Meshuggah Deliver Something For 'Nothing'

Swedish metal titans back with new LP after more than three years.

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

thought-provoking music.

"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."