Monday, 15 September 2014

Meshuggah - I (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/9/2014
Label: Nuclear Blast

“I” CD/DD/LP track listing:  

1). I (21:04)
2). Bleed (live) (07:33)
3). Dancers To A Discordant System (live) (09:49)
4). Pitch Black (05:57)


Continuing with the momentum of celebrating their 25-year anniversary, Sweden’s extreme metal deviants MESHUGGAH proudly announce the re-issue of 2004’s one song EP, »I« on September 26, 2014 via Nuclear Blast.  Album artwork & concept are courtesy of MESHUGGAH drummer Tomas Haake, who comments on the EP’s mutant resurrection:

“This 21 minute madness that is the song ‘I’ is something we’ve always been extremely proud of!! Originally recorded for Jason Popson/Fractured transmitter record label, this was a “one off” that Nuclear Blast gave us the go ahead for - as we were under contract with them. Our plan was to just quickly write a little nugget of a song to help our friend Jason to kinda kickstart his label. It wasn’t quick however.  We ended up spending a couple months on this thing as it just kept evolving and kind of took on a life of its own. This song is really different as it wasn’t “written” in the normal sense, but recorded without anything more than very open guidelines/ideas as to what kind of style we wanted each part to have. For examples, the initial 1½ minute drumfill is an excerpt of around a 15 minute recording of me just randomly going off on a kick/tom fill. Once we had chosen which part of it to use, we had to chart out the hits on paper and guitarist Fredrik and Marten then basically used sight-reading/avista to get the hits right while recording. And this is how we continued through the whole song/process. We often get the question “When will you guys play ‘I’?” - And though I’m sure it could be done with a lot of listening and hard work - It’s really too unstructured a track. It would take up too much time and effort to make sense.

We’re super stoked now, to have this be re-released under the Nuclear Blast flag. Distribution and access to this little demon of a song was never quite what we had wished back when this was released, so we’re thrilled to see it be brought back to life!!
To further add value to this re-release, we added a couple live tracks and another weird little track ‘Pitch Black’ that some of our fans may have heard but probably not all, as it was only released in a limited number.

»I«’s 21-minute title track has been re-mastered and includes two live tracks recorded during the 2012 - 2013 Ophidian Trek World Tour, plus a previously unreleased studio track recorded in July 2003 at MESHUGGAH’s own Fear & Loathing studio in Stockholm, Sweden

The Band:

Jens Kidman | vocals
Marten Hagström | guitar
Fredrik Thordenthal | guitar
Dick Lövgren | bass
Tomas Haake |drums & voice


Meshuggah’s 2004 I EP is a piece of music unlike any other. In plain terms, it could be seen as the conceptualisation of the album Catch 33 which followed a year later, but really it is much more than that. Reading deeper into its creation you learn that not only is this a continuous piece of music or single ‘song’, but it’s also one of the most complex creations of any band ever.

The idea behind the I EP came from the tour de force that is Tomas Haake and Fredrik Thordendal. Random spasmodic drum patterns recorded by Haake were meticulously studied by Thordendal beat by beat to create matching guitar riffs, which in turn were recorded and vocals layered on top.

Split into many ‘movements’ the pace doesn’t really slow. Only in breakdown sections of ambient spooky guitar parts does the reprieve of polyrhythmic mayhem poise to settle the insanity that is I.

The composition is exactly what fans of Meshuggah are used to. Brutality, complexity, savage low A tonality and ambience amongst pandemonium. It’s impossible for any Meshuggah fan not to love this EP, so much of what inspired future records can be heard for the first time in a condensed form appeasing every want and yearning for that ‘Meshuggah sound’.

Remastering an album of such significance in a bands career is a monumental task.  To bring it up to a modern sound or just improve the clarity of what has already been laid down, which is a hard decision. Do you appease fans of the old, or fans of the new?  What the remastering has achieved is finding that happy medium. One noticeable thing about the original mix is that it felt quite squashed and flat. The overly compressed sound was definitely something that always bothered me as it subtracted hugely from the guitar tones and buried the vocals. I can happily say now that everything is in its right place, with the bass bought up to a level where it gives the guitars all the sonic dimensions I could have hoped for. The ambient background guitars are full of clarity to the point where you can actually make out each stroke and the drums aren’t just clicks.

As for the rest of the EP, the tracks included have been floating around for a while. The live tracks greatly capture the live Meshuggah sound; a good balance to the instruments is welcome as you can tell it was directly recorded from the mixing desk. The bonus recording of ‘Pitch Black’ was originally given away for free from Scion AV awhile after the release of Koloss, and is a solid track akin to the album that preceded it.

In all honesty, how can this get a bad review? Meshuggah fans everywhere are constantly on the edge of their seat waiting for their overlords of chug to put new material out. Talking to a Meshuggah fanboy is like talking to a Tool fanboy, while there’s material they don’t listen to regularly, everything they have done is the best thing you’ve ever heard. It’s like they have control of our brain using some rhythmic morse code embedded into their songs or something. Thanks for reading Y’all!

Words by: Asher G. Alexander

You can pick up a copy here

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