Thursday, July 7, 2022
EntertainmentReviewsReview: Meshuggah, Barrowlands, Glasgow

Review: Meshuggah, Barrowlands, Glasgow

Extreme metal pioneers Meshuggah blew away a packed audience at the Barrowlands, Glasgow, on Monday night.

POP “Swedish music” into Google and you’ll get a gallery of 19 songs by artists including Basshunter, Ace of Base, The Cardigans and – inevitably – Abba.

But what of Sweden’s antimatter Abba, the uncompromising princes of polyrhythm, the black hole-heavy masters of extreme metal?

Nothing.

I suspect that after 35 years in the business, Meshuggah don’t care and probably never did. And any band that can inspire moshing madness at a sold out Barrowlands on a Monday night probably don’t need to.

Pic by Edvard Hansson and supplied by Atomic Fire Records

Meshuggah certainly know how to build tension and they started before the first note was played, dropping the lights completely and filling the room with pulsing, swelling bass for several minutes.

They then tore through Broken Cog and Light the Shortening Fuse from the new album Immutable, each member of the band a sinister silhouette against the on-stage lighting. In fact, the visuals had all the technical chops of the band members with lights flickering in perfect time to Tomas Haake’s machine gun double kick drums and lurching with the polymeters.

Next was the classic Rational Gaze, prompting even more frenzied head banging from the enraptured crowd. It’s worth mentioning just how good the sound was. Jens Kidman (he and guitarist Fredrik Thordendal both sporting big beards) could be heard growling magnificently as he performed his trademark head nods. The extraordinary guitar tone was just like the recordings but taken to a new level by the sheer volume. A highlight was the outro to Straws Pulled at Random (the closest Meshuggah get to “gentle”), Thordendal’s solo soaring above the pummeling bass.

Watching the band at close quarters you can see as well as hear what a remarkable group of musicians they really are: 13 songs of truly intimidating complexity played without (as far as I could tell) a bum note.

But the sweaty madness of the mosh pit, which by the time of The Abysmal Eye had expanded like a hurricane to very close to where I was standing, demonstrated something else: you could – and probably should – switch off the muso part of your brain and just give in to the primeval power of what they do.

Demiurge, the first of their encores, and contender for the heaviest song any band has ever created, demonstrated this point perfectly, prompting even greater levels of frenzy at the Barrowlands and the highlight of the evening. Such was the spellbinding power of the show, it was a genuinely dislocating moment a few minutes later when the house lights went up and a couple of thousand dazed Meshuggah fans started queueing for the stairs.

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