Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects Biography
Fredrik Thordendal is the main songwriter in Meshuggah and this is his first solo effort. "Sol Niger Within Version 3.33" was originally released in 1997, but is now available in the United States in 1999 with a couple of bonus tracks. "Sol Niger Within Version 3.33" finds Thordendal mining the same fertile soil of Meshuggah, but with more musical variety and broader creativity.
"Sol Niger Within Version 3.33" is basically a series of machine-like polyrhythmic metal blasts with (dare I say it) soothing, melodic, legato jazzy passages over it all. This unusual combination culminates in one of the best discs of the year. Actually, it isn't too far of a stretch to say that "Sol Niger Within" combines the harsh sound of Meshuggah's "Chaosphere" with the accessible melodic elements of Meshuggah's "Destroy Erase Improve" within a jazz-like framework. I found it best to listen to the music with my eyes closed as to limit additional visual stimuli from entering my brain to get the full effect of the music.
"Sol Niger Within" is 26 tracks, averaging 90 seconds in length. that explore the technical Meshuggah style but with the addition of sax, gallskrik, and yidaki. Keyboards also play a larger harmonic role than you'll ever find in Meshuggah. "Sol Niger Within" is a unification of the unconventional.
The guitars are compressed into tight abrasive scratches of sound - the sonic tapestry is put together with a seamless approach as each track blends into one mind-bending whole. The time shifts, odd meters, and left of center arrangements are seemingly borne of a netherworld of insanity, but it is put together with a lot of thought and care.
I was beginning to wonder if there would ever be another drummer in the world like Tomas Haake; well it seems Thordendal has cornered the market of unbelievably technical drummers as Morgan Agren is every bit as good as Haake. Agren's laid back, avant-garde jazz approach is stunning. Thordendal's vocals are presented in a very dry, almost robotic fashion; this is a lot different than the Meshuggah approach where anger and frustration rule the day. The lyrics have a sci-fi, philosophical mixture that unlike anything I've seen in recent memory. The lyric sheet even includes quotes from Dante, Samuel Beckett, Shin Hsiu, Marquis de Sade, Hermann Hesse, Oscar Wilde, and William S. Burroughs among many others. The quotes from these literary giants are not sung but are provided as a sort of backdrop to the interspersed lyrics to tell a story. What that story is remains to be discerned by the listener, but my best guess is the reduction of self within an infinite world with the essential question being "what is the common element amongst all humans"? We may never know the answer.
The bonus tracks are very cool. "Missing Time" is an eleven minute foray into extended jazz passages in direct contrast to the brief, tight musical nuggets of Special Defects - imagine Steely Dan and Opeth sharing time in the studio. "Ooo Baby Baby" (I think someone was having fun at someone else's expense when this track was titled!) is a song culled from Mats Oberg and Morgan Agren's "Trends And Other Diseases" - however, it's Thordendal's killer guitar work that makes this a blistering gem.
"Sol Niger Within Version 3.33" gets Four Chainsaws on the sheer fact alone that its quality deserves three and a half chainsaws and an additional half chainsaw due to my own personal preference for something that is fresh and not likely to be repeated.
Fredrik Thordendal plays guitars, bass, synthesizers and vocalizes. Thordendal gets assistance from Morgan Agren on drums, Jerry Ericsson on bass, and Mats Oberg on keyboards. Jonas Knutsson plays sax on a number of tracks. Victor Alneng plays the yidaki (a flute-like instrument) and Jennie Thordendal plays the gallskrik; Marcus Persson contributes primal screams and Tomas Haake is the voice of the psychonaut.