Yer Metal is Olde: Meshuggah – Chaosphere

Meshuggah - Chaosphere 01Alright everyone, out of the Hall and into the DeLorean, today’s news is olde news. We’ll be landing in 1998, the tail end of a decade of weirdness which had somehow survived grunge and yet seemed destined to be defeated by the almighty Y2K. Amidst the bleached tips and general confusion, unbeknownst to all but the trve, a monster was born, one which would endure what Three Dollar Bill, Y’all$ could not and mature into an inimitable legend within the extreme metal community. A calamitous ray of hope against the JNCO, Meshuggah’s Chaosphere seized metal’s conventions by the throat, flayed them alive and curb-stomped the body. Atonal chords, time signature seizures, and insane, prosaic insight screamed with voice of Hell itself and more were wrought unto those caught within the ‘sphere, and this piece is dedicated to the memories of life and heaviness as we knew them before Chaosphere ripped those scandalous bitches in two.

I’ll never forget my own initial reception of the ‘sphere. Hidden under my sheets and feigning sleep — for such was the nature of all Muppet metal excursions in those rebellious salad days of yore — I hit the play button on my Sony CD player as surreptitiously as I could and was greeted by the utter cacophony of “Concatenation.” All my freshly pulverized brain could spit back at me was: “This is just fucking noise!” Meshuggah are certainly an acquired taste, and the dissonant mind-fuckery of “The Exquisite Machinery of Torture” might seem aptly named to the uninitiated, yet the atonal jazz tappings and off-kilter time signatures of Chaosphere are anything but mere thoughtless noise. Two decades later, a whole djenre of Meshuggah-likes is still scrambling to reach the cacophonous heights of the ‘sphere – woe, Discordia.

Thoughtless noise it may not have been, but that didn’t make the ‘sphere’s sound any easier to succinctly categorize, and no one member of Meshuggah can be blamed/thanked for this. In those glorious, innocent days before the Great Djent Plague of 2011-2014, guitarists/stringed demons Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal stood alone in their 000ber down-tuned chuggatry, and the neurotic jazzms of Thordendal’s solos were all but unfathomable within the extreme metal community of olde, and the seven-stringed mayhem of Chaosphere created an immediate sense of identity in their own right. However, defying all known logic and reason, it is also impossible to speak of any Meshuggah album without recognizing the extraordinary bass work within, and Chaosphere is no exception. One-time bassist Gustaf Hielm reveled in low-end darkness in a much more intricate and prominent manner than is customary among mortals (yet mandatory for Meshuggah), the end result rendering tracks such as “Corridor of Chameleons” and “Neurotica” downright reliant on the presence of his greatness. With Jens Kidman barking out misanthropic musings over all of this like a furious and hyper-caffeinated demon, Chaosphere trvly stands testament to the great and terrible things that can come when glints of insanity and brilliance collide.

For all the worshipful praise that has been doled out thus far, if there is a trve deity behind the exquisite machinery of Meshuggah, it would be drummer/possible transdimensional entity Tomas Haake. Beyond providing the misanthropic brilliance that comprised the album’s lyrics, Haake’s schizophrenic stick-slinging simultaneously stole the show and sustained the ‘sphere’s existence. The uninitiated may mistake Meshuggah’s madness as five dudes doing their own thing with no fucks given about anything but loudness, yet the discerning and desensitized ear will recognize how all things spiral back to the incalculable psychosis of Haake’s percussion. The fact that the atonal savagery of “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” works on any level is ridiculous as it is, but keeping it all spasming forward in a manner that initially presents itself as deviating from the instrumental direction entirely is the kind of brilliance that Pearts are made of. Tomas Haake’s inimitable performance behind the kit was as essential and legendary then as it continues to be to this day.

The bottom line was, is, and always will be that, scientifically speaking, Chaosphere is better than you and anything you listen to. While much of the scene was off gallivanting in eyebrow rings and guy-liner, Meshuggah’s Chaosphere took metal as we knew it and rearranged its pathetic tissue, incising and replacing the laws of the land to reform heaviness itself. Just as bands such as Dillinger, SikTh, and Animals as Leaders have taken the (a)tonal tools of Meshuggah to carve their own niches into metal history, up-and-coming acolytes of these bands continue to further spread the dissonant and disjointed seeds of Meshuggah and the ‘sphere, providing living, breathing testaments to the impact that these Swedes have had on the extreme metal scene. Chaosphere challenged and rewarded listeners in the heyday of Pogs just as much as it does now, and the world is a better place for it. We all say thank ya.

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