April 30, 2012
House of Blues - Dallas
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Mike DiQuinzio
Photos by Terry Walsh
It's an age-old debate: where does the best heavy metal come from? There are many who vote England because of originators like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and the rest of the NWOBHM, while others consider American metal to be superior because of the bands that comprise the Big Four and the current NWOAHM. In recent years, however, Sweden has emerged as a metal goldmine spawning many of the best metal bands in the genre: Opeth, Arch Enemy, In Flames, and Meshuggah, to name only a few. With In Flames having already played here in January and Opeth earlier this month, this was already a stellar year for live Swedish metal in Dallas before Meshuggah arrived at the House of Blues to lay waste to the fanatic crowd that chanted their name while anxiously awaiting them.
Compared to their peers, Meshuggah's sound is by far the most unique because of their fearless experimentation with odd time signatures and tempo changes. Their approach to music tends to be very polarizing, but if the mass of people that showed up to see them support their excellent new album Koloss is any indication, you weren't missed if you don't understand.
After a pre-recorded intro that set the mood for the doom to come, the band exploded onstage with the new track "Demiurge" before treating the crowd to slightly older songs like "Combustion" and "Glints Collide". Meshuggah's new material blends perfectly with the old favorites, especially "Do Not Look Down", which is the aural equivalent of being punched in the stomach. The percussive attack of guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström couldn't be more brutal than on this song, which hits like a boxer beating on a punching bag.
Meshuggah's music manages to be aggressive and hypnotic at the same time, and nowhere in the set was this more evident than during "Mind's Mirrors" and "In Life- Is Life/ In Life - Is Death" from Catch Thirty-Three. After this intermission-like epic, the band turned it up a notch and gave the crowd what they really wanted: the "hits", of which Meshuggah has none, but what they do have are fan favorites.
As "Bleed" kicked of the second half of the set, the crowd's energy seemed to double, and with good reason; "Bleed" has taken on a life of its own since its release four years ago. Countless videos on YouTube feature drummers trying to recreate the near-impossible staccato rhythm of this song's double-bass pattern, but Meshuggah's inhumanly perfect drummer Tomas Haake effortlessly performs it nightly, somehow sounding even better than the studio recording.
With the bulk of the set focusing on material from new album Koloss and 2008's ObZen, older songs like "New Millennium Cyanide Christ" and "Rational Gaze" sent the already sweat-soaked crowd into the biggest frenzy of the night. After a brief moment offstage, the band returned with encore "Future Breed Machine" before bringing the show to a close.
In the documentary Metal Evolution, drummer Tomas Haake said confidently that Meshuggah will "never sell a million records because they don't want to write the kind of music that sells a million records." With popular music at an all-time low, it's a relief to see bands that care more about their craft than their bank account. Meshuggah's music is beyond unique and makes for a mind-blowing live show. Only four months into 2012, this concert is destined to be remembered as one of the best of the year.