Something of a landmark in the band’s already illustrious career, this was originally a single track EP and was something of an unwieldy prospect, clocking in at 21 minutes. A band of their pedigree were always a challenging listen, but this sizeable chunk of unrelenting grit and precision divided fans when it emerged a decade ago.
So why the anniversary re-release? Well, firstly it has been neatly remastered and the sound is warmer and presents much better separation of the component instruments, but also this monumental piece is one of the best things they have ever recorded and you’d be a traitor and a communist to say otherwise.Opening with their distinctive off kilter drum-guitar barrage, it briefly segues into a blistering screech of Anaal Nathrakh-style bombardment before Jens barks at us like he always does.
Many have argued that the band’s former method of songwriting (where they composed parts and stuck them together on a computer to see what fits where) makes this track less of an achievement because they’ve just glued lots more parts together than usual and made what would have been 4 songs into one. Pish and nonsense. This track is very much a flavour of where the band were at that time and pulls together several different elements of their sound into a seething, ugly mass but one that is always cohesive and propels you along with such vigour that you really don’t notice the epic length.
The trademark 8 string pummelling is coloured way more brightly and with greater variety than Tomas Haake is often able to on shorter numbers, giving it a percussive identity unique amongst their back catalogue. The experimentation continues throughout and although distinctively Meshuggah in every single bar, it sets off the jazz klaxons more often than you’d expect.
The frenetic fret-tapping section still makes me want to do a mad dance and is probably the best 60 seconds they have ever recorded, as it then flows into some seriously RSI-inducing snare/tom/hi-hat work from the devil’s own metronome.
With more ideas in one song than many bands manage in an entire album, this is a masterpiece in its own right and worth your money especially for the bright and punchy remastering.
The bonus ‘content’ being tacked onto the end of the main attraction includes live versions of ‘Bleed’ and ‘Dancers To A Discordant System’ which are a welcome addition but perhaps not essential considering their live opus is out shortly too. The closer ‘Pitch Black’ is one of their weaker tracks and will be no more than a curio for most fans but was previously a vinyl only limited release and any bonus is better than nowt.
All that said, you need no bonus for your money here and to complain about the final track probably seems churlish when it follows such artistic brilliance. So take my opinion there as no more than moaning that I was awe-struck on seeing Picasso’s Guernica in the flesh (well, canvas…) but wasn’t too keen on the picture frame. “I” is a twisting, turning, churning, unrelenting ride and I implore you to buy it and stick it on repeat until you agree with me. Now, who do I have to bribe to get these fuckers to play this as an encore at their Roundhouse show in December?