NEW YORK, NY—Swarms of conversing fans made their way down the avenue toward Terminal 5 on May 23. Every excited, loud conversation that I overheard seemed to begin and end with one word—Meshuggah. Originally from Northern Sweden but now based in Stockholm, the band that is known for their use of seven and eight-string guitars are touring in support of their latest album, Koloss. This group is practically a household name in their native country but have yet to break into the mainstream in the States. Perhaps this is for the better, at least for avid listeners. Otherwise, Meshuggah would not be playing quaint, no-frills types of stages akin to that of Terminal 5.
Once inside the venue, the influx of attendees did not ebb until the headliners set time. This was my first show at the popular site—it was nothing fancy, but definitely allowed for a great show and a decent view. Decapitated, the Polish death metal outfit, had the first set of the evening and it was filled with extended screaming accentuated by heavy riffs. The band had a decent sized crowd who were genuinely digging their performance. The most memorable part of their show—for me at least—was vocalist Piotrowski, whose blond dreads made for an estimated 10-foot windmill in circumference when he was head-banging.
Baroness took the stage next, mellowing the crowd out with their steadily rocking setlist. They put on a better show than the latter, but at some points their slow-going rock jams bordered upon a noisy lullaby. On the other hand, the audience was definitely into the performance given by these laid-back Southern rockers. A break then occurred between Baroness’ set and Meshuggah’s that seemed to last forever. By the time the stage was set for them, the fans were teeming with anticipation and chanting the band’s name.
Meshuggah exploded on stage with their set opener, “Demiurge,” a track off of Koloss. The pent up energy of the listeners was finally released and insanity ensued. Guttural vocalist, Jens Kidman, seemed to have become just as possessed with the music as the fans, as he growled with his eyes rolled back, arms spread eagle, and jaw extended. Band and fans alike continued throughout the show in a simultaneous head bang, which wasn’t a difficult thing to succumb to given how groove oriented the better part of Meshuggah’s recent discography is.
Favorites off of their 2008 record, obZen, caused even greater of an uproar, turning the masses into a storm of frenzy with songs like “Pravus” and “Lethargica.” “Bleed” was probably the most dangerous part of the performance, where it was completely necessary to remain in a defensive position to fend off any over-eager moshers through the track’s length. Every fan of the group has a special place in their heart for the song, so it was worth the bruises at the same time.
A few songs into their set, singer Jens Kidman greeted the crowd with some hellos, profanities and so on, which the New York fans were more than pleased with. They included “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” and “Do Not Look Down” in their longer-than-expected stage time. Amidst these songs, the stage darkened and a display of lights accompanied an interlude off of CatchThirtythree that sounds as if it was spoken by some kind of robot.
Meshuggah bounded back onto the stage playing CatchThirtythree’s “In Death Is Life” and “In Death Is Death.” Masters of the seven-string, Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström thrashed for the performance of the somewhat dated but nonetheless thrilling track, “Rational Gaze,” off of 2002’s Nothing. These songs closed out the show for about five minutes until the “Me-shug-gah” chants became too much to bear. The band’s encore included “Future Breed Machine” and “Dancers To A Discordant System,” a song which crescendos in the most brutal of ways. The light guy with this band was truly the sixth member with his precise timing and it made for an even more enhanced experience. Meshuggah was tight and never lost their groove during the show in New York. Their performance was absolutely a spectacle worth seeing again and again.