Words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Originally destined for the Academy, phenomenal demand prompted a venue upgrade for Meshuggah, bringing them to the larger Vicar Street for a highly-anticipated and sold-out show in Dublin. The Swedes are joined by fellow countrymen The Haunted, just a week after yet another Swedish band, Sabaton, drew a near-capacity crowd to the same venue.
Giving the January blues a big middle finger, hundreds of excited metal fans have arrived early to have a beer and catch opening act The Haunted warm up the stage. Returning after an absence of more than a decade, they are welcomed with cheers and applause by many who are obviously satisfied with the support selection. Unseasonably dressed in shorts and a red sports jersey, vocalist Marco Aro immediately demands that everyone “get the fuck on the floor” for lead tracks ‘No Compromise’ and ’99’, both taken from their 2004 release Revolver. As usual, the backline for the headline act leaves little room for them to move, but it does bring drummer Adrian Erlandsson to the fore, giving front row fans an opportunity to observe his impeccable performance.
The energy both on and offstage is intense throughout the set, and it’s clear that punters are enjoying the show despite the brick wall of sound which could have been a little less muddy. However, the banging of heads confirms that it’s not taking from the overall experience. Out of the dozen or so tracks, just two are from their last album Exit Wounds (‘Time Will Not Heal’ and ‘My Enemy’) and the rest a cross-section of their seven-album back-catalogue. The finale ‘Hate Song’, taken from their eponymous debut album, sees Aro climb offstage and spending time on the rail, making contact with front row fans eager to show their appreciation.
Of course, the end of the support act serves to heighten the anticipation for a band that many of the capacity crowd have waited their whole lives to see. Meshuggah are a band that has defined a disruptive genre that is both captivating and unsettling in its very nature. The house lights dim, plunging the venue into atmospheric darkness, save for a few mood-killing cretins who insist on beaming their phone torches at the stage for most of the night. A thick fog engulfs the podium and the audience begins to chant “Mesh-ug-ah” as we wait moments that feel like minutes for the Swedes to appear.
The first two tracks, ‘Clockworks’ and ‘Born in Dissonance’ are lifted straight from the opening of their latest album The Violent Sleep of Reason, the artwork for which flanks and backs the stage behind the mist, occasionally illuminated by blinding strobe lights. Immediately, the irregular rhythms and technical complexity send the fans into a frenzy and the heaving crowd creates a sea of arms and bodies for ballsy crowd-surfers to traverse. The third track, ‘Sane’, is another explosion of sound, which appears on their third album Chaosphere released in 1998 and is followed by two more old tracks ‘Perpetual Black Second’ and ‘Stengah’ from Nothing. The strobes are complemented by intense lasers, all of which are precisely in time with the music, creating a psychedelic experience as the beams and flashes pierce the smoke now reaching the balcony.
The fidelity of the sound has definitely improved, and there is no questioning the musical mastery, but admittedly, Meshuggah are not for everyone. The progressive patterns and mostly indistinguishable lyrics can alienate some from the style, but a comment made by one ardent attendee may help to sway the undecided, and his advice was to consider the coarsely roared vocals as another form of percussion and to let the entire experience entrance you. The ambiance is rarely interrupted by any chatter between tracks and the quintet focus on the task at hand.
One of the unsurprising highlights of the night is familiar fan favorite ‘Bleed’, triggering, even more, mayhem in the pit. Of the fourteen-track performance, their three most recent albums recorded in the last ten years get the lion’s share of the setlist, saving space for just four older tracks including the closing number ‘Future Breed Machine’. Certainly, a crowd-pleasing concert that sets the bar exceedingly high for Dublin Metal Events in 2017. We think Meshuggah will be back again soon.