Getintothis’ Mark Davies heads out to Manchester one wintry evening to lose his body weight in sweat seeing Meshuggah
It has been three months short of five years since these swaggering Swedes have played Manchester, and the atmosphere in The Ritz is electrified with anticipation for the metal scenes’ heaviest of hitters to once again take to the stage. These past almost-five ‘Shuggah-less years have been excruciating, believe us, so this eagerness is shared in kind by the crowd and the Getintothis staff.
The doors open at seven pm, and the crowd piles in to mill around and discuss past shows and experiences. Only a band as longstanding and consistently good as Meshuggah could bring so many people, all from different walks of life, together in one lofty place.
Fourty-five minutes later and the stage is finally prepared for the support band, fellow Swedish metallers The Haunted, to warm our ears up. Pioneers in the Gothenburg Swedish death metal scene, featuring past members of seminal band At The Gates, The Haunted have been blasting people’s faces off since their formation in 1996/7. Their unique blend of melodically infused death metal is certainly not out of place on the stage this evening.
Oozing Panteran grooves, and thrashier moments akin to Exodus, The Haunted certainly don’t disappoint the crowd, which has become a mosh pit from the outset. The look of pure disbelief on vocalist Marco Aro’s face tells us that we are doing our best to give them a majestic welcome, and everyone is having a blast. Some wicked solos courtesy of lead guitarist Ola Englund are kept in check by a powerful and strident rhythm section, whilst Aro screams his lungs out to songs from a discography spanning nearly twenty years. The crowd don’t stop moving until the last moments of the final track play out.
As the techs clear the stage and ready it for the main event, the lights return and we once again wait patiently for action, only this time a little sweatier than before. We spy Meshuggah’s main guitar tech Kent “yeah yeah” Eriksson, made famous for the rig rundown videos he has done over the past couple of years, moving gear and generally being a badass.
It gets to 9:15pm as the lights fade away to darkness, and the familiar harmonic ringing begins. The crowd starts to cheer as we see the silhouette Tomas Haake make his way to the drum kit, whilst the other members move single-file out to their places. We have seen the band play before, but we never feel adequately prepared enough for the aural assault that is let loose upon our ears. This time is no different only tonight the band is unleashing material from their latest release The Violent Sleep of Reason (Nuclear Blast Records).
Opener Clockworks pummels the undulating audience with its’ technical grooves and scraping vocals, the twin eight-string guitars are going full-pelt and we are lapping it up like ravenous dogs, clawing at the air above us in reverence to the extended-range gods.
The band slam through favourites such as Lethargica, Dancers to a Discordant System (one of our personal favourites), Stengah, Do Not Look Down and Swarm with it’s brooding breakdown section. The band gift us with some lesser played older tracks too, such as Sane from their 1998 album Chaosphere, and Perpetual Black Second from their 2002 eight-string debut album Nothing. The rest of the set list is filled out with new tracks to give the audience a sense of wonderment, hearing these tracks played note for note from the album released only months ago is a real marvel.
This is truly a band you must experience to appreciate them. The performance is one of the tightest in the music industry, and with good reason too, given how complex this material is, yet they make it look effortless. We suppose that comes from the fact that they have been doing this since 1987, and have had this particular line-up since 2004, giving them plenty of time to nail it down to a fine art.
Speaking of artistry, we wanted to give a special mention to the guys behind the scenes here too; the sound has been equalised with such precision that not a single note goes unheard or obscured, and Fredrik Thordendal’s famously improvised guitar solos stand proudly out of the mix. Did we mention the light show too? Utilising lasers and strobes along with the usual fare, it only further enhances the spectacle, and brings an otherworldliness to The Ritz’s usually decadent aesthetic.
The band end their set with the furiously note-heavy favourite, Bleed which, given the audience is nearly ruined at this point, feels almost ritualistic; a transcendental experience to be sure. But wait! There’s more, as the band inevitably return to the stage with not one but two encore tracks, Demiurge with its hulking grooves, and the track that first put Meshuggah into the UK’s consciousness with thrashy technicality, Future Breed Machine. The band exits to rounds of applause, cheers, growls and endless hails, we even nearly caught a drumstick!
We couldn’t have asked for more, except maybe if we could have died right there and then, any other gig to follow would only pale in comparison to the might and prowess put forth this evening.