First Impressions: Meshuggah – Destroy Erase Improve
Does it Djent?
In this series we at Toilet ov Hell bring our metal credibility into question by admitting we haven’t listened to some of metal’s classic albums. This week I decided to examine an album I have somehow never really listened to, Meshuggah’s Destroy Erase Improve.
This omission is a bit embarrassing for me, as I’ve grown quite fond of Meshuggah over the last two years but have somehow not listened to this album. Now seems like the right time to rectify this situation and listen to the album that is considered the birth of Meshuggah’s definitive sound.
Before going any further here’s what some of TovH djentlemen had to say about this album-
“Destroy Erase Improve both truly progs and truly thrashes. These days there a million bands who can competently chug out some polyrhythms, but none of them do it with the punk rock attitude that Meshuggah had on Destroy Erase Improve. It’s one of the most vicious albums of it’s era and it still sounds absolutely brutal today.”
“Over 20 years later, Destroy Erase Improve still sounds fresh and relevant and exciting, especially compared to the sea of progressive and technical bands it inspired. This album is a masterclass of songwriting, featuring Meshuggah at their most vicious and energetic. It’s fast, absurdly heavy, and so nuanced that I’m still finding little details I missed in a million prior listens. An incredible record whose impact on the genre cannot be overstated.”
So before we go any further, let’s all sit down and give this seminal Meshuggah record a spin.
Starting off the album is “Future Breed Machine” and right away the album begins a full on assault. As the track’s pace quickens the song descends into a wall of sound that is just pure aggression. What I didn’t expect was the inclusion of hardcore-esque gang vocals on the chorus of the song. My favorite part is the softer interlude about 2:30 into the track, which provides a short respite from the auditory violence. At this point I’m doing everything possible not to start headbanging in public.
I love the bassline that starts off “Beneath”. This track doesn’t seem to be as in-your-face as “Future Breed Machine” was, but I’m hard pressed not to be mesmerized by it. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the random instrumental sound effects that close out this song, they give me the vague impression that I’m drifting into insanity. On “Soul Burn”, Tomas Haake’s drumming is an instant attention grabber, everything else in this song pales compared to that drumming. The song starts to descend into chaos and I start to wonder if this song is the musical equivalent of having a seizure.
“Transfixion” starts off and I can’t help feel that this song is just a repeat of “Future Breed Machine”, however the last half of the song is very different, with a more a slowed down approach that just fades away into silence. “Vanished” is jarring and it feels like I’m being hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer; while “Acrid Placidity” is a rather calming instrumental that almost seems out of place amidst the aggression of the album so far.
“Inside What’s Within Behind” intrigues with its layering of Jens Kidman vocals atop of what I presume to be the voice of Tomas Haake based on the album credits. “Terminal Illusions” is peculiar, because it seems that Haake has mostly forgone his trademark technical drumming for pure anger. Seriously how many snares did he destroy while recording this song?
You “Suffer in Truth” but why? I’m liking this song, Meshuggah really seems to have balanced the technicality and the aggression on this track, and this might be my second favorite song on the album. Now I’m brought to the final track on the album “Sublevels”. The spoken word is downright creepy, it’s reminiscent of one those loner nerds who goes to poetry reads and proceeds to mumble into the mic for fifteen minutes. Aside from the creepy spoken word, the song has some nice jazz inspired moments before Meshuggah comes back with their usual heavy hit to the gut sound.
After listening through Destroy Erase Improve I can understand why this album is considered one of metal’s definitive albums. It also reinforces to me that 1995 was one of the best years in metal. With that being said I don’t think this is the best Meshuggah album, that honor goes to obZen in my opinion. While Destroy Erase Improve focuses on aggression and shows what the fundamentals of Meshuggah’s sound are, but the thoughtfulness and form of later Meshuggah albums is missing. I know I will be listening to this album again in the future, and yes, it does djent.