With Destroy Erase Improve, Meshuggah shattered any preconceived notions about what death, thrash, and prog metal could be with one astoundingly accurate, calculated blow. The Swedish outfit managed to surpass their startlingly original, if relatively immature debut, Contradictions Collapse, with a record so pure in concept and execution, it borders on genius. Lyrical themes visualize the integration of machines with organisms as humanity's next logical evolutionary step, while the music backing it up is mind-bogglingly technical, polyrhythmic math metal -- the work of highly skilled men with powerful instruments. While the idea looks unwieldy on paper, Meshuggah handles it with a balance of raw guts and sheer brainpower, weaving hardcore-style shouts amongst deceptively (and deviously) simple staccato guitar riffs and insanely precise drumming -- often with all three components acting in different time signatures. Guitarist Fredrik Thordendal adds an element of weirdness with Allan Holdsworth-style neo-jazz fusion leads that serve as melodic oases amidst the jackhammer rhythms. While such bold, challenging arrangements could result in a wank-fest or, even worse, a chaotic mess, Meshuggah carefully synchronizes their bludgeoning instrumentation, embracing minimalism without excess and playing to the power of the song so the listener isn't neck-deep in over-composed indulgences. As a result, "Future Breed Machine," "Suffer in Truth," and "Soul Burn" are mind-bogglingly profound, integrating body, mind, and soul into a violently precise attack, the point being that change can be extraordinarily difficult -- if not maddening -- but the results are transcendent. While industrial metallers Fear Factory have attempted to tackle similar themes, Meshuggah outclasses them on all fronts, proved by the stunning brilliance of Destroy Erase Improve. The album is a bona fide '90s classic, a record boasting ideas so well-balanced -- natural yet clinical, guttural yet intelligent, twisted yet concise -- it muscled simplistic subgenres out of the way and confidently pointed toward the future of metal.
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AllMusic Review by John Serba