Meshuggah at The Wiltern Theater, June 6, 2014
To celebrate 25 years of busting eardrums, the mighty Meshuggah took to the road, stopping off at the Wiltern Theater in June to start the summer heat wave early. With Geiger-esque artwork displayed behind them and a light show that blinded the eyes, putting the band in perpetual silhouette, Meshuggah ran through their catalog of mind-melting metal for a brutal 100 minute set.
Meshuggah kicked off the show with Tomas Haake pummelling his drums while lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal, rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström and bassist Dick Lövgren pounded on their guitar strings for Future Breed Machine. The fury and power they displayed from the get-go got the mosh pit moving and necks snapping. Jens Kidman, the only one on stage to move around, bellowed and yelled at the top of his lungs, and while the lyrics were undecipherable, his passion was certainly evident. Meshuggah are known for their constantly evolving style, focusing on grooving rhythms flowing into hard riffed passages leading into more abstract sections featuring Thordendal’s stunning displays of guitar abuse and beautiful virtuosity. The title track from Obzen followed, keeping the energy going, with stunning guitar interplay towards the end.
Their latest album Koloss was most heavily featured in the set, the first of four songs was the hardcore hurricane of The Hurt that Finds You First, with a breakneck beat and ear-numbing growls from Kidman, bass guitar bends from Lovgren and an epic yet subtle guitar solo from Thordendal. Do Not Look Down, also from Koloss, was one of the most accessible songs of the night with a razor sharp focus on groove and finger-shredding guitar solos. Cadaverous Mastication from their first album Contradictions Collapse in 1991 showed the band’s beginnings in the Thrash Metal vein, with more traditional arrangements, yet with an air of larger things to come in their varied tempos and dichotomy of ugly noise and beautiful guitar soloing.
Gods of Rapture brought the show to an even higher level of tension with Thordendal and Hagstrom in lock-step with the rhythm section from the start, Kidman belting out his lyrics in hardcore fashion, threatening to be understandable, but Meshuggah can’t seem to stick with a tempo or rhythm, soon shifting into a jazz-fusion mode, Thordendal ‘s melodic soloing would make Joe Satriani proud and he put some warmth into the otherwise mechanical playing of the rest of the song.
After much more eardrum damage occurred, Meshuggah sped up our hearts even more with the speed metal pace of Bleed from Obzen, causing heads to bang harder and feet to move, the band kept the tempo for the majority of the song, with a few additions of subtle lead guitar parts to break up the tension the slightest bit. Then the band drops out, leaving just a creepy quiet guitar line before the rest of the band jumps back in, this time with a more powerful melodic guitar lead accompanied by chugging guitars and well-paced percussion.
Meshuggah finished the main set with Straws Pulled at Random, from 2001′s Nothing, full of cymbal crashes and right-angled tempo and rhythm changes that while chaotic was still stunning to behold.
While the audience chanted “Meh-Shuh-GAH!” I took a moment to gather my wits, take a few deep breathes and ready myself for the sure-to-be insane encore. While we waited, Catch 33‘s spoken word and noise poem Mind’s Mirror played over the speakers. The band returned to kick our asses all over the Wiltern with In Death – is Life and In Death – is Death, two connected tracks of barely controlled chaos, guitar pyrotechnics, buzzing bass and quieter, spooky atonal passages.
As the bright lights blazed our corneas and we pounded our strife and hatred into the floor, Meshuggah left us with energy spent, sweat soaked and brain rattled, not sure of what tomorrow might bring but strong enough to meet it head on. If you can survive the metal massacre that is Meshuggah you can take on the world.
(Photos and review by Bret Miller)