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Meshuggah - "I (Special Edition Reissue)" (CD)

Meshuggah - "I (Special Edition Reissue)" CD cover image

"I (Special Edition Reissue)" track listing:

1. I (21:04)
2. Bleed (live) (7:33)
3. Dancers To A Discordant System (live) (9:48)
4. Pitch Black (5:57)

Reviewed by on September 24, 2014

"One single minute into the title track and the music is already repetitive enough that I'm contemplating tearing my ears off and throwing them at someone... then I look down and realize to my absolute horror that this song is TWENTY-ONE MINUTES LONG."

Despite having a love for technical and progressive metal, yours truly has somehow never gotten into Meshuggah before, so this re-mastered re-issue of “I” seemed like a great place to jump in, letting me hear an older release with a new coat of paint slapped on. Hitting the play button, I'm eagerly awaiting being bowled over by the band all the tech purists love and which spawned all the imitators in the dreaded djent genre. Unfortunately, things go awry...

One single minute into the title track and the music is already repetitive enough that I'm contemplating tearing my ears off and throwing them at someone. It only gets worse however, when I look down and realize to my absolute horror that this song is TWENTY-ONE MINUTES LONG. You know those repetitive motions you have to do over and over, like scrubbing the floor or brushing your teeth? You don't particularly want to do them, but they have to be done. It turns out Meshuggah is that, but louder.

To be fair, these guys are amazingly talented and they obviously know how to play their instruments at an insane level. There are even individual interesting elements all throughout “I” – the explosion of crazy guitar acrobatics at the 5:40 mark for instance – but every single one of them gets dragged on, and on, and on, and on (probably behind a horse which itself has been beaten long after the point of death) entirely ruining whatever was unique and interesting with them to begin with. And what song wouldn't be complete without a full 30 seconds of annoying feedback distortion at the end?

It seems like there's two ways to look at this: it's either a method of lulling the audience into a trance of aural meditation through repeating sounds, or it's an active attempt to smother all enjoyment of music by annoying the living hell out of the listener. Unfortunately I fall into that second category, as the trance never hits for me: I'm too busy analyzing and dissecting and waiting for something more interesting to happen to enjoy the ride.

The constant repetitive guitar chord with cymbal taps in the 19 minute area is another section that would have been cool done once or twice – but makes me want to stab the next guitarist I meet after it repeats ad nauseam for three minutes straight. On the plus side, there are a few change-ups across the 21 minute track that kept me from smashing my computer to bits with a sledgehammer, such as the sudden stopping and dropping into quiet atmospheric music at 7:50 and again at 15:00. The mammoth track also hits a nice groove around the 11:00 minute mark. Granted, it's still repetitive in the extreme, but at least that section is more entertaining and less ear-grating.

Unlike the original release, this edition of “I” also sports two live tracks (which have surprisingly good sound quality) and the song “Pitch Black” taken off the 2013 EP of the same name. The live version of “Bleed” is actually more enjoyable than the title track, because while it's absolutely still repetitive, it's only 7 ½ minutes long, and it blends the atmospheric parts into the heavy parts more efficiently.

While the extra songs gave me more of an indication of why people love this band than the title track did, even the mere 6 minute “Pitch Black” left me wishing Meshuggah could figure out how to not repeat the same chord 500 or so times. At the very least the group could do what any self respecting prog metal band would do: add new elements into the repetition every minute or so to build on the sound, rather than coasting on it to pad song lengths to absurd degrees.

Highs: The technicality and level of proficiency is immense, and the bonus tracks are pretty good on their own.

Lows: Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition...

Bottom line: Twenty-one solid minutes of technical death metal sounds awesome - until you realize it would be around 2 minutes long if they cut out the repetition.

Rated 2 out of 5 skulls
2 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)