If You Only See One Metal Show In Your Lifetime, You Should See Meshuggah

Cozell Wilson
Meshuggah frontman Jens Kidman

Wednesday, May 9

Showbox Market

A case could certainly be made for a few other bands, say, Slayer, Mastodon, Slipknot, or a handful of other, slightly less mainstream metal mainstays, but from my--somewhat casual--metal fan standpoint, Meshuggah embodies everything that I've ever hoped a metal band would: their playing is highly technical, but accessible enough to get drawn in to; they don't ruin their sets (or albums) with an overbearing lyrical presence; and they are loud...as hell. The Swedish five piece played seamlessly together last night, sounding every bit as clean as they do on record, and looking every bit as badass as one would hope. If you only got to see one metal show in your lifetime, I'd hope Meshuggah was on that bill. Here's how it went down:

Going into the show, I didn't know a whole lot about opening band Decapitated, other than the fact that the guys in Meshuggah apparently like them. They had a fair number of decent breakdowns and tricky guitar lines toward the end of songs, but the lead singer wasn't doing it for me. Their set was full of the kind of forced guttural barking and constant double kick drum that turns me off about a lot of mainstream metal. I'm down with double kick drumming, but they used it as their default drum pattern, and it grew a little tiresome. And although I dug a fair amount of the instrumentation, the vocals took over too much of the spotlight.

High-calibre psychedelic quartet Baroness put on a good show as the middle act. Extended intros and long, building instrumental sections were a welcome change up after Decapitated. Their vocal harmonies sounded a little off, which, I think was at least partially due to the mixing on stage: the vocal mike and the kick levels were pretty high, and I think it threw the blend off. That aside, they did their thing as well as I had hoped, and I was into it.

Cozell Wilson
Jens Kidman with cameramike

When Meshuggah finally took the stage, people were good and ready to get nuts. The pit turned into a swirling circle of brutality, and strobes lit up the crowd. The specifics are a little hazy because I was rocking extremely hard, but I'm pretty sure this is what happened: Fredrik Thordendal played a thirty-string guitar with an implanted raven claw. Dick Lövgren played a custom bass made from brontosaurus femur with a mallet. Drummer Thomas Haake's back was plugged into a wall outlet with a two-pronged plug in the size of a small space craft which powered the dual mainframe processors controlling the independent movements of his upper and lower body, and Jens Kidman screamed lyrics in six different languages at the same time. Márten Hagström rounded out the lineup by shooting lightning bolts at people from the Tesla coil affixed to the bridge of his guitar. Several dozen fans were treated for electrical burns in the Green Room bar with brännvin rinses. At least that's what I saw. It was awesome as shit.

Seriously though, the fury that Meshuggah puts into their live set is down right amazing. A pivotal band in the progressive metal cannon, they jump time-signatures like mechanized--or at least supernatural--beings, and the fact that they can cue things up live with such precision makes them the full package. Among their many rad qualities, Kidman's intense, gargoyle-like calm as he moved his perch from monitor to monitor fit perfectly into the act, and should be taken note of by the many metal front persons who oversell their part.

By the time they busted into "Rational Gaze" toward the end of the set, the place was a pulsing mass of energy, and it was just what everyone in the room needed.

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