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MESHUGGAH I Reissue

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Sunday, October 5, 2014 @ 6:48 AM


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MESHUGGAH
I
Reissue
Nuclear Blast Records





Sweden’s MESHUGGAH seems like it is getting ready to settle down for a long winter’s nap. In addition to recently releasing the live DVD/CD combo pack The Ophidian Trek, the band has re-issued the 2004 EP I as a remastered and expanded edition, both within a matter of weeks, to apparently tide fans over until it emerges from hibernation in 2015, 2016 or whenever.

It’s not like MESHUGGAH doesn’t deserve a break. The band has been touring constantly since its last album Koloss was issued in 2012, culminating in a 25th anniversary tour last summer that celebrated its entire ground-breaking history.

The original I EP was a notable exclusion from the anniversary tour set, probably for the simple fact that it was a single, 21-minute-long obscurity – not to mention that it was recorded as a one-off for a friend’s new label - that would have eaten up a considerable amount of stage time better suited for more established fare. So the band has dusted it off here, cleaned it up a little bit and re-released it for the curious via Nuclear Blast with the addition of two live tracks – both of which appear on the DVD/CD – and another rarity, “Pitch Black”, that was issued as a free download in 2013 on the Scion AV site.

According to drummer Tomas Haake, I isn’t so much a “song” as a collection of individual parts the band recorded as it went along and fused together. The music is not quite improvised, as the band worked from the loosest of scripts, but it has that same sort of unstructured, free-form feel. It's serpentine and random, changing direction on a whim.

Roughly the first third of I is some of the most frantic, calamitous music MESHUGGAH's done. Before it stops abruptly at about the eight-minute, it's just about full-on death metal, grinding away at a near blast-beat speed, and is quite a contrast to the band’s typical lock-step rigidity. The midsection is swaggering grooves set to a martial pace. Ethereal, KING CRIMSON-esque prog passages and Spartan interludes weave their way into the mix to break up some of the bombast, and the song concludes with the band’s more familiar quirky djent histrionics and its staggered time signatures and heaving guitar/bass pummel. It's a wild, but compelling ride.

The comparatively tidy “Pitch Black” is also one of MESHUGGAH's heaviest songs – which is really saying something. The dense, pile-driving eight-string riffs of guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hågström are tuned extra low so as to approach the mythic “brown sound” as they shudder atop Haake's pneumatic drumming. He also provides the grumbled vocals in the background with a cadence that approaches rap – or schizoid babbling. Though tempered by a bit of jazzy guitar noodling midway through and a freaked out solo that recalls the sax wail of SHINING's Jørgen Munkeby, it comes back even harder and heavier on the backside before mercifully fading out.

The live tracks, “Bleed” and “Dancers To A Discordant System”, both of which appear on The Ophidian Trek - thought not these versions - don't boast quite the novelty of “I” or “Pitch Black” but do present the songs in a rawer, less pristine form than the meticulously produced studio versions. The performances, as always, are spot on, but the sound is more naturally rough, especially frontman Jens Kidman’s shouting, though no less formidable or thunderous.

Though it comprises just four songs, I delivers a hefty 44-some minutes of music. And while “Bleed” and “Dancers” will ring familiar to the growing army of fans that have gotten into MESHUGGAH in the decade since the original EP was issued, “I” and “Pitch Black” offer different perspectives of the band – one at its most experimental, the other at its most brutal - that make the re-release much more than just a throwaway or a gap-filler. Regardless of how long that gap may end up being.

3.5 Out Of 5.0

Grab a copy of I in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE


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