When a band hasn't released anything for a while, fans often expect
everything when a new album finally emerges. That's why legions of death
metal fans are looking forward to Nothing.
Meshuggah's first record in more than three years is a colossal slab of
technically complex, rhythmically visceral volume that leaves most
blast-beat grinders sounding flabby and weak. Nothing features
everything the Swedish band is known for — corrosive vocals, shredding
guitars, mathematical precision — but this time around Meshuggah have
attained a new level of emotional impact by simplifying their attack and
going for the gonads. The key, as guitarist Mårten Hagström
explained, was creating a ballsier sound.
"We started playing eight-string guitars (instead of the usual six). It
allowed us to go lower sonically and attain bass sounds on guitars," he
said. "That helped us create the atmosphere we were looking for. We wanted
it to be a bit darker, a bit slower and more sinister."
Mission accomplished. Not only is Nothing bleaker and more brooding
that the group's last disc, Chaosphere, it's also more accessible
— but not melodically. Songs like "Perpetual Black Second," "Closed
Eye Visuals" and the emphasis track "Stengah" are as fierce as past
offerings, yet they bash and even groove in a more palatable manner that
doesn't require doctorate in physics to follow.
"We feel like we kind of matured on this album," Hagström said. "It's
something we discovered when we went back and listened to our older albums.
Our last record, Chaosphere, is very much an imprint of where we were
at that time because we were totally stressed out and we didn't know where
we were headed. We were in a different place this time. We wanted to grow,
so we tried to use simple building blocks musically to create a complex
Hagström and his bandmates — vocalist Jens Kidman, guitarist
Fredrik Thordendal and drummer Tomas Haake — are fully aware of the
blatant contradiction of calling such a developed album Nothing.
That's why they did it.
"Nothing is real simple, but when you read it you're like, 'What? Why
Nothing?' " Hagström said. "For us, it has a lot to do with the
material both lyrical and musical. It's sort of about everything. It's like
a total intake of the human psyche in a way, conceptual-wise. So instead of
calling it Everything, it's Nothing. When you pick the album
up, there's pretty much nothing on the cover, there are no song titles when
you flip it on the backside, it's pretty clean. So that allows you to focus
on the music."
Thematically, Nothing isn't exactly a concept album, but it confronts
some pretty intense ideas about the stimuli that mold the human psyche. Of
course, Meshuggah aren't interested in the joyful memories that elicit
smiles; they're digging for far uglier stuff.
"It's about the turmoil, anxiety and fear you go through in ordinary life,"
Hagström said. "We're really interested in the traumatizing things
that cause anger, rage and remorse. It's really hard to pinpoint what's
doing what to you and how different psyches might react to different types
of situations because of your background, upbringing or genetics. That's
what a lot of this record is about."
Like any good death metal album, Nothing is also about demise and
decay — not in the gratuitous fashion of bludgeonists like Cannibal
Corpse or Slayer — but in a cerebral way that complements the group's
"Some of it is about pondering over the fact that we're actually going to
die," Hagström explained. "We're born into this world and we don't
have a clue what it's about, really. Does the answer come clear when you
die, or is that when you just go into a blackness? When you die, you don't
know if your psyche goes back to being nothing or if nothing is the state
that everything is in. So this album is about everything and nothing."