Meshuggah: The Vinyl Remasters

The Swedish tech metal pioneers serve up a limited re-release of EPs and full-length albums with full vinyl remastering and brand new art

Swedish technical metal pioneers Meshuggah have created an expansive legacy of such depth and such uncompromising ambition that recounting their achievements feels redundant. They are a genre unto themselves; a fully-realized creative institution whose inimitable fusion of dizzying polyrhythms, slashing riffs and pure sonic brutality have earned them legendary status in the modern metal pantheon. Often lost in discussions of their mercurial sound is the sprawling scale of their evolution from Metallica-worshipping thrashers to hyperkinetic vanguards of modern metal. This journey is now retold in the limited vinyl remastering of five of their career-defining works — Meshuggah EP (1989), Contradictions Collapse (1991), None EP (1994), Destroy Erase Improve (1995) and Chaosphere (1998). The new collection offers a limited one-time only pressing that includes re-imagined cover artwork, redesigned gatefold jackets and audio mastered for vinyl.

Those who discovered the band through their more recent output might have overlooked the lesser-known early releases, particularly the three-song Meshuggah EP, of which the band initially released only one thousand 12″ vinyl editions. Often referred to as “Psykisk Testbild,” relatively scant discussion exists of this outing, perhaps due to its unguarded similarities with …And Justice For All in both production and its compositional structure. And yet in the jagged strafing of these familiar-sounding riffs, one hears the primordial ooze of today’s Meshuggah, playing out in eclectic tempos and the hint of exotic and weirdly-engrossing note progressions. Contradictions Collapse, the band’s debut full-length, established Meshuggah as capable fretboard technicians, standing as the album’s one and only stab at a mainstream sound. And to be fair, “mainstream,” in this case is relative; in 1991, even Metallica were abandoning the coarse underground vibe that had amassed a global fanbase, in favor of something more taut and polished. In this sense, Contradictions Collapse is oft-overlooked yet it remains essential listening as the Swedes’ true starting point and final flirtation with sounding like their influences. None saw the band take a broad and purposeful step away from that sound, towards the bludgeoning volleys the later releases. While critically, None might not have wowed the critics with the same feverish enthusiasm of later albums like obZen, it froze the moment when Meshuggah set their ambitions beyond what they had been playing and more importantly, well past what was selling records at the time — angtsy alt-metal and ponderous post-grunge radio rock.

Destroy Erase Improve remains an enduring fan favorite that gathered the most extreme elements of prog, death and thrash and used them as fuel for a visionary collection of mind-bending extreme metal anthems. Tracks like Future Breed Machine and Suffer In Truth sound as riotous and vital now as they did in 1995. Finally, Chaosphere saw the band bid sweet adieu to their thrash roots and noisily embrace their future as latter-day wizards of mesmerizing technicality, all but thumbing their noses at the burgeoning death metal uprising at the time, offsetting that genre’s contrived nihilism with a dizzying cavalcade of scorching riffs, hallucinatory fretwork and hundred-mile-an-hour tempo changes that seemed to defy the laws of both gravity and physics.

Vinyl-loving metalheads will need a new box of Kleenex for this collection. The re-designed album artwork was completed by Keerych Luminokaya, who created the artwork for the band’s 2012 release of 2012’s Koloss. For the remastering of the albums, the band returned to Thomas Eberger, who worked with the band on The Violent Sleep of Reason, which secured the band their first GRAMMY nomination for Best Metal Performance. Essential listening for metalheads and a bona fide collector’s item for the superfans.

Rating: 9
For fans of: Gojira, TesseracT Between The Buried And Me
Label: Nuclear Blast