There’s a sense of youthful excitement one feels as he or she walks down the lengthy outdoor smoker’s corridor leading to the main entrance of Dallas’ House of Blues. It’s like attending your first movie as a kid- no clue what to expect, just excited for the vaudevillian creature feature show bound to play out before you. Before you have time to even soak in the aesthetic beauty of the venue, you’ve descended 30-40 ft downstairs to the merchandise area and the giant, carved wooden doors leading to the main concert hall. Only after finally laying your eyes on the massive 30-by-30 ft proscenium stage (complete with a banner for Between the Buried and Me, as well as the “Unity through Diversity” plaques adorning the arch above the stage) can the full majesty of the evening begin to take hold. Meshuggah is turning 25, and they brought BTBAM to celebrate.
The pulsating LED pillars onstage began flashing yellows, purples and greens in time with Between the Buried and Me’s opening track “White Walls” and I was feeling the familiar chills crawl over my skin as the final track from the watershed album “Colors” came to a mighty head. As their set progressed into the songs “Telos” and “Ants in the Sky,” the crowd was hooked to front man Tommy Rogers as he commanded and then held every audience member’s attention. There were snaps, claps and toe taps through-out, and the whole building was dancing in unison for the duration. Drummer Blake Richardson kept a tight groove as the jazz influences fused with bluegrass/Americana in the perpetual blender of metal music. Admittedly, I’m not as familiar with the newest BTBAM albums, but it was during “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest” that I couldn’t help but notice the power, poise and precision that lead guitarist Paul Waggoner brings to the mix. As he shredded through his solos you could see the fans enticing more and more from him by holding up their metal claws and flailing their fingers furiously. They ended their set with a rousing rendition of “Fossil Genera,” a slimy, sliding tune that has a circus side show feel to it. As the track was peaking, I was mesmerized and locked in to the entrancing glow emanating from onstage. But, just as the track itself states, we must move on…
Meshuggah’s ominous stage set, which conjures H.R. Giger- like images of alien molestations and grandiose sexual propaganda, is easily the best I’ve seen all year. There were four massive banners with strobe light LED towers in between them, and one giant banner scrawled with the familiar logo of the band about the headline. As the chirpy, rough intro to “Future Breed Machine” began to ring out through House of Blues the crowd pushed forward and let out a massive roar to welcome these Swedish sound stylers to Dallas and to wish them a happy “birthday.” They announced between the first two tracks that they would be playing at least one song from every album they’ve ever released, and that was no exaggeration. Guitarist Fredrik Thordendal twisted and bent his notes in such a way that the sea of hands shooting up from the audience reminded me of the lost souls in the River Styx who reach out to cling to the triumphant souls being ferried to Hades. While the band played through tracks from their first few albums, I decided to seek a better vantage point- which led to me finding a front row seat on the balcony over-looking the stage. My favorite Meshuggah track of all time is “New Millennium Cyanide Christ,” and it was the first to play upon finding my new view. As I looked at the swirling mass of people in the pit below, I felt the driving, smashing force of Tomas Haake’s drums tearing a new chasm deep within me- reminding all of us exactly why he’s consistently being praised as the metal community’s best drummer. The band wound down their set by playing the dirge-like “Demiurge,” followed immediately by the most emotionally charged version of “Straws Pulled at Random” I have ever had the pleasure to hear.
As the stage lights dimmed, and the familiar dissonant guitar chords bounced in and out of the speakers, many in the audience began the loving “Me-Shugg-AH! Me-Shugg-AH!” in hopes of enticing the greatest experimental metal band of our time to come and play an encore. Suddenly, the LED lights began flickering green in the same pattern as the robotic speaking at the beginning of “Mind’s Mirrors.” The audience’s gratitude and cries for more fell on open ears, and Meshuggah proceeded to come out and compliment the Dallas crowd by performing the powerhouse tracks “In Death- Is Life” and “In Death- Is Death” from their illustrious “Catch 33” album. After an hour and forty-five minutes of pulse-pounding, mind-bending metal Meshuggah had once again laid their claim to the hearts of the masses- reminding us exactly why they’ve been around giving us metal deviance for 25 years.
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