Review: Messhugah @ The Rave (2/14)

meshuggah
Photo from Google Images
Words by Andrew Falk

Meshuggah’s style is totally singular, instantly recognizable. These Swedes have been doing variations on a theme for almost twenty years now — counterintuitive, blocky riffs mirrored by drummer Tomas Haake’s ridiculous footwork, his hands playing much simpler beats framing the whole thing. And, of course, Jens Kidman harshly yelling sci-fi lyrics about pineal gland optics and the exquisite machinery of torture. Meshuggah stopped at the Rave for a traditional Valentine’s Day celebration – a big room full of dudes dressed in black listening to loud progressive metal.

I’ve been a fan of theirs for probably ten years now and hadn’t seen them live, and I was very curious how a crowd would “dance” to their music. It’s so strangely metered that headbanging seemed unlikely, so maybe people would just stand still? Bang their heads at random intervals? Turns out their live sound is totally pulverizing, and the basic meter kept (usually) by the cymbals was solid enough for a healthy amount of spirited rhythmic jerking among the masses. The song “Bleed” from last year’s excellent ObZen was beefy and relentless, and it got one of the best crowd responses of the night. They played a few tracks from one of their slower, more experimental albums, Nothing, and the aptly-titled “Straws Pulled at Random” added a bit of groove to the mix. The highlight was closer “Future Breed Machine,” the opening track to their classic album Destroy Erase Improve, with its mechanical alarm intro leading into insanity, awkward robotic shuffle, spacey melodic break, and insanity again, in that order. We went nuts.

The show was opened by technical death metal upstarts The Faceless, who, judging from the t-shirts in the crowd, drew a lot of younger fans to the show. They played a solid but not outstanding set full of blasts, Necrophagist-inspired sweeping neo-classical solos, and an occasional bass tapping break. Reunited new-age-metal (really) band Cynic was in the middle of the bill, and apart from a few technical difficulties, played an outstanding set of their unique style. They drew mostly from their recent album Traced in Air, a bizarre but enticing combination of old-school Death riffage, accomplished drumming, and AutoTuned (really) melodic vocals that actually sound awesome. They also played a few tracks from their only other album, the revered Focus from 1993, which still sounded fresh and got an enthusiastic response.

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