So…this gig report certainly took longer to post than I thought it would (or at least longer than it should have), but one of the things I wanted to do was to download the photos & videos I took at the show to confirm some of the things I wanted to write about (and which no one else has mentioned yet). I had to wait until I was at the office to do that, because I’m having some PC issues at home. Hence, here we are a few days after the fact. Anyhow…
First of all, just let me say that I have been following the other threads for this tour as posted by The Tony, llama lom / JD, bigguytoo and VoidFlame (my apologies if there are others and I missed them), and everyone is pretty much spot on with their observations. Meshuggah is probably as heavy as they have ever been on this tour. “Demiurge” is indeed a truly bombastic fucking opener (they “Lethargica’ed” me again, those Swedish bastards). Baroness is owning, much to the surprise of absolutely no one who knows them / has seen them live before. Their new material is kicking all kinds of ass, too. Decapitated is also rocking out with their cocks out. It’s all true.
So, you may be tempted to ask, “why even write this review?”.
Just read on, campers, and I promise (or at least hope) it will be worth your while…
First, let me start at the beginning. Due to some unforeseen traffic and other issues, we got to the venue just slightly late, but luckily it was just as Decapitated’s set was starting. They did indeed play the same set that has been posted elsewhere, but just in case you’re reading this and haven’t seen the set list yet, here it is:
A View from a Hole
Spheres of Madness
I got quite a few comments from onlookers who, sadly, didn’t even know who Decapitated were, and I told them that they were actually an experienced death metal band from Poland whose drummer was killed in an accident a few years ago, and that his brother Vogg, who was another co-founding member and the ridiculously good guitarist who was currently shredding up the stage, had re-started the band a few years ago. A few folks recognized the story after I told it. Anyhow, their set was great, if a little too short. The highlight was definitely “Spheres”, which got the crowd moshing like a motherfucker. That was awesome to see. Decapitated are definitely the band on this tour that’s getting the least buzz, but they are fucking kicking ass every night from what I hear, and the show I attended was certainly no exception.
Next was Baroness, whom I still think are ridiculously out of place on this tour (although that really doesn’t bother me, because I got to see two of my favorite bands on the same night, so fuck yeah!), but that didn’t stop the fans who were obviously there primarily for Meshuggah from enjoying their set. In fact, since Baroness is so much about groove in their songwriting, I think there were some Meshuggah fans who especially love the new album, who were even more into Baroness than some of the more old-school Meshuggah fans might have been. At any rate, Baroness also played the same set that has been posted before. Again, in case you haven’t read it elsewhere, the set list was:
Ogeechee Hymnal (snippet) / A Horse Called Golgotha
March To The Sea (new)
Steel That Sleeps The Eye (remix) / Swollen & Halo
Take My Bones Away (new)
Bullhead’s Psalm / The Sweetest Curse
There are several things about the Baroness set that haven’t been mentioned before. First, not everyone has been picking up on the fact that they are playing the intros to songs such as “Horse”, “Swollen” and “Curse”, but they definitely are – and it’s awesome. In a few cases, it’s just a snippet of the album track that leads into the primary song, but it was still a very cool thing to hear each of the main songs being kicked off in a rather artistic way, which is to say, the same way they are on the album, but with some rather creative reinterpretations in a few cases. For example, they have completely re-imagined “Steel”, which is now longer, features drums, and has an enhanced vocal harmony aspect that’s completely killer in a live setting. Very few people even realized how much Baroness were improvising their material that night, but it was cool to see the looks on the faces and hear the comments from those who did. Also, another subtle thing which my brother noticed was that the background lighting for the songs was color-coded to the albums from which the songs came. Even I didn’t notice it at first, but after reviewing the videos I took, the lighting is definitely blue for most of the set, yellow for the new songs and red for the closer. Fucking awesome. It’s not really a rocket science thing to do, but it’s like a cool little Easter egg for those fans who do pick up on it.
Plus, like others have said, the new songs are fucking awesome. I have videos for both of them, and they’ll be up on YouTube shortly. Yeah, I know, there are already a few versions out there, but I think the sound on mine might be better than a few of them, so I’m gonna post them anyway. Plus, there aren’t many videos for “March to the Sea” (does Pelican know you’re ripping off their song titles, guys?), and that song deserves a decent video to be posted for it.
Oh, and one more thing before I finish with Baroness…as the set progressed, I was eagerly awaiting my two favorite songs of theirs: “The Gnashing” and “Isak”, and since I couldn’t resist peeking before the show, I knew I was going to get both. However, what I didn’t expect was the spontaneous crowd clap-along which erupted just before the vocal part of “The Gnashing”. Luckily, it’s fairly audible in the video I took of the song, so when I get it posted, you’ll be able to see / hear it, but if you’re a Baroness fan at a Meshuggah show and you’re hoping, like I was, that Baroness would get some solid love, this is one of the coolest little surprises of the night that could have happened. Fuck yeah, Detroit!
Anyhow, then came Meshuggah. Now, before their set started, I was talking to my brother and my buddy who went with me (who are both Meshuggah fans), and although they didn’t want to know what the set list was going to be, they were OK with me dropping some subtle hints. So one thing I mentioned was that I had a feeling that this set list was going to be heavier than any they’ve ever put together – more about crushing your fucking skull than confusing the poor, bedraggled brain within.
Little did I fucking know. Holy fucking shitballs, Batman.
They set started out with a taped intro of a snippet of “Obsidian”, to which the band entered the stage and took their places amidst a hearty audience chant of “MESH-OO-GAH!! MESH-OO-GAH!!”
. When the opening notes of the incredibly heavy and relatively slow-paced “Demiurge” began, the place just fucking exploded. I had placed myself right at the edge of the pit so that when the madness started, I could carve a path through it and get to the front so I could try to get a few pictures of the surly Swedes, and the maelstrom which instantly formed was…well let’s just say I’m lucky I’m a fairly big dude (in fact, don’t tell my wife, but I stuck around for a few chest blocks and shoulder checks…ya know, just for old times’ sake
As far as getting pictures goes…yeah, that was a joke of a thought before I even tried it. Between the heavy jostling from the crowd behind me (which I actually withstood very well, thanks to my aforementioned bulk), there was also the seizure-inducing, random, frenetic nature of the extremely powerful strobes, which, in case you haven’t seen Meshuggah live, are extremely well-cued to the music by none other than Tomas Haake’s brother (I forget his first name, but there’s info on it in the “Alive” DVD), and all of this chaos made the auto-focus on my modest little point-and-shoot camera to have fits. I actually think I got one or two decent shots, but those were merely by accident.
Anyway, as the set list progressed through two of the arguably best songs from the obZen
album, the pace of the proceedings increased and so did the intensity of the pit. I knew I wanted to get the fuck out of there before the next song started so I could start taking video, but that old nostalgia of sweating my ass off in the pit started to set in, and truly made me want to stay for a while longer. Nevertheless, I did manage to tear myself away and bolt back upstairs just in time to start taking video for the deep cut from Nothing
, the oddly compelling “Glints Collide”. That was a welcome treat. After that, Meshuggah slowed things down once again and bludgeoned our domes with the sledgehammer that is “Lethargica”.
As I mentioned in my review of their Chicago show a few years ago, I didn’t even like that song much until I heard it played live. Now I love it.
The same thing happened that night for “Demiurge”. After that beatdown, Meshuggah switched gears and gave us a nice thick helping of groove with the insanely-awesome-when-played-at-160-decibels “Do Not Look Down”. Here’s another track that impressed me in a live setting – in fact, so much so that I just had to get a video of it.
“Hurt” was also a lot of fun, and when it was over, the ridiculously heavy tones of “Mind’s Mirrors” sounded through the PA, signifying the mid-set break that has been standard operating procedure on this tour. While the track played, I asked my brother if he remembered where the track was from, and what followed it – knowing what was coming next. I’m not sure if he got the correct answer or not, but when the twangy opening notes of “In Death – Is Life” began, we both forgot the question and stood transfixed as this monster track – nearly fifteen minutes long, including both parts – unfolded. It was a real treat, even for those who are not big fans of Catch Thirtythree
. I won’t continue the blow-by-blow description until the set’s end, but suffice to say that “Bleed” was a fucking beast (duh), “Christ” was insanely sweet, and ending the set with “Irrational Gaze” was perfection. I got videos of “Bleed” and “Gaze” – they’ll be up later.
The band left the stage briefly after the main set ended, and then returned to the same crowd chant that had escorted them onstage in the beginning. Jens took up the mic and then raised his hands into the air, to which the crowd cheered loudly. He then said one word: “Ready?” As the opening notes to long-standing closer / encore “Future Breed Machine” began, the crowd once again began moshing and fist-pumping with purpose…and of course, I had to take another video.
I think it came out pretty well. I’ll post it later. After that, was the other deep cut of the evening – the somewhat obscure “Dancers to a Discordant System”, from the obZen
album. All I can say is that, in addition to being an interesting addition to the set, it was perhaps the perfect closer, because it summed up perfectly everything that we had heard that night. The song has some groove, along the lines of tracks like “Do Not Look Down” and “Rational Gaze”, as well as being immensely heavy a la behemoths such as “Demiurge” and Lethargica”, in addition to having some of the mind-bending classic Meshuggah-ness of tracks like “Pravus” and “Glints Collide”.
Overall, the set was nearly ninety minutes long, and I felt like a heavily abused ragdoll afterward. Here is a recap of what the mighty machine called Meshuggah cranked out that night:
Obsidian (tape intro)
Do Not Look Down
The Hurt That Finds You First
Mind’s Mirrors (tape during mid-set break)
In Death - Is Life / In Death - Is Death
New Millennium Cyanide Christ
I Am Colossus
Future Breed Machine
Dancers to a Discordant System
So all in all, this was by far the best show I’ve seen this year. It was also the best set I’ve seen from Meshuggah, the first time I’d seen Decapitated play (finally!), and one of the best sets I’ve seen from Baroness as well (the only one better was the headlining set which I had also seen in Detroit a few years back). I can’t imagine this gig not being in my top five shows for the year when 2012 comes to an end (although if it isn’t, that’ll mean it turned out to be one fucking fantastic year!), and it quite possibly might just stay atop the heap altogether. If you haven’t seen this tour and still have a chance, then by the beard of Satan, you need to fucking go. If you passed up your chance already, then you totally fucked up, son.
One last word on merch, for those who want to know:
Decapitated had copies of their latest CD on sale for $15 (I think), as well as a couple of shirts. I really didn’t look at their stuff too closely.
Baroness had a few new shirts for sale, including an olive green one with the three-headed duck / goose design that is part of the artwork for Yellow & Green, as well as another (black) shirt with the “BRNES” type of logo which is also in the new album artwork on the back. There was also another black one with some artwork of a goat (or something like that) on the front, and the words “Take My Bones Away” on the back. I almost bought the green shirt, but I ran into the all-too-familiar “the largest size we have is XL” cockblock, so no dice. At least I have two other Baroness shirts already. Their merch guy told me they were also selling prints for some of the artwork from the new album earlier in the tour, but that they were out already. Shirts for Baroness were $25. They also had vinyl for the Red Album and Blue Record for $20, and I believe they had those albums on CD as well.
Meshuggah had several shirts for $25 as well, including the tour shirt, which I bought. They also had a few designs with artwork from (or reminiscent of) the new album, but the coolest ones had artwork on the front only, including one with a trippy design based on these repeating blue ring shapes which reminded me of something Tool would offer. If that one would have had something on the back of it, I may have bought it. There was a hoodie for $50, which had the word MESHUGGAH across the front in gold "script-ish" block letters, the same way as it appears on the new album. There was a design at the bottom of the back that was also in gold / brown, I think, and it had a lyrical reference to the new album as well. There was a bit of design to the back, but the front was rather plain as I remember. Nothing on the sleeves if I recall correctly. Kinda expensive for a plain black hoodie that just happens to say "Meshuggah" on the front, if you ask me (and I'm a huge fan of the band). Meshuggah had several CD’s for sale, but I have them all so I didn’t take much note of prices. They even had copies of the “Rare Trax” album, which I found interesting. There was also a hat in there somewhere, and I know they had at least one of the shirts in a girlie fit. My wife is pregnant with twins, so she has already worn the tour shirt I bought a few times – no girlie tees for her these days.