Origin of Djent? My interpretation.

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Machineboyyy's picture
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I was just listening to some OLD Meshuggah and realised that the actually first real form of "djent" was in their 1994 EP None.

The djent is technically 17 years old (according to me at least). Listen to the song "Gods of Rapture", pure djent's there.


Firstly, Djent is actually just an informal term for a guitar technique. As a sound it is merely just a way of palm-muting, usually over three or four strings in a pick-scraping manner to make the palm-mute sound much more metallic and striking. Most of us have originally heard the term used my Misha "Bulb" Mansoor, many have cited he is created the word. Either way I have much respect for him and I bought the Periphery CD (in South Africa, what a lucky find, some "commercial" CD shop here decided to import it).

Secondly, due to Misha "Bulb" Mansoor's liberal use of the word and the wave of similar bands coming out with similarly Meshuggah-influenced material; djent has become the word describing a genre as well as a community of like minded people. Djent as a genre is an extremely loose term for progressive/math metal which features low-tuning, polyrhythms (or syncopation), riff-bending and a general sense of technicality. Djent is also good way to nicely say "you're ripping off Meshuggah". Djent tone is a definition of ripping off one of Meshuggah's guitar tones (in a nutshell), thus creating a suitable sounding guitar or amp sound which is defined and heavy enough to carry the very low-tuned music.

I'm not going to go too much into the music terminology of the polyrythm but know that Meshuggah started using polyrythms way back in their early career. If you've ever listened to a Meshuggah song, you'll understand what their main feature is: The polyrythm. Google it. Most djent bands, if not all will have many polyrythmic section in their music, this is what created the perception of GROOVE.


Please take note, this is NOT a full history on Meshuggah but an attempt to explain the origin of djent. Please bear with my limited knowledge and limited vocabulary as I didn't do much research on this. This is what I know, what I love, what I hold dear to my ears.


In 1998, the riff-bending began in Chaosphere, although it already had a very small presence in Destroy Erase Improve (1995). It then was greatly improved and expanded upon in Nothing (2001) and everything that came after. To explain, the riff-bending started the trend of using the notes or "cents" in between the actual frets as a part of the riff itself, lending to a much more diabolic feel.

There is another band doing this but in a completely different way, this one crazy band called M.A.N had a crazy 48-fret guitar system (They called it Full Scale Quarter Tone System). The guitarist actually used an 11-string (Essentially a guitar and bass in one unit). Although their instruments were interesting the band’s music left much to be desired. They were pretty much nu-metal, I never liked it. They're not even close to what djent is, by the way. Thought I'd let you know.

Their original guitarist Rob Guz (who I think left the band M.A.N not too long ago) is still an interesting guitarist with an even more interesting guitar. Search for his videos on YouTube sometime.

Here's an article on them from 2009 (it includes a video too): http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=126070

You see, the awesome thing is Meshuggah never needed to split up their frets to implement this; their talents are all they needed. M.A.N were probably heavily influenced by Meshuggah anyways (but that's just my speculation). Obviously it's silly of me to compare the two techniques but I'm sure you can see the similarity there.


The last piece of the puzzle was the ultra low guitar tuning of the 2001 album called Nothing, this pretty much solidified everything in Meshuggah's current sound. The riff bending I mentioned earlier from Chaosphere was here to stay and much more present.

This was not simply just normal down-tuned guitars of course; but as we all know Meshuggah moved from using 7-string guitars to 8-string guitars. These were essentially bass guitars in the tuning of F but with more of a guitar tone than a distorted bass and the extended range all the way up to the high E (well E-flat for them). This put them in unique spot to start creating something truly original. The truth is up to the point where many groups now sound like Meshuggah, back then in 2001 nothing sounded like Meshuggah (excuse the pun).

For their time recording and touring for "Nothing" they started using 8-string guitars from Nevborn (originally coming from using Ibanez 7-string guitars) but apparently these Nevborn guitars weren't good enough for the record (tuning issues) and they ended up using down-tuned 7-string Ibanez guitars instead. Since the Nevborn's were unreliable, they went back to Ibanez to get their custom 8-string guitars, those superior guitars went to record Catch Thirty-three (2005), a re-recording of Nothing (2006) and their last album ObZen (2008). They've stayed with Ibanez ever since. I've owned a bunch of Ibanez guitars over the years and currently have two, they're the best; hands down.

With the use of such low tunings, it presented a challenge when constructing chords that sounded defined. Thus their albums Nothing and Catch-33 didn't have many full power chords but instead they played single note riffs (much like playing bass guitar), still this didn't take away from the full brunt of such powerful music. Their songs also became much more groove centred and much slower than Chaosphere. It was a VERY large departure from their thrash inspired albums from the 90's.

ObZen was different from the previous 8-string albums; they went back to their roots enough to have the best of both worlds. It had the newer groovy, slow pieces with fast, thrashy pieces too. Even for some of their slow parts they started playing proper chords. Their guitar tone had improved so much that the 8-string guitars started to become defined enough for this technique. Examples: The verse of Electric Red, a single part of Bleed and the verses of Lethargica (All of these pieces are F**KING heavy!)


Any fan of Meshuggah would know, it’s horrible to say their last 8-stringed albums all sound the same. Each album has its own unique feel to it.

Nothing was the beginning of this trend and had some real catchy grooves which has paved the way for the future but a simple laid out album with very jarringly different feels to each song, they actually used various tunings for each song (one song would be in F, another in Eb and another in Bb). This album was probably their most experimental in the case of tunings and sounds.

Then there was I.

The 2004 EP “I”, was a single song clocked in at 21 minutes. This song was put together by various random riffs and drum patterns (which is why they could never play it live). Tomas Haake (drummer) said once poetically in an interview: “No one knows how I goes”. “I” actually has much more of their thrashy feel than any other “8-string” album they’ve made so far (it’s also a VERY fast album). It’s very curious how they went back to their slower feel afterward.

Catch-33 is the mindfuck trance-inducing amalgamation of four musical pieces split by various song titles (but essentially one song like “I” but not as fast), it’s hard to explain what Catch-33 is, you will have to listen to it for yourself (from start to end).

ObZen was definitely the most progressive; it’s obvious they have grown after each album they've made. I started with ObZen myself, it’s embarrassing to say that I’m a fairly new fan of Meshuggah; a close friend of mine coaxed me into listening to them a few years back. Although I was already into their singles Bleed and New Millennium Cyanide Christ, I wasn’t a big fan until Scott (my friend) showed me the light. So I’ve only been a big fan since 2008/2009.

I read they used Line6 amplification to record ObZen, this influenced me to purchase a Line6 amp for myself (I was not disappointed). That's how good this album is. I was recently given the original ObZen CD from my friend, Scott (such an awesome Xmas present, don't you think!) Thanks for giving me the gift of djent, Scott.


ALL music that other people create in this essence which is now known as djent is a homage to the spreading influence of the djent that Meshuggah created originally and they are the masters of it (Even if Bulb sort of coined the term and a community rose from this word). I'm certain their next album will blow our minds!!!


That thingy above is an emoticon, a Jens/Fredrik "face". I know, it’s silly.

Machineboyyy out.

(I've also post this same piece in on my Last.FM page here: http://www.last.fm/user/Machineboyyy/journal/2011/01/09/45cgho_meshuggah%27s_creation_%28the_origin_of_djent%29 if you wish to link anyone to it, it also has some pictures)

So, tell me what you guys think of my little write-up?

hughh20's picture
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That was a pretty interesting read, but I think more experienced Djent fans could do a better critique than me. Definitely great in my view, I learnt a lot from it.
Also, when defining Djent, it's probably worth mentioning the EQ on the guitar? (boost on 800hz/1.6khz and cutting bass, Or that might be too technical?) The importance of axe-fx and home recording is kind of too big to miss as well.

User offline. Last seen 2 years 48 weeks ago. Offline
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Good read! Definitely an interesting take on it.

One things though:

1) Meshuggah use polymeters, not polyrhythms. Both are two VERY different things.

Good read though.

User offline. Last seen 5 years 49 weeks ago. Offline
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They use both polyrhythms and polymeters

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Probably. But the big, defining feature of them is polymeters. Polyrhythms aren't near as prominent as the polymeters are.

GeN2Mo's picture
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Really interesting and well written.
I think "polyrhythm" is often used to name both polyrhythms and polymeters in common language, though they are entirely different cases.

One small remark:
As far as my knowledge goes, Meshuggah started to use 8-strings after "Nothing", so the original recording of "Nothing" actually features 7-strings and only the re-recording of 2006 features 8-strings.
So "Nothing" doesn't mark the beginning of the use of 8-strings.
It seemed to me that your post wasn't entirely clear about this.

On the general theme:
There is one thing that bugs me about all this. And that is, though it might sound silly especially on this forum: the extremely strong emphasis on Meshuggah. It often makes it seem like Meshuggah are existing in a musical and stylistic vacuum, contained in themselves and djent is a style that emanates exclusively out of this vacuous sphere.

Meshuggah are also subject to influences by other bands and even more so the djent scene is. Extremely low tuned riffing, palm muting, palm muted stakkato, syncopation, all these were also heavily influenced and popularized by Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad and various others.
What is more, if you want to define djent as a genre, it would most probably be "Meshuggah with layers", like Klonere pointed out in his recent article. And those "layers" take most of their influences from Fear Factory and Devin Townsend, quite obviously.
Meshuggah is far from being the only influence constituting the djent scene.

Apart from all the low tuning and syncopation getting more and more popular in what we today call "Neo Thrash", that most certainly had its influences on Meshuggah, too, Meshuggah didn't invent the use of polyrhythms and polymeters in heavy music. It sometimes seems like people actually believe this.
There are various bands in the realm of Progressive Metal who used them long before Meshuggah, for example King Krimson.
What Meshuggah did is just coupling those techniques with the low tuning and an overall groove orientation of 90s Thrash Metal, what is a hard enough thing to do, of course.

So, what's my bottomline: Neither is djent exclusively influenced by Meshuggah, neither the techniques nor the tone, nor is Meshuggah an 'uninfluenced entity' so unique that its definition nears a singularity.
No offense to anyone, I just wanted to clarify this.

Machineboyyy's picture
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GeN2Mo, your comments are remarkable and I appreciate this input.

You see, I wrote this WHOLE article in one sitting without doing research. I also know it could of been written better. I did know that Meshuggah used 7-strings for their original Nothing album, I was sure I mentioned that at least once.

You are also right in that I should of mentioned where Meshuggah's gets their influences from. Generally speaking, I feel that a djent group that may not be directly influenced by Meshuggah most likely are influenced by a band that are. Thus the spread of the idea happens.

"So, what's my bottomline: Neither is djent exclusively influenced by Meshuggah, neither the techniques nor the tone, nor is Meshuggah an 'uninfluenced entity' so unique that its definition nears a singularity.
No offense to anyone, I just wanted to clarify this."

I couldn't agree more on your above statement but I still believe the origin of this djent "phenomenon" is the direct result of Meshuggah and the groups directly influenced by them (like Periphery and even so, Periphery aren't ONLY influenced by Meshuggah, I know that), I didn't mean to say anything more than to describe the various basic techniques that djent bands tend to use that Meshuggah popularized with their unique metal. Currently things are different, the djent movement has taken it's own course and isn't always directly influenced by Meshuggah.

Anyways, criticism is very welcome. Thank you to everyone who took their time to read my write-up.

GeN2Mo's picture
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Machineboyyy, my more general remarks were not exclusively aimed at your text. I understand that your aim was to point out the special influence Meshuggah had on the djent scene and how the basic stylistic elements developed. See my reply more as an addition to counter the possible assumption that Meshuggah is the only influence on the djent scene and unique in an almost absolute way (as I sometimes feel to read those assumptions out of some comments).

What is most interesting when taking a perspective that broadens beyond Meshuggah is a question that arises from this statement of yours: "I didn't mean to say anything more than to describe the various basic techniques that djent bands tend to use that Meshuggah popularized with their unique metal."

The question is: Did Meshuggah popularize those techniques? The answer is not as easily given as it may seem. As far as I percieved it, Meshuggah's popularity rose extremely in the last few years while they were some kind of 'band for specialists' the time before.
Techniques like palm muting and syncopation were much more popularized by bands that are much better known, like Fear Factory.
The popularity of extreme low tunings and polyrhythms/polymeters therefore seems, at least for me, to have been brought forth basically by the early wave of modern Progressive Metal, lead by bands like Mnemic and Textures which made those rhythmic concepts much more accessible than Meshuggah in the way of adding 'easy listening' components like clean refrains and ambient elements.

What I propose with this is: The popularity of Meshuggah rose with the popularization of the features that define their music by younger bands (not the other way round). And those younger bands took major influences from the Progressive Metal and Neo Thrash spheres.
This perspective offers more of a 'mesh' or 'net' view where modernized Thrash and Progressive, the popularity of Meshuggah and the build-up of the djent scene constantly interact. Opposed (though not excluding) to a view that offers a rather linear explanation of stylistic succession for all those developments, that perhaps can't catch up with the complexity of those movements.

Opusvoid's picture
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GeN2Mo pretty much said everything I would have said so my take on this is rather irrelavent now lol.

Djent is a funny thing in that most of the bands who emphasize this playing style are generally influenced by Meshuggah. The more progressive bands that use Djent in their music also have a tendancy of ripping artists like Joe Satriani...listen to Tosin Abasi for crying out loud...he's Meshuggah and Satriani rolled into one entity XD

I find that these musicians are usually a talented bunch, but they lack a little originality with all the Daow-Dank styled playing they do in their music. I'm loving the Modern Metal scene right now, but these guys are gonna need new tricks soon or people are going to get seriously tired of listening to bands who emphasize on single chord note variations and structures.