmic development and their approach to vocals and guitars from a different angle were apparent in debut album Contractions Collapse (1991) and its follow-up Destroy, Erase, Improve, released in 1995.
But in 1998, their third record Chaosphere plotted a new curve, along lines of progressive hardcore, industrial music and jazz fusion, shifting slightly away from their death and thrash influences. Whether it was conscious or not, they hit upon their own kind of infectious, rhythmic grid.
On each song, every instrument in the group – and Jens Kidman’s barked vocal – adhered to a pattern, locked into a mathematical mesh where subtle, telepathic compositional changes seemed to occur more frequently, and confidently, than before. These changes often tripped a listener up, but still bound them happily within a groove topped with sly, seven-string atonal solos that would become one of many signature details.
Here’s another: “We kept the 4/4 beat going so we could still headbang,” said drummer and lyricist Tomas Haake, but the 4/4 would have competing guitar chugs and snare hits to throw you off, such as on New Millennium Cyanide Christ. This was the shape of things to come for the band, and eventually the birth of the immensely successful metal sub-genre, djent.
Recorded in Dug Out Studios by melodic death metal producer Daniel Bergstrand and Meshuggah’s lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal, Chaosphere has now had a 25th anniversary tidy-up, and is issued on coloured splatter and circle vinyl. (In 2008 a Reloaded version appeared with a brightened quality.)
The new edition is served up as ‘hi-def’, and mixed way louder (should that be hi-deaf?). The raw, frantic energy of The Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled and the mad, avant-garde moments of the relentless, 15-minute Elastic might be too much for some listeners, but wow, what a way to push a boundary forward.
Chaosphere: 25th Anniversary Edition is on sale now via Atomic Fire.