#TBT: MESHUGGAH'S Nothing is an Unrelenting Ear Bulldozer
Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. Today's 82nd TBT features an album whose initial release turned off many fans due it it's 'slower pace', making 2002's Nothing a once derisive album pick from the metal monsters Meshuggah.
Release Date: August 2002
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Nothing deserves love for being such a non-melodic force of nature. Nothing takes the djenty lows of nu-metal, strips away all the frivolity, drops the tone a few octaves, and mashes riffs together with slow and deliberate technicality.
Nothing is as precise as it is ruthless, a true nod to the talent of the band. Overall, the riffs are slower and the measures are more roomy on Nothing, comparatively to those found on previous Meshuggah albums Chaosphere and Destroy Erase Improve. This spaciousness allows the dissonance of the chords to strike a new level of discomfort in the listener and gives the ear time to 'digest'. In the parlance of modern lingo, Nothing is a whole mood – heavy, aggressive, and intelligent. The sludge is strong in tracks like "Closed Eye Visuals", "Nebulous", and "Spasm". At first glance, the tracks may seem unambitious and too repetitive; however a closer listen reveals an intelligent progression that makes the track become hypnotic. For example, a staccato tempo change towards the end of "Spasm" turns up the heaviness with the addition of silent moments.
The drumming of Tomas Haake on "Spasm" is actually insane as he manages to create this a-rhythmic syncopation that shouldn't work against the riffs, but does. It's interesting to note the difference between the original and remastered albums on tracks like "Spasm". While I prefer the brattiness of the percussive brass on the original version, the newer re-recording does have a much better balance which brings out the heaviness better. I just wish they'd have left in the live-tracked drums:
The main groove of "Obsidian" is brilliant for the some of the same reasons as "Spasm" – while it seems repetitious, it's dissonance and subtle growth is absolutely mesmerizing.
Another difference in the original to the re-recorded version includes the iconic guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and
Mårten Hagström down-tuning their 7-strings on the original version to simply moving to 8-string guitars on the re-release. According to a 2007 popmatters.com article by Adrien Begrand,"The album was intended to be recorded using custom-made eight string guitars, but the prototypes by Nevborn were too faulty to work with, so guitarists Frederik Thorendal and Marten Hagstrom used de-tuned seven-stringers instead, which created additional problems, as they kept slipping out of tune during the sessions". The transition and mastering difference is notable in brilliant songs like "Straws Pulled At Random":
There is an official music video for the track "Rational Gaze".
Relentless and crushingly low, Nothing grabs the listener and takes them on a dark and deliberate journey. The tracks flow well from one to the next, enticing the listener to crawl ever deeper into the hypnotic heaviness that is Meshuggah. Obviously the lads went on to create some of the most iconic music metal has ever seen with albums like ObZen, but that journey started in part here with Nothing. Bands need to take the space to expand their sound and find how they want to approach their future, and you can hear that expansion in Nothing. With a laser focus on intelligent lyricism, gripping vocals, and straightforward riffs, Nothing is a success in a highly-decorated career of a hugely successful band.