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The Review Is In: 'Extreme Math Metal' Gods Meshuggah Punish Seattle So Good!

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Lead singer Jens Kidman of Meshuggah
Lead singer Jens Kidman of Meshuggah

The Church of Meshuggah set up shop in Seattle recently. Their faithful flocked to the show like lost souls seeking salvation. And they were rewarded. A sermon of great magnitude and significance was delivered with precision, technical mastery and extreme volume. This is a look at that sermon from the inside.

“Meshuggah! Meshuggah! Meshuggah!” is the chant as roadies and techies go through their paces, putting the finishing touches on the altar of worship. “Meshuggah! Meshuggah! Meshuggah!” the chant continues as stage lights are tested and prepped for show time. “MESHUGGAH! MESHUGGAH! MESHUGGAH!” the crowd roars as the lights dim, signaling the arrival of The Coming. The faithful explode into a cacophony of screams and cheers as lead singer Jens Kidman takes to the stage. The air thickens with energy, excitement and tension. The sermon is about to begin.

Meshuggah played for almost two hours. Their set was, like everything they do, well thought out. They did a great job of varying the speed, rhythm and style of the set. It plucked you off your feet like a great rolling wave and took you on a ride. From hammer-like, earthshaking riffs to high intensity, mind shredding polyrhythms, the journey twisted and turned but never slowed down. Honestly, when Meshuggah isn’t masterminding “extreme math metal” they may just create some of the best absolute-crushing metal riffs around.

If you don’t already know, Meshuggah fans are a breed all their own. Their appreciation and almost fanatical devotion to the music and the band is pretty intense. Due to the band’s unconventional music, ‘dancing’ at a Meshuggah show is a little different. Yes there are headbangers. Yes there is a pit. But there is also a large amount of ‘interpretive’ dance. Meshuggah style. At times, it looks as if the person is possessed by a demon or speaking in tongues much like a Pentecostal trance or fit. Maybe they’re talking to God, maybe they’re being possessed by Satan, or maybe they are just experiencing Meshuggah. It’s not for me to decide.

Before I finish up, I’d like to recognize Meshuggah’s fantastic use of set and lighting. The backdrop was sectional works, intricate and in depth like their music and as wonderfully disturbing as any H. R. Geiger work. The lightshow used various colors to both dazzle the crowd and to complement and highlight the backdrop. This simple and well conceived set was integral in weaving the trance that fell over the crowd. It’s been years since I’ve seen such an effective and successful use of a set. (They’ve got nothing on GWAR. But that’s a completely different story.)

Baroness: I will remain calm. I will not go on a rant. I will not angrily spout forth words that proclaim Baroness did not fit, did not even belong, on this tour. I won’t. No… really.

It’s not that they’re a bad band. Far from it. But the psychedelic, melodic brand of metal they delivered was a jarring, emotional letdown after the punch and power of the opening band (see Decapitated below). It leeched away all the energy that Decapitated pumped into the crowd. Crammed between such skilled and heavy acts like Decapitated and Meshuggah, Baroness failed to deliver. As far as metal goes – these guys dwell in the kiddy pool. To illustrate the point, a quote from one audience member “I actually started nodding off during their set.”

Decapitated played the Showbox in Seattle May 9th.
Decapitated played the Showbox in Seattle May 9th.

Decapitated: Holy f*ck! Decapitated’s recorded material is good. Real good. But live, it’s an entirely different beast. Their music shook free of a solely ‘technical death metal’ experience and took on a life all its own. The musicianship and skill that made them a recognized force in the genre is blended beautifully into a solid, thunderous, deeply moving and faintly tribal backbone. Is it truly tribal inspired or did I write that term in my notes because of the effect the music had on me. I have no idea and I don’t care. It made me, forced me to move. It was almost instinctual.

The band, still young and growing, have the chance to fill the massive void left by bands like Sepultura and Morbid Angel. Yes I know these bands are not actually over, but for all intents and purposes their relevance in the metal world is. With an ability to deliver killer riffs, pinpoint transitions and an impressive array of metal sounds, heavy, full-force grinders to blistering thrash metal wailers, Decapitated can deliver the goods.

They stood up, musically, to anything Meshuggah had to offer. They are not Meshuggah, but they don’t have to be. They are Decapitated and that is enough.