GIG REVIEW: An Evening With MESHUGGAH Live at The Fillmore, San Francisco
The pioneers of modern extreme metal, and arguably the heaviest band in the universe Meshuggah embarked recently on a “Not much of a Tour”. With support from Toothgrinder and Code Orange, they currently are on a North American west coast tour only to lay waste and obliterate everything in their path, and tonight in San Francisco they took their show to The Fillmore.
The grand, dimly lit venue reeked of beer as a pretty decent crowd waited for the proceedings. The evening’s initiation was a progressive metal band from New Jersey, Toothgrinder. No signs of showing mercy, they went full throttle since the very first moment. Waves of groovy tones swept through our eardrums, while the alternating screams and clean vocals felt audibly ethereal. It would not be an easy task to determine which genre of metal this band would fall into. One could prominently find the elements of modern metal and hardcore in their sound, characterized by ever changing patterns and groovy tones. On one hand there were eventual phases of blast-beats and face melting, whereas on the other, there were parts which would make anyone there just close their eyes and get lost in the melodicism.
It was a commendable display of musicianship and everything was going great until there appeared those damn technical glitches found in almost every concert in the world. The vocals, specially the clean sections were the most affected. The overall level of the performance seemed to deteriorate towards the end as the backing vocals sounded out of tone and sadly weird. A look around, and I could feel the expressions of various faces reverb the same. Nonetheless, it was a solid performance.
Code Orange had to miss out on the show as they were walking the red carpet at the Grammy’s in New York. Last year has defined the band’s career with ‘Forever’ followed by extensive touring and accolades from almost every active metal and rock musician. In my opinion they were the most deserving of that award but then hey! It’s the Grammy’s. (I read somewhere that they play the same Metallica song every year while handing out the award for the Best Metal performance. So, that’s pretty much explains everything.). The band was sorely missed. I look forward to the next opportunity to catch them rage.
Coming back to the moment, the stage being setup comprised of the artwork from Meshuggah’s latest album ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’. Trust me, that view of the stage itself was an embodiment of the imminent doom. I had waited years for this. I had watched numerous videos of the band performing live. Today I was there to experience what being there felt like.
It turned dark. An apocalyptic intro met the screams of the hundreds of us awaiting the storm. Slowly it all faded to moments of silence, followed by what I could describe as the sound of a bunch of stars in the milky-way go supernova in a programmed sequence. “Clockworks” it was and it already felt like the heaviest sound existent across all known worlds. Just like a knife-edge on a tensile sheet of aluminum foil, the crowd ruptured into perpetually raging circle pit. Maybe that’s what “Dancers to a discordant system” was supposed to mean.
It almost felt like aliens from a far off planet were sent to invade earth. The ground-shattering groove seemed to cleanse the soul every time it hit. Drummer Tomas Haake is an inhuman being because precision, technicality, speed and perfection on those levels are simply impossible. The keepers of those dissonant grooves -guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström along with bassist Dick Lövgren together conjured a whirlwind of utter chaos, while vocalist Jens Kidman summoned destruction.
The set comprised a well-balanced mix given that it was in support of their new album. All time classic tracks such as “Rational Gaze”, “Nostrum”, “Bleed” etc. only saw the pit increase in size. Moshers kept falling down and getting themselves up. Their rage didn’t die. During the entirety of the set, I found myself head banging in a non-periodic dissonant rhythm. I definitely believe all these ‘Try not to head bang challenges” should take place at a Meshuggah gig. We will see who wins. Failure is inevitable.
Meshuggah are an archetype of inhuman precision and unmatched heaviness. Expect nothing less than thousand ton hammers pound your senses and shatter your spines at one of their live shows.