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Destroy Erase Improve

Meshuggah - Destroy Erase Improve ©1995 Nuclear Blast
1. Future Breed Machine
2. Beneath
3. Soul Burn
4. Transfixion
5. Vanished
6. Acrid Placidity
7. Inside What’s Behind
8. Terminal Illusions
9. Suffer In Truth
10. Sublevels

As I recall, Destroy Erase Improve was one of my first real dives into the world of extreme metal, so it is needless to say that it has a special place in my heart even if it has spent considerably less time in my stereo in recent years. With that said, I can safely posit that Meshuggah released a dichotomous mindfuck of an album back in 1995. On one hand, Meshuggah is here to point out that they are undeniably a metal band, replete with crushing staccato riffing and Jens Kidman’s unique, throaty roaring. On the other hand, beneath all of the metal-isms lay the latent need to become jazz fusionists by their trademark utilizations of oddball jazz time signatures (12/8, 13/8, and any other time signature that could be considered somewhat unconventional as far as metal is concerned), off-kilter riffing and arrangement, sparse but haunting, perfectly placed cleanly-picked arpeggios, and Fredrik Thordendal’s dissonant, atonal leads that wouldn’t be entirely out of place on an Allen Holdsworth album. The end result was a perfect exercise in sheer brutality mixed with dazzling technicality without being self-indulgent or masturbatory. Rather, Destroy Erase Improve is contemplative, thought provoking, and most of all, memorable.

Regardless of who gets the songwriting credit, it is all the more apparent that each member brings his own identifiable mark to the songs, whether guitarists Thordendal and Hagstrom are constructing their respective oddly beautiful leads and snakelike staccato riffing around Tomas Haak’s percussive mastery (to call him one of the best drummers in music would still be a vast understatement), or whether Jens Kidman is roaring in perfect rhythmic placement with Haak and then bassist Peter Nordin’s rhythm section, the members compliment each other quite nicely.

With the beautiful, almost new-age instrumental “Acrid Placidity” acting as a well-placed breather between the brutality, the deceptively simplistic, almost tribal “Suffer In Truth” (which is actually in conventional 4/4 throughout most of the song until the percussive schizophrenia takes hold), and closer “Sublevels”, which convulses in a labyrinthine quagmire of start/stop timing and subtle build, Destroy Erase Improve stands as an important album in the extreme metal scene, simultaneously embracing and shunning the preconceived notions of how metal should be played.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 06/2002

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