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Meshuggah: Well-done gimmick or an effective foray into simplicity?

I know what some of you are thinking: this is hipster metal with no substance. And I have read some things about this band from members here that verify that sentiment. However, I was surprised to see some less than hostile remarks towards their music. As a matter of interest, their first EP is actually linked from the Audiofile part of the forum and their early material/obZen is occasionally given a thumbs up. I am curious to see if anybody else thinks that they're more than a gimmick as the title suggests?

Personally, I was turned off by their music at a time when I was still uninitiated in the extreme and thus by nature it seemed as if it were only noise. After I gained an ear for it and could not only stomach, but appreciate the nuances of what extreme metal had to offer, I naturally gained the ability to retain an attention span when it came to just about any type of music I came into contact with. After I heard Meshuggah on some occasion a few years ago, I started to appreciate the simplest thing about their music: it was just downright heavy/badass. And it was so because of its ability to play around with repetitive grooves and syncopate these grooves around the core 4/4 hi-hat rhythm set out by Haake's cymbals. With that framework to work around, I started to appreciate the subtleties and idiosyncracies of not only each album, but each song and how it ultimately seemed to progress. Like many people agree, they create a very empty aura, entirely devoid of human emotion, turning their craft into something that feels like the work of some spastic, yet well-oiled machine droning on without complaint in what could be described only as a mindless task. With that imagery in mind, it's not hard to see how its charm is in the depersonalization and in turn of its reduction of the importance of the individual. It reminds us of how mindless and empty and machine-like we are. You could even say that it transcends the leftist utopia that many want to feel good about striving for and places us as nonexistent observers of a dystopic universe devoid of our human flaws. It does so by mesmerizing us with its ambience and sheer impact coupled with the rhythmic use of melody that is employed in the right occasions. And then just when you've felt like an epiphany is about to be had, you're placed right back into the midst of the same droning repetition you initially started off with. Yet, somehow you feel that while you may have wasted another day or week or year, that intuitively you've been gifted with some knowledge that's able to allow you to overcome the stale stupor of your everyday existence.

On the other hand, a lot of other people seem to disregard the band for varying reasons:
-It's too technical and pretentious
-It's all predictable and too similar
-There's nothing really going on

Yet, that seems to me their strength, just misconstrued as weaknesses. They're a band who are at heart very simple, but choose one very limited area to expand in complexity. In doing so, it feels to me like they've absolutely acknowledged that they're simple and not hiding the fact. Instead, this amplified focus on one already imperative element in popular music is brought to the forefront. It basically inverts the colors of the musical canvas from something vivid to something that seems drab and grey and empty, and in that emptiness you can see where there should be a vivid instead of lackluster color. In the predictability and repetition, you're forced to forget about what you naturally would find interesting. Stripped down to its most basic elements and allowing the rhythm to almost solely drive the music forward, the small amount of variation and the relatively long time it takes for it to 'progress' is something that I find one learns to appreciate.

Anyways, perhaps someone could just read this all and say "well, that's a load of crap that you're using to mask the fact that there's no substance and rationalizing the fact that there isn't anything there as a positive thing". And that's a perfectly valid thought. It's also perfectly valid to think that Meshuggah could do something more. But still, there's something so ultimately satisfying in anticipating their brand of breakdowns. For instance, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2stcnTvHlY in the moments leading up to 3:36. Peace and then the sounds of loud machinery, then back to peace. Further on the moments leading up to 4:57. I find that if I let my mind drift like I do with Skepticism, I can space out and just be at general peace with the mechanics of the world.

Just my take on it, anyone happen to agree on anything?

Meshuggah's not a terrible band. It just isn't that good, either. From what I've seen, most of the contempt they receive here is due more to the hype surrounding them than it is to the band itself. Despite being, as you pointed out, exceedingly simple, they're one of those bands that gets touted by manchildren for being complex and intriguing. The syncopated rhythms get mistaken for odd time signatures, and the listener suddenly shits himself in the realization of how much more intelligent he is for being able to receive this band's soundwaves than other people are for being able to receive pop music's soundwaves. Basically the same thing that happens with any sort of "technical" music that becomes popular.

Sentiments shared here in the Swampkamp, I really don't like Meshuggah, but there's so much worse shit out there than what they're doing.

- they don't offend me very much
- I don't think they damage the face and integrity of metal
- when they come on the radio, I find the exercise of breaking their music down into simple routines rather fun

If you're really into that kind of industrial/technical post-thrash/metal, you might want to check out some old Fear Factory. I feel the same way about them, but they used to use to go into the occasional Death Metal movements on the older albums and they're less technical.

I have no real issues with this band, particularly their earlier output.  A lot of the hatred is really overblown because they've had some modicum of mainstream success...personally I don't really care if Jack Osbourne played a Meshuggah CD in an episode of The Osbournes in 2002.  Where they can be held responsible, however, is for the influx of "mathcore" mallspawn like the Dillinger Baseball Cap Extravaganza and Isis-wearing a baseball-cap, and Cave-In a Baseball Cap who are little more than Meshuggah knock-offs.