From thrash to progressive to deathcore, it’s safe to say that anyone who has called themselves a metalhead within the last couple of decades knows Meshuggah. As one of the most influential bands since the late 80s, they have paved the way for countless musicians by manipulating rhythms and experimenting with the techniques of traditional metal, creating a unique, boundary-defying (and frequently copied), instantly recognizable sound.
Over the last thirty years, the infamous Swedes have released eight studio albums, six EPs, two live DVDs, and a compilation of ‘Rare Trax’, most of which hold a permanent spot in my daily life (because let’s face it, a bus ride isn’t complete without a little ‘Shuggah). Organizing this collection of albums and EPs from worst to best is certainly a task, as many of them could be considered an obvious number one, but as fan, I can’t complain about having an excuse to talk about the legendary Meshuggah.
- ‘I’ (2004)
There is no doubt in my mind that this epic, twenty-one minute track deserves to be in the top spot. As an EP, it seems to be initially overlooked in fans’ lists of their favourite Meshuggah albums, but as drummer Tomas Haake said on the ‘Alive’ DVD, it’s so insane that “no one knows how ‘I’ goes”.
- ‘obZen’ (2008)
While it is pretty much tied for second with ‘Nothing’, ‘obZen’ features the most individual songs that I listen to regularly (“Lethargica”, “Pravus”, “Dancers to a Discordant System”, etc), as well as being an extremely creative and tight album overall.
- ‘Nothing’ (2002)
‘Nothing’ is where Meshuggah really hit the mark and established a thicker, slower pace that has been echoed in their more recent albums. Featuring songs like “Stengah” and “Straws Pulled At Random”, it was difficult to not place it in the number one slot.
- ‘Koloss’ (2012)
The pounding intensity that is ‘Koloss’ has been one of my top albums since it’s release. In the same vein as ‘obZen’, but with a bit of a heavier twist, this album produced a ton of catchy riffs, while introducing a new level of brutality.
- ‘Chaosphere’ (1998)
There are many points of evolution within Meshuggah’s discography, but the most profound change in direction is perhaps ‘Chaosphere’, bridging the gap between ‘Destroy Erase Improve’ and ‘Nothing’. They left behind the last of the thrash, and plunged into the technical groove that is pretty much responsible for the entirety of the “djent” phenomenon.
- ‘Catch Thirtythree’ (2005)
Rather like the ‘I’ EP that came the year before, ‘Catch Thirtythree’ is an album that you have to listen to as one solid track. For the most part, each song flows together, often possessing the same riffs and patterns as the brief track before it. It is similar to the previous couple of albums, continuing further down the path of experimentation. It also features entirely programmed drums, which is partially why it isn’t higher on the list, despite how good it sounds.
- ‘Destroy Erase Improve’ (1995)
One of the stereotypical fan favourites, ‘Destroy Erase Improve’ is known for being a revolutionary addition to modern metal, producing a very influential style that has evolved over the decades and put Meshuggah on the map.
- ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ (2016)
Possibly heavier than any other album that they have put out to date, ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ plunges deep into otherworldly tones, and reverberates inside your chest long after it’s over – however, it isn’t higher on the list because it sounds like a continuation of the album before it, ‘Koloss’. While far from being a bad thing, there are releases that have pushed more boundaries and introduced newer sounds in comparison; plus, it’s still too early to tell if their most recent work will hold up to other Meshuggah albums over time.
- ‘None’ (1994)
This EP sits between ‘Contradictions Collapse’ and ‘Destroy Erase Improve’, both stylistically and chronologically. Since it came before Destroy, it laid the foundation for the classic sounds we expect from them today, straying away from the more raw, thrashy side.
- ‘Contradictions Collapse’ (1991)
I really didn’t want to put the first full-length album so far down on this list, especially since it doesn’t get nearly the amount of respect that it should, however, with so many experimental masterpieces that followed ‘Contradictions Collapse’, it feels less like good old Meshuggah, and more like the greatest Metallica album ever. Sorry… but seriously, I genuinely love this album and how it helped to shape the future of the band, and metal as a genre.
Four EPs are not listed above, including the self-titled debut from 1989. ‘Selfcaged’ and ‘The True Human Design’ have not been ranked since they are, for the most part, collections of older tracks that appeared previously on other albums, live versions, and alternate remixes. While I frequently listen to ‘Pitch Black’, it did not make the cut as it is only comprised of two tracks, one of which is a live recording of “Dancers to a Discordant System”.