1995, Music

Destroy Erase Improve (1995) by Meshuggah

Metal is a curious thing, a world which values extreme forms of expression but which often doesn’t value diversity of expression. So many metal classics are albums that establish the conventions of a particular sub-genre, which will later ossify into something many people view as inviolable. Not this record.

This is an absolute bonkers fusion of a whole bunch of different things – thrash, groove, death, progressive, math rock! – into something that somehow makes musical sense. (At least to me.) It’s aggressively loud (except when it’s not), it’s aggressively avant garde, it’s aggressively unique and undefinable. It’s one of those metal albums that I am constantly seraching for: a record that is not confined by blind adherence to genre convention. (It’s a little like the metal equivalent of The Shape of Punk to Come. I guess it would be more fair to say The Shape of Punk to Come is the metal equivalent of Destroy Erase Improve given that this came out first.)

I have a really hard time criticizing it, in part because my knowledge of the metal world at the time suggests there was very little that sounded quite like this. I can think of bands that bits of this remind me of, but not bands that made a sound just like this.

Honestly, it’s a little hard for me to not get carried away with this one. I know there’s more diversity in the metal world than I am sometimes willing to grant, but I’ve heard few albums from this early that are this out there. It feels like a sea change – and it’s a genuine influence on metalcore and mathcore, as well if djent if we’re going to decide that exists. It’s really only my relative unfamiliarity with the numerous metal bands of the 1990s that keeps me from giving this thing full marks. It’s that good.

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