Not surprising for an album called Chaosphere, Meshuggah went into writing the album with a singular purpose: "I think the thought we had was to make kind of a chaotic album," vocalist Jens Kidman told FaceCulture, "and it kind of is chaotic."
Indeed, it is. Following a lengthy tour in support of the rhythmically complex 1995 album Destroy Erase Improve, Meshuggah crafted a noisier, more tumultuous record driven by a far heavier groove than its predecessor. From start to finish, Chaosphere is a vicious, percussive assault that's simultaneously exhilarating and draining. From the concrete-crushing opener "Concatenation" to the barbed, apocalyptic "Elastic," which ends with almost 20 minutes of feedback and noise, Meshuggah presented a relentless mechanical barrage of synapse-frying rhythms and trudging, off-kilter riffs. Throughout, drummer and lyricist Tomas Haake addresses fittingly heady topics, including dysfunctional societies, corruption, cybernetic mind replication, and thought suppression.
In eternal appreciation of a pre-djent prog-metal masterpiece, here are five things you probably didn't know about Chaosphere.
1. Meshuggah made Chaosphere quickly — at least by their standards
Having spent more than two years composing 1995's Destroy Erase Improve, Meshuggah were under the gun to deliver its full-length follow-up three years later, so they banged the whole thing out — writing and recording — in just three months, according to then-bassist Gustaf Hielm, who would split with the band in 2001. "It was intense," vocalist Jens Kidman recalled of the album-making process. "Every day, morning to night. The whole record is a reflection of how everything was made. Everything was new. We hadn't even played any of the songs all the way through before we went into the studio. Except one song, 'Sane' — that was the only song we played."
The result was more of a "punk-out" record. "I think as far as the aggression, this intense style that we tried to incorporate in this album has reached the top," guitarist Mårten Hagström told Ink19.com. "I don't think we can do a more intense and in your face album as this one. Destroy Erase Improve was an experiment in dynamics and aggression. Chaosphere was like the punk-out album, you know, like just way out there."
2. Meshuggah were crunched for time in part because of one band member's solo project
The creation of Chaosphere was delayed while guitarist Fredrik Thordendal finished his experimental jazz/fusion/metal album Sol Niger Within. "Fredrik's solo album took about a year and a half," said Hielm. "[Since] he was working on his solo album we didn't have any old riffs kicking around. We ditched a few songs because we weren't satisfied with them yet, but Nuclear Blast was on our backs to release something." Would the band have spent more time fine-tuning things if left to their own schedule? "Yes, we are actually quite lazy," the bassist admitted.
3. Chaosphere was the first album for which the band members wrote their parts at home, instead of jamming together in-person
For years, the members of Meshuggah lived close together in Umeå, Sweden, which was about 373 miles from their management in Stockholm. In 1997, they moved closer to their management's offices. In the process, however, the musicians ended up living further apart from one another. Instead of coordinating their schedules and meeting at a central location to write together, they composed separately. "We have computers and home studios, and then we send more or less finished songs to each other in MP3 files," Hielm told lollipop.com. "It's cool because we can sit at home and evaluate the songs without the pressure. You can play around with the riffs and add your own ideas as they come up instead of being limited to what happens in the rehearsal room." It's a way of working that the group has pursued ever since.
4. "New Millennium Cyanide Christ" was inspired by suicide cults like Jim Jones' Peoples Temple
One of the most popular tracks on Chaosphere, "New Millennium Cyanide Christ," is about the darkness and danger that can arise when a charismatic despot develops a legion of fanatic followers. "That's more of a dystopian take on a sectistic or extremist kind of cult vibe," Haake told songfacts.com. "The inspiration came from suicide cults and stuff like that where you have one leader that can take hundreds of people and just brainwash them and make them think he's Christ or the savior."
5. The spoken-word parts on "Explicit Machinery of Torture" are delivered by drummer Tomas Haake, not singer Jens Kidman
Kidman may be the body-banging lead singer of Meshuggah, but Haake writes all the group's lyrics. That being the case, it makes some sense that he has recorded all of the band's spoken-word passages. "I guess, basically, I'm more familiar with the English language so it's easier for me because when you speak, it's a whole different technique," the drummer told metal-temple.com. "See, I couldn't sing, but I could do this. Jens is a great singer, but not necessarily if you're speaking like that. It's kind of not the way he's used to doing things."
6. Chaosphere's especially chaotic "hidden" conclusion features four songs on top of each other
Fifteen-and-a-half–minute album closer "Elastic" fades out in feedback before erupting again in a "hidden part" of what sounds like blasting, random white noise. In fact, its four songs being played back at the same time. "At the end of 'Elastic,' we were supposed to have a fade-out of the song during the strange part, but Fredrik left his guitar on and it started to feedback in an old ADA delay, feedbacking internally, so when we started to mix the album, we decided to leave it in," Hielm explained. "At the end of the album, we wanted to end with some kind of statement, so we put four songs on top of each other. We had fun when we did it, but I don't think a lot of people find it fun to listen to. I think it's a combination of 'Concatenation,' 'The Mouth Licking What You've Bled,' 'New Millennium Cyanide Christ' and some other song."
The results are almost absurdly chaotic, and yet the overlay did reveal some surprising synchronicity — according to Hielm, the guitar solos in all four songs start at the same time. Asked what that might mean, the bassist self-deprecatingly dismissed any greater import to the coincidence: "It means we wrote the same fucking song four times," he concluded.