High On Fire opened the night of October 17th at the Dallas House of Blues. I hadn’t listened to much of their music in quite a while, yet they engaged those in attendance well and played through with a solid, established old school sound to quite an enthusiastic crowd. Playing through songs such as The Black Plot, Carcosa, Rumors of War, and Slave the Hive, the music had a bit of a Mastodon-like influence, enjoyable and to the point with a tinge of funk to it. Heavily distorted, wah-driven guitar solos carried the music forward through the harsh yet slightly voiced vocals. They finished off the set with tracks Fertile Green, Blood from Zion, and Snakes for the Divine. Their sound and performance meaty and consistent; different enough from Meshuggah to differentiate that it was nice to see them perform before, and not another forgettable djent clone.
If you’ve ever listened to Meshuggah before, you can only imagine (likely inaccurately) how intimidating their live presence may be. I refrained from listening to the new album until I began my travel to the House of Blues. Though not abnormal, I wanted every memory of every song to be fresh and the emotions attached to every song to still hit me as violently then as they would live. Worth noting, I had never seen Meshuggah perform before the night of October 17th. Any and all expectations aside, there are next to no words that describe what it’s like. This review wasn’t an easy write up whatsoever.
As the lights dimmed, something similar to an emergency alert siren sounded throughout the room; a warning for what was to come. The atmosphere was of tangible anticipation, as shivers ran down my spine and the hair on my arms stood straight, the note held to build something comparable to fear. At the crest of the note, in came a sudden deathblow of a riff, the chugging, off time intro of Clockworks. Touring in support of their new album, “The Violent Sleep of Reason”, Meshuggah opened with the first two punishing tracks. Never in my life have I heard such a disgustingly clear yet distorted guitar tone. It felt like being punched in the soul. An enjoyable shockwave landing so suddenly, it hit me as if I were standing next to a nuclear detonation. As Meshuggah made first impact, lights flashed in time with the beat, the syncopation matching perfectly. Beams of light danced across the room, as well as red and blue highlighting the faces of the stage scrims, appearing almost three-dimensional like the album cover. I can only speculate what an experience for a non-follower of the band would have felt, perhaps something similar to an overload of senses, as everything so perfectly in sync would’ve portrayed itself as chaos without prior knowledge. A pure mental experience.
Throwing back a few times, they performed multiple fan favorites, including “Stengah”, “Perpetual Black Second”, “The Hurt That Finds You First” (with the ending kick pattern and light synchronization being something I will never forget), and “Lethargica”. Later heading in to “Nostrum” and “The Violent Sleep of Reason”, the new album translates even better live. I cannot say I’ve ever seen a heavier band. Moving on to “Dancers to a Discordant System”, I found myself with my arms around one of my best friends, head banging to the ending pattern in perfect sync. The final note rang out, slowly building up to the legendary “Bleed”. An absolutely flawless performance that I may lack words for entirely, as my mind was so focused on how effortless it all seemed, and I lost myself.
Bleed being their final track, I began to make my exit as the crowd chanted for more, leading to an encore of “Demiurge” and “Future Breed Machine”.
Meshuggah are the golden ticket of metal bands in my eyes. I already respected and loved their music long before seeing their live performance, but afterward, my lack of words and big, idiotic smile had sown the seed. Try as many others will, and HAVE, nothing will come close to the Monsto-City (haha… get it?) that is Meshuggah. Crystal clarity, 10.5 earthquake level riffing, and altogether brain destruction tempo arrangements lead me to believe that there are few experiences as unique as their performance. Judging by how packed the house was, and how into it the fans were, I don’t see it as reaching to assume most in attendance would agree. The vocalist, Jens Kidman, heralded a shamanistic experience. Few bands are so perfect that it brings tears to my eyes.
Please, for the sake of any and all things, go see this band.