Meshuggah @ the First Avenue Mainroom
May 13th, 2012
Last Sunday, Swedish metal band Meshuggah took the stage at First Avenue in a brutal display of what has brought them to be one of the more respected acts in metal today. Joining them on tour was Poland's technical death metal standard-bearers Decapitated and Georgia band Baroness. Rarely must one distinguish between America's Georgia and Europe's Georgia, but with two other European acts, it makes sense to emphasise that Baroness hails from Savannah.
Unfortunately, my mental autopilot got the best of me, and I failed to realize that the show started a couple hours before I thought it did. Because of this, I didn't get to see Decapitated or Baroness - a sincere disappointment - but I got to see about an hour of the headliner's performance, which very much met the expectations of the band's reputation.
From the very beginning, you can tell why the band is considered to be one of the forefathers of the genre Djent. Djent is a really cool name for a genre because it is derived from the onomatopoeic description of the high-gain, palm-muted guitar tones that Meshuggah is known for. On display were thundering bass lines, commanding guitar lines, and double-bass rhythms that can only be described as dozens of bags of popcorn popping in perfect rhythmic unison.
The show evoked a feeling that is a commendable aspect of lots of metal and many other forms of music. Meshuggah shirks pleasant-sounding melodies in favor of a loud, abrasive sound, but in this disharmony, there is sort of an elegant craftsmanship. The rhythms they play really resonate with the listener. This effect usually manifests itself with toe-tapping, but in this instance, it's headbanging. The metal fan can't help but at least bob his or her head to the music, and that says a lot about the band's skill to take an otherwise ugly-sounding style of music and make it fairly sophisticated. The shear technical precision of the musicians, the varied time signatures, and the one-of-a-kind syncopation they use connects with the metal fan on a subconscious, visceral level, where the heart of great music pumps like double bass drums on stage.
While Meshuggah has a great style and great songs, they suffer, I believe, from what I like to call the AC/DC syndrome, meaning that all of their songs sound more-or-less like one song, but it's a GREAT song. This is a criticism I often have with various metal acts, especially those which prefer the technical side of the genre. For a band, however, that chooses to ignore traditional melodies and hooks, this aspect may not be much of a detriment. The technical prowess that the band has and the way they evoke (sometimes aggressive) physical reactions in the listeners points to their staying-power as a titan of metal.
Written by Ross Crandall, Radio K volunteer