Today in RIFF or RAFF, we’re pitting your beloved Meshuggah against itself to determine the greatest riff in their catalog. The combatants are primed and ready to djent. One riff will riff, the other will raff. Let’s do this.

LAST WEEK Vegglampe’s Anaal Nathrakh riff pulled out a strong win over Dubya’s Keep of Kalessin selection in our battle of the dragon riff. For his victory, Vegglampe is getting a prize from his Bandcamp wishlist. Congrats!

NEXT WEEK’s theme comes from Leif Bearickson. I want you to send me your best SOLO BACKING RIFF. Y’know when the drums and bass and vocals drop out to allow the rhythm guitar to play a riff? That’s what I want. The prize is a selection from your Bandcamp wishlist! Want to be the riff wizard? Here’s what you do:

  • Write 100-500 words about why you love this riff, and why we should love it too
  • Include a link to a place where we can stream your song
  • Include the timestamp when the riff kicks in
  • Put “RIFF or RAFF” in the subject line
  • Submit your riff at toiletovhell@gmail.com

THIS WEEK I asked you to submit your finest Meshuggah riff. I will admit that I am not a fan of the band, but hopefully your riff selections will win me over. Enough talk, let’s riff.

obZen was a bit of a return to form for Meshuggah after spending two straight albums playing at or below 150 bpm (these are Nothing and Catch Thirtythree‘s SOLE defining feature, don’t try to argue with me otherwise with things like ‘facts’). obZen plays host to several of what I consider to be Meshuggah’s all-time best songs, including “Bleed”, which has become something of a signature song for the Swedes, but my heart rests with the album opener.

“Combustion” spends little time beating around the bush, spending a few seconds playing the main riff at a muted volume before exploding into life at 0:09 with the precision of an engine and the energy and ferocity of being chased through the jungle by velociraptors. This continues unabaited until we hit our RIFF at 0:48. There is no moshpit you cannot conquer, no PR you cannot crush, no challenger you cannot flatten to this riff. Very few bands in my listening experience can pull of ‘groovy’ and ‘fast’ at the same time without sacrificing a bit of one for the other, but this one manages to do both with aplomb. Hell, you can nod along to this one even if you aren’t a fan of the band. –Gurp

Ah, Meshuggah. Some people love them, some people hate them, some people are really aggressively indifferent. I am in the first group, which also happens to be the correct group. What we can all agree on, however, is that the band is not known for writing riffs. Skillful manipulations of rhythm at both the metric and hypermetric level? Absolutely. Siqq riffs that beg for a circle pit? Not so much. While they do have their moments of riffage (I very nearly chose the angular opening riff that opens “Dancers to a Discordant System” and subtly and gradually morphs throughout the entire song), we should be looking at this a little differently than most cases ov riff. “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave Them Motion” contains what may be the heaviest chug riff known to humans, which also demonstrates the effectiveness of a brutally simple idea. An eerie, hypnotic guitar line opens the song, sounding almost like a siren meant to warn us all of an atomic dick crushing. It’s very clearly in 4/4, but it isn’t fooling anyone remotely familiar with the band. A few seconds later (:28), the audience is utterly demolished by a hulking monstrosity of a chug riff in 11/8. It patiently stomps along, the main groove crushing everything while alternating 6/8 and 7/8 fills add a razor sharp flair to the destruction. There are just enough different notes, especially in the fills, to give it a riff-like feeling. However, the main flavor comes from the layering. The opening siren wail of the guitar in 4/4 is still going underneath, and, in true Meshuggah fashion, Thomas Haake splits his drumming between the two ideas. His hands never waver from a steady, simple 4/4 ride, but his feet and other accents around the 4/4 pattern follow the 11/8-6/8-11/8-7/8 groove in the rest of the band. This essentially gives us two riffs at once, depending on how you’re listening. One interpretation gives us a riff 4/4 that swirls and revolves constantly around a steady pulse, while the other gives us a trudging, yet off-kilter riff that has a constantly shifting snare accent that almost acts like another note inside the groove. Meshuggah does this juxtaposition of meter often, as we all know, but the opening riff to this song strips away all distractions and absolutely hammers us with the raw simplicity of that basic idea. For added fun, listen to the whole song while you keep the ride pattern in the hands (one two THREE four, where the snare is on three). That alignment never stops, despite an ever-shifting time signature. That level of metric awareness is insane. –Stockhausen

It’s time for you to determine who RIFFS and who RAFFS. Choose wisely.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 15-10-2016 09:00:00
end_date 21-10-2016 12:00:00
Poll Results:
Best Meshuggah Riff?

Written by:

Published on: October 15, 2016

Filled Under: Riff or Raff

Views: 1188


  • Eliza

    While the first song has the riff that I like more, the second track is the better overall package, in my opinion, so that’s the one I’m going for.

    • Stockhausen

      You are correct in doing so!

      • Eliza


    • No you did it wrong go back in time and…do it wrong again.

      • Eliza

        Unfortunately, I don’t have a time machine or superpowers. :-/ If I did, voting for the right Meshuggah song here might not be my priority.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    Good morning Toileteers!

    Stocky, your explanation of time signatures made me smile.

    • Eliza

      It if hadn’t been explained, I wouldn’t have picked up on the time signature thing. Not that get it 100%, but it’ll cool to know.

      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        It can be pretty tricky, especially within Meshuggah’s music.

        • Eliza

          I’ve repeated the theory behind time signatures since my first ever music class, and I’ve never understood it perfectly. Maybe because it has a math aspect to it.

    • Stockhausen

      Excellent. 11/8 has never grooved harder.

      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        Meshuggah was the first band I heard that made me actually think about wacky time signatures within metal.

        EDIT: that actually work and flow well

        • Dave Vincent’s Perm

          Immolation did that for me when I was learning Into Everlasting Fire. I thought about time signatures for about a minute in the 15/8 bit and decided I’d rather think about something else.

  • Abradolf Lincler



  • mother☆shabubu

    I went with Combustion just because I love that one, but it was not an easy decision. Meshuggah have always been about the groove more than the riff.

  • Guacamole Jim

    I hate this week for making me have to choose between such exceptional songs :'(

    • Eliza

      Life is rarely about easy choices.

  • EsusMoose

    Stockhausen is a nerd, a smart nerd but a nerd. This is gonna be tough voting

    • Óðinn

      Hmm. Are there many stupid nerds, EsusMoose? I guess they do exist, but they’re probably nerd posers. 😉


      • EsusMoose

        I knew multiple nerds who were not intelligent but were really into nerdy things, therefore I saw them as nerds. I dont want to get into the geek vs nerd debate because I don’t really have an opinion

        • Óðinn

          No debate necessary. Just joking.

          • EsusMoose

            I may have really wanted to remember some stupid nerds so I could laugh

      • Shantaccarroll3

        Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !zz785f:
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  • I’m so fucking sick of my friends asking me what time signature Bleed is in.

    • EsusMoose

      4+d20 roll/4+d12 roll that should answer any meshuggah time signature question.

      • Abradolf Lincler


        • Abradolf Lincler
          • ME GORAK™✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            WHATEVA MOTHAFUCKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Abradolf Lincler

            the only Decapitated i care about other than Winds of Creation

            they could never recover from their loss

          • BobLoblaw

            Agree 100%, its like Vitek (and or Covan) were keeping them on track. Theyve been releasing hot garbage since.

          • So good.

          • Dave Vincent’s Perm

            I swear the first song’s intro isn’t even possible to play

        • Señor Jefe El Rosa

          Would d&d with blackbeard/10

      • N

        • EsusMoose

          At least I’m prepared for initiative checks

  • ME GORAK™✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    10:33!!!!!!! BEST SMASH RIFF EVAR!!!!!!!

  • Hubert

    This is a hard one, both riffs make me want to dance. I think I’m leaning towards Break Those Bones.


  • BobLoblaw

    Contradictions collapse and None are full of good riffs as opposed to the chugplodding theyve become known for showcased here.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Should’ve submitted one

    • Excuse me sir, but I submitted that Combustion riff specifically because it was *not* a “chugplod” riff.

      • BobLoblaw

        I got you, was referring to that particular era of Meshuggah (which a lot of the rest of the song is based on). I guess modern Meshuggah just does nothing for me because it sounds like so much else thats been released. When countless bands ape a specific style it ends up tarnishing the original, which is sad.

  • AndySynn

    “Combustion” is a damn fine pick, it’s true. There is a tendency in… shall we say, “certain circles”?… for people to fawn over Obzen just because of “Bleed” and because “oh man, it’s SO Tech, dude”, which I think does a great disservice to some of the other songs on there.

    That being said… Obzen does feel a little bit to me like an overly cerebral exercise in “how fast/how technical can we go?” by the band at times. Whereas “Koloss” was a lovely return to their Death/Thrash roots, and features more riffs per capita than most (if not all) of their other albums. So I had to go with Stockhausen on this one.

    • BobLoblaw

      People seem to love the herta (a rudiment) though for some reason. (not tech)

    • Koloss never really struck me as much of a death/thrash album, if only because of the near-total absence of tremolo picking.

  • I didn’t know my submission had to be 100 words or more.

    My vote still goes for the riff in Dehumanization around 2:00 after the intense build up. Perhaps the most intense riff they’ve ever done. These two submissions are a joke.

    • Guacamole Jim


    • One Syllable
      One Vowel

      • Chris McAlevy

        Shit got weird there at the end

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdoPuhzHdMI&ab_channel=SouthernJustice

    seriously though, build up leading up to 2:00

  • Vegglampe

    Oooooh I won something! Where should I refer myself for this wonderful price given how I expect a select minority know my bamdcamp?

    • What’s your bandcamp name?

      • Vegglampe

        It’s my real one, so I’ve sent you a message on FB

  • Max

    I think I’ll have to go with Gurp. Stockhausen gives his riff a great write-up, but I think he makes it sound more interesting than it turns out to be.

    • BobLoblaw

      Generally happens with stuff that sounds more difficult than it actually is. As far as the drummer is concerned everything is in 4/4 and the “accents” are able to convince people otherwise.

  • Count_Breznak

    No riffs from Chaosphere, therefore it’s invalid.
    But Break those bones yadda yadda is still better than everything obzen has to offer, so I guess it’s a vote for Stocky.
    The violent sleep of reason is….ok, I guess? I was hoping for a return to the chaosphere or at least none sound, but the result is more like something ???? would have cooked up if they didn’t desolve after one album. Good, but not Meshuggah good.

    • Contest based on Meshuggah riffs, therefore it’s invalid.

      • Count_Breznak

        Time signature of the week
        Also: You have no hands, this doesn’t concern you.

  • CT-12
  • Waynecro

    This was a really tough decision. Excellent picks, gents!

    I’ve been listening to The Violent Sleep of Reason a lot during the past few days, and it’s beginning to grow on me. “Clockworks” and “Nostrum” have some killer parts that I totally dig. Seriously, go to about 2:00 on “Nostrum.” Goddamn.

    • Abradolf Lincler

      i srsly think the vocals are what turn me off most about meshuggah these days.

      … other than the boingnoinging toneless “riffs”

      • Waynecro

        I actually like the vocals. I’m just kind of over the band’s general sound for the most part. It blew me away when Chaosphere came out, but very little has appealed to me after Obzen. I don’t really think Meshuggah has done anything I don’t like; I just have a lot of other more interesting bands to listen to.

  • BobLoblaw

    Anything off this album trumps what Meshuggah have become.

  • Toiletron, Flusher Of Gods

    Saw them with Cynic years and years back. They are good on CD, but fucking excellent when you see them live.

  • Voted for Stocky!