Meshuggah - Destroy Erase Improve (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Destroy Erase Improve (1995)

Nuclear Blast Records

Djent djent djent.

While the list of metal subgenres is considerable, there’s only one that’s entirely defined by a singular sound: djent metal. The name is an onomatopoeia, meant to describe the heavy palm-muted guitar style employed by legendary Swedish metal outfit Meshuggah. It’s so specific that it almost doesn’t mean anything, but it does hilight something worth remembering: While plenty of bands have been influenced by Meshuggah, there’s no one quite like them.

Destory Erase Improve, released in 1995, was Meshuggah’s second full-length, but their first clear artistic statement. Opening track “Future Breed Machine” was all furious blast beats and low tuned guitars, a riotus yet jazzy affair. It’s easy to call this music ahead of time thanks to 20 years’ of hindsight, but the sounds here clearly struck a nerve with bands torn between technical hardcore and metal. Dillinger Escape Plan, Coalesce, Every Time I Die and plenty share a gene or two with Meshuggah.

Yet at the same time, Destroy went in a few less djent-y directions. Years before Mastodon did the same thing, “Soul Burn” found Meshuggah indulging in jazz-tinged prog-rock, aiming for something looser and more elastic and all around jammier. “Acrid Placidity” was a heavenly guitar interlude. “Sublevels” cut between blisstering djent and hazy backwards riffs that have more in common with Alice in Chains.

Meshuggah later perfected the art of djent on releases like 2008’s obZen, but Destroy remains a handy blueprint and a stellar record in its own right. It’s the sound of a band coming into its own, combining thrash metal of the past and prog-metal of the future into one tasty 46-minute collection.