Swedish legends of extreme metal Meshuggah have been levelling Australia in the wake of The Violent Sleep of Reason and tonight it was Melbourne’s second night of onslaught at the stylish 170 Russell.
In a lineup of but two bands, I was curious to see Sydney-based heavy deathcore group Thy Art is Murder live for the first time. I have been on the fence for some time about their recordings. Deathcore generally isn’t my thing precisely but Thy Art have some seriously catchy songs. I had heard a range of opinions on this outfit and I must admit my own remains split. I wanted to love it. I thought that scoring the only support slot for the mighty Meshuggah was an massive honour and the band that got it automatically had the leg-up on my thinking the world of them. They came out firing with a thick grinder in Holy War but by the second song I wondered if they were going to, you know, move around….at all. The song built up into a raging crescendo but the stage presence was pretty static. Vocalist CJ McMahon had some chatty banter at the crowd at a few points and certainly by mid-set I was giving serious props to drummer Lee Stanton, that guy held down some extremely heavy, fast rhythms. The next two songs were more my thing, a tiny bit moodier and dark, Absolute Genocide had a pretty sinister breakdown and Coffin Dragger saw the crowd explode. But I did find myself watching (and dodging) the headbangers more than the band. It was a bit of a confusing show, with frenetic speed and lead heavy songs but a band with feet of concrete and frankly a bit boring to watch despite tonnes of energy coming at them from the crowd. And plenty of fan support they had, as a chorus of raging moshpit chanted along to lyrics of Reign of Darkness, the set drew to a close and I kind of wished that it was more exciting to watch...
After what seemed like forever, Sweden’s longstanding giants of extreme metal, Meshuggah, took the stage. The ample space at 170 Russell was packed to the hilt and every soul in the catchment of the stage was screaming. I had great memories of Meshuggah live and this show confirmed everything that I love about this band. Heavy as lead, both impressively fast and profoundly majestic, dropped as low as my sternum can handle and musically as tight and as impressively as epic gets. What I hadn’t seen before and sure didn’t expect, was practically a broadway production worth of light show, clearly planned down to the split-second and visually stunning. Seeing the iconic figures of Meshuggah’s members silhouetted against enormous standing strobes was a sight to behold, as the punchy bass thundered into one of the toughest songs out there, Clockworks. The mosh only grew more intense, with one of the all-time greatest pit-crushing tracks raging in to a blood-red stage – another gem from last year’s release – Born in Dissonance, featuring shredding insanity from Fredrik Thordendal. Two of my all-time neckbreakers loaded up next to make me sure this was one of the most epic setlists ever put together. That thick Meshuggah bass grind immediately announced Perpetual Black Second, so familiar to the wild moshpit and crowd surfers sailed across the sea of raging fans, who then literally raised hell to the iconic intro of Stengah. The chugging riff of this classic hit my ears for the first time live and it was flawless. Another live-first for me was The Hurt That Finds You First and honestly Meshuggah turned this song into a dramatic and captivating performance. Man, those lights…moving from moonscape to aurora to matrix-like neon nightmare. If anyone needed evidence that Meshuggah are stronger, heavier, darker than ever, then the title track of the lastest release, The Violent Sleep of Reason, in its live form is all you need. The haunting drums of Tomas Haake cut through the granite-dense bass of Dick Lövgren in Dancers to a Discordant System and much to the delight of swarm of peaking, moshpit-entranced fans, the set closed with the iconic Bleed.
Or rather it didn’t…with a mighty roar Meshuggah were back for a double encore of barrier-tearing, rippingly bouncy and mountain-beakingly thick Demiurge and the final ballistic onslaught of Future Breed Machine hammered home a legendary set. Best choice of songs from any band I’ve yet seen, by far the most visually spectacular set I’ve ever seen. Meshuggah front all and that was a genuinely brutal set indeed.