Both fans and scalpers alike converged in front of Irving Plaza scrambling for last minute tickets to MESHUGGAH‘s sold out return to New York back on February 19th, 2009. Braving harsh winds, frigid climate, and recession, devoted metal fans prevailed packing the main floor to the gills well before before opening act, THE FACELESS.
As one of the 200 bands featured on last year’s Summer Slaughter tour, THE FACELESS unfortunately lived up to their name and didn’t particularly stand out amongst the competition. With the daunting task of opening up for two influential, highly acclaimed acts, THE FACELESS held their composure, but did little to impress. The band offered a surplus of arpeggios, sweeps, blast beats, and technical tomfoolery, but provided little in the way of memorable riffs or a powerful live experience. The apathetic crowd was unmoved, and the band looked just as bored playing the material as the audience was to hear it.
Up next was CYNIC, who I hadn’t seen in some 15 years since their tour with CANNIBAL CORPSE and SINISTER. The band launched in to a subdued, introspective performance, perfectly recreating the experience of their new album Traced in Air. CYNIC effortlessly transitioned between newer tracks, such as “The Space for This,” and classics from Focus such as “Veil of Maya“, “How Could I” and “A Celestial Voyage“. The crowd wasn’t particularly fired up as much as they were captivated, and offered a rousing applause upon set’s end.
After a lengthy half-hour wait in building anticipation, The restless crowd was finally satiated by the dissonant bottom-end engulfing sounds of Sweden’s finest, as MESHUGGAH immediately whipped the crowd in to a pit of frenzy. With the heat emanating from the pit like a barbecue in a sauna, bodies, sweat and boots flew around the room with reckless abandon.
Launching in to chugging metal jackhammer “Bleed” (which is bound to be a live favorite in years to come), the band continued their onslaught. Focusing primarily on tracks from their latest, Obzen, such as “Electric Red” and “Lethargica,” the new(ish) material translated well in a live situation in contrast to the somewhat overwhelming material found on Nothing or Catch Thirty-Three.
The heaviness of an eight string guitar in tandem with a bass is a sound that MESHUGGAH has perfected throughout the years, and witnessing it live is a powerful experience as the thickest of bottom-end contrasts with layers of stark dissonance. In the thick of it all, guitarist Fredrik Thorendal‘s expressive, off-kilter, Allan Holdsworth-on-crack meets VOIVOD-solos musically transport the listener to another world. In the driver seat for the band’s complex, chaotic rhythms is Tomas Haake, who’s precise yet punishing delivery on the kit maintained the band’s explosive momentum. Surveying the crowd like a sniper, frontman Jens Kidman unleashed his vitriol in to the mic with rage and conviction. It was six songs in before Kidman even addressed the crowd, cutting out all the bull that comes with in between song banter, and instead focusing on delivering a powerful performance. Other singers should take note.
While Obzen songs dominated the set, the band dug into the vaults and unearthed convincing renditions of classics “Suffer in Truth” and “Sane” as well as recent material such as “Spasm” from Nothing. MESHUGGAH brought down the house with devastating “Future Breed Machine.” Definitely, one of the strongest sets of the new year. One can only hope MESHUGGAH will return to the U.S. in 2009.