ven after an album is released, technology (and budgets) can allow musicians that cherished childhood indulgence: the "do over." This can occur to varying degrees. An album can undergo a remaster, which usually means an artificial volume boost. Before remastering, its tracks might be also remixed—redoing the levels, the EQ, and so on.
Then there's re-recording, which occurs for any number of reasons. Perhaps the original recording is out of print—see Suicidal Tendencies' Still Cyco After All These Years, v.2.0 of its self-titled debut. Perhaps—as with Megadeth's Rust in Peace—while remastering, you can't find some of the original vocal tracks. Maybe you don't want to pay royalties to the original bassist and drummer, so you hire studio musicians to lay down new tracks (Ozzy Osbourne on Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman).
Meshuggah's reasons for redoing Nothing were more mundane—they just weren't happy with it. A last-minute decision to join 2002's Ozzfest tour forced the band to mix the album in two days and master it in one. Though it has become a metal classic, the band's dissatisfaction was understandable. The album was Meshuggah's first with custom 8-string guitars, which permitted new levels of low end. However, that didn't translate to the album's crisp, somewhat lightweight, mix.
"Lightweight" would otherwise never describe Meshuggah, named for the Yiddish word for "crazy." Formed in Sweden in 1987, the band started out playing progressive thrash; in its early days, singer Jens Kidman did some mean James Hetfield impressions. But over the Destroy Erase Improve and Chaosphere albums, the band developed one of metal's most signature sounds.
Meshuggah's trademark is slow, grinding riffs full of polyrhythms. For example, guitars might play in odd meters such as 5/16 or 17/16, while drums play in normal 4/4. By the concept of least common multiples, contrasting rhythms will eventually realign over time. The feet feel 4/4, but the ears hear 11's, 13's, and other numbers uncommon in Western music. The result is a gradually shifting rhythmic landscape of tectonic proportions. Meshuggah shows are not for headbanging; they are otherworldly, tribal, trance-inducing. When guitarist Fredrik Thordendal types out flowing, atonal solos, one feels like a witness to some futuristic alien ritual.
On the Nothing reissue, the band re-recorded the rhythm guitars, replaced some drums with triggered samples (though kept the original timing of the drums), and remixed the record anew. The vocals remained intact. "It finally sounds the way we always wanted it to!" the band says on the packaging. The results are, ahem, mixed. The guitars indeed have muscular low end now, filling up much of the frequency spectrum. However, they've lost the bite that's been a Meshuggah trademark. The drums, too, are beefier, but they've lost their original crispness. Now they're more like the over-compressed thuds that are epidemic in modern metal productions. Kidman's vocals are slightly less prominent in this mix. That's not problematic, though, as the focus is on the guitars. The pumped-up sound does make the songs more physical; the legendary second half of "Straws Pulled at Random" becomes a mammoth, hairy beast, and the deep grooves of "Spasm" achieve new menace, with an eerie tick-tock melody on top.
Packaging-wise, the reissue pulls out all the stops. The original orange artwork has a much more pleasing blue tint now. The packaging has cool-looking, though fairly useless, ornaments—a stenciled slipcase and a "lenticular," a 3-D holographic card of the cover art. Quite welcome is the inclusion of lyrics in the liner notes; the original album required an awkward CD-ROM program to read the lyrics. Finally, the reissue includes a DVD with live footage and music videos. The video content is high-quality, if seizure-inducing at times, and stands in sharp contrast to today's pixilated YouTube videos.
Is this reissue worth it? Put it this way—the original Nothing was like your quirky high school sweetheart. She was no model, but she was smart, funny, and unique, and you loved her to pieces. You lost touch during college, and now, years later, she's rung your doorbell. She's stylish now, and she's worked out, tanned, and gotten a boob job. Do you take her back?