When you think of Sweden, chances are your mind won't instantly go to the extreme metal band known as Meshuggah. For over 30 years, this quintet has been delivering the type of speed
metal that is as thoughtfully created as it is devastating. Last night at the Fillmore, throngs of metalheads in attendance got a firsthand dose of what these metal masters are known for. But first, let's talk about the opener and the venue itself.
Although this was my second time actually being inside the Fillmore, it was my first time seeing a full-fledged concert. Honestly, Meshuggah is one of my favorite metal bands of all time, but I wasn't sure what kind of crowd they would pull in. Up until last night, I had only seen them in supporting roles for other, better-known bands. Having said that, I was very pleasantly surprised to walk into the main hall and see a huge crowd watching the opener The Black Dahlia Murder. Led by vocalist Trevor Strnad, this Michigan-based grindcore/death-metal band has been doing the right things for the last 18 years, and the fact that many people showed up early to see them is a testament to that. Song after song delivered prominently, alongside a bright, high-energy set. Many metal bands take themselves very seriously, but watching these guys happily bouncing across the stage, cradling jokes during song breaks, and just generally bring silly makes them even more refreshing. I hadn't gotten a chance to see them in quite a few years, but they appear to still be able to command a crowd, which they did easily over the course of their nearly hour-long set.
Then, it was time for the headliner. The lights dimmed, and the stage grew back. It stayed like this for minutes, as hoots and hollers began to grow. Then, in perfect metal fashion, it started. Most bands play to their strengths early on to get the energy up, but with Meshuggah, it was full-force form the word go. During the opening moments of set-starter "Pravus," all I kept thinking was that the music and fury being showcased would have been the perfect accompaniment to the recent Game of Thrones episode, "The Battle of Winterfell." Both are unflinchingly brutal and fast-paced, and, well, both are also kind of terrifying-in an exciting way.
The precision that is put forth by members such as Fredrik on guitar, Jens Kidman on vocals, and last, but definitely not least, metal drum god Tomas Haake is wildly competent, but also very potent. This band might as well be machines. The drumming never slows, never breaks, and is always one of the heaviest things you've ever witnessed. One song after another, the band delivered with minimal stage banter, choosing to let the music speak for itself. As the set kept going, the capacity crowd was treated to some fan favorites, like "Rational Gaze," from the Nothing album, which gave them a huge break here in the states, but also proved that a band as deliberately brutal as these guys can have a career that guarantees they can keep playing for big crowds. "Stengah" also got a big crowd, as the mosh pit swirled into a furious exposition of raw energy at play.
But even though the band had completed 10 extremely powerful songs before the moment that "Bleed" exploded from the speakers in a fiery lighting display, the crowd still had plenty of energy to go. I'm not really a mosh-pit type of man, but as my two friends lost their minds in revelry and jubilation, it was easy to forget my age for a moment and bounce around as this absolutely insane band tore the stage apart.
It might end up being one of the best metal shows I've ever seen. The technical craft it takes to do that music in a live setting, but to also have one of the best light shows around, is as impressive as their history as a band has been. I hope it won't be as many years in between visits for them, but when a show that amazing comes around, you find time to embrace it.