Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Meshuggah at the Wiltern


Brutal. Punishing. Unrelenting. Powerful. These are just some adjectives that come to mind when describing a Meshuggah show. I can remember listening to the first couple of notes of their 1998 masterpiece, Chaosphere, at a Tower Records listening station and immediately taking it to the counter for purchase. My next move was to call my brother and tell him I found the heaviest band on the planet. Because they are based in Sweden, I find it is always imperative to catch Meshuggah when they come to town.

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Intronaut and Meshuggah can both boast that they have opened for Tool. Intronaut fall into a more sludgy doom instrumental type of metal, and their compositions went over well with the guitar-nerd audience. Intronaut are preparing to release their new album Habitual Levitations. Pick scrapes, squealing guitar harmonics, earth rumbling bass and an intense laser light show easily won over the crowd. Their set seemed to go by in minutes. I will definitely take a closer look at their new album.

Animals As Leaders
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Animals As Leaders boggled my mind when I was fortunate enough to see them open for Thrice at the House of Blues Anaheim and the Observatory. When I talked to frontman Tosin Abasi at NAMM, I sensed his excitement about touring with Meshuggah as they are direct influences. It is no coincidence that they also play eight-string Ibanez guitars. While Meshuggah fans are known for their staunch loyalty, it only took a few ear ripping notes from Abasi and fellow guitarist Javier Reyes to win over the audience. The reaction by the crowd was borderline voracious as fists shot in the air and the mosh pit swelled. Animals As Leaders put on an exceptional show which had the members of the band all smiling, knowing they had amassed a large swath of fans.

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Meshuggah was easily the most difficult show I've ever had to photograph. Their lighting guy deserves an award for creating a blitzkrieg of a light show timed perfectly with the band's methodical, complex beats. The plethora of red lighting and backlit silhouettes were a nightmare to shoot, but helped create the perfect visual complement to their auditory ambush.

Immediately, I was jealous seeing that Frederik Thordendal had a brand new, custom hybrid of a Gibson Thunderbird and Explorer Ibanez eight-string guitar. Mårten Hagström was shredding on his custom Ibanez M8M guitar as the band pummeled the audience by opening with "Swarm." The crowd immediately went nuts. I was kicked from behind by a falling crowd surfer who jumped from the second tier onto the walkway ramp down to the pit where I was shooting.

The overall sound at the Wiltern was phenomenal. It was astounding to hear each instrument clearly in the mix. The agonizing thing about watching Meshuggah is that every member is a technical marvel on his instrument. My eyes would rapidly switch between Thordendal and Hagström to see where one would be playing on the neck of the guitar. Tomas Haake was a beast on the drums. It is no wonder that Danny Carey from Tool has been spotted at every Meshuggah show that I've attended.

After a brutalizing version of "obZen," "Do Not Look Down" and "I Am Colossus," Meshuggah gave the audience a slight reprieve with "In Death - Is Life" and "In Death - Is Death." "Bleed" is one of my favorite Meshuggah songs and ironically I listen to the song every time the nurse starts an IV for my chemotherapy to help take my mind off the pain.

The crush of "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion" and "Straws Pulled At Random" had me plotting how I would probably go home and book a flight to see them in Las Vegas. "New Millennium Cyanide Christ" was an unexpected bonus with its skull-pulverizing riff. There is more to this evening that I will eventually detail in a future column in OC Weekly. But this was a special night that I will never forget.

01 Swarm
02 Combustion
03 Transfixion
04 obZen
05 Behind the Sun
06 Do Not Look Down
07 The Hurt That Finds You First
08 I Am Colossus
09 Mind's Mirrors
10 In Death - Is Life
11 In Death - Is Death
12 Shed
13 Bleed
14 Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion
15 Straws Pulled At Random
16 New Millennium Cyanide Christ
17 Dancers To A Discordant System

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