From Metallien to Meshuggah: The Story of Formation and Name

From lineup shifts to picking the name Meshuggah, discover the roots of a band that would redefine metal as we know it.

Meshuggah (1998)
Meshuggah (1998)
Key Takeaways
  • Originally called Metallien, Meshuggah was founded in 1985 and revamped in 1987.
  • The name “Meshuggah” is from the Yiddish word for “crazy”.
  • Meshuggah gained fame for their unique sound, blending thrash metal, death metal, and jazz fusion.

In the quiet town of Umeå, Sweden, a musical revolution was brewing that would forever change the landscape of metal music. The band at the heart of this revolution was Meshuggah, a name synonymous with innovation and boundary-pushing in the metal world. But let’s hit the rewind button to 1985 when they were still called Metallien. Founded by Roger Olofsson, Peder Gustafsson, Fredrik Thordendal, Janne Wiklund, and Örjan Lundmark, Metallien was a starting point that saw a few demos and a disbandment. But Thordendal wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

By 1987, a new face entered the scene—Jens Kidman, who took on the roles of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. After a brief detour with his own project called Calipash, Kidman joined forces with Thordendal, and they decided to resurrect the name Meshuggah. Their first offering to the world was a three-song EP in 1989, followed by a full-length debut album in 1991.

“Meshuggah” hails from the Yiddish word for “crazy”, itself derived from the Hebrew word “מְשׁוּגָע”.

Now, about that intriguing name. “Meshuggah” hails from the Yiddish word for “crazy”, itself derived from the Hebrew word “מְשׁוּגָע”. Kidman discovered it while casually flipping through an American street slang dictionary and thought it was “so fuckin’ cool” that it became the chosen name for the band. And just for the record, no member of Meshuggah is Jewish.

What really set Meshuggah apart, however, was their trailblazing sound—a potent cocktail of thrash metal, death metal, and jazz fusion. They introduced complex polyrhythms, dissonant guitar riffs, and harsh vocals that were simply unheard of at the time. This unique sonic blend quickly garnered a devout following, catapulting Meshuggah to legendary status.