Stop saying the D word.
Really. Stop it.
Only a complete C word would refer to Meshuggah with that tired epithet. Admittedly they have inspired, spawned (and spurned) many a younger band of 8-stringed brigands, but the likes of Tesseract, Monuments, Protest The Hero et al are regularly and unceremoniously shoved into a pigeon-hole that Umea’s greatest export would never go near.
Despite the mathematical and sometimes mechanical attack these brothers grim lay down on record, there is almost nothing that compares with seeing them live. The darkened hall, the pulsing red lights, the flurry of arms behind the relatively modest drumkit, the thrashing of guitars and the gurning of frontman Jens Kidman provides a hypnotic spectacle to accompany the aural assault.
The uncertainty of every headbanger present during most requiems in the cathedral of Meshuggah is a familiar and pleasing sight. We seek the groove and wait for our primal instinct to kick in when our sinapses lock into the beat and trigger the urge to rhythmically damage our necks, but where is it…can’t…find the beat…and then the conductor’s baton that is the bobbing head of Jens signals to all that he will lead the mosh. He nods confidently in time to the hi-hat with pure (ahem) cymbalism.
I genuinely find myself utterly lost in the experience every time I’m in the same room as these five blokes and their many noises. They have been stellar each time I’ve seen them since I were a nipper down the front at Brixton Academy in May 1995 when they supported some American band formed by the former guitarist of Vio-lence (not sure what happened to them, tbh – must Google that). Needless to say I’m a fan of their music and a devotee of their stagecraft.
So, what’s it like cramming the concert experience onto a CD/DVD? Well, you get most of the flavour but not all of it. The raw power is captured successfully, as well as the wonderment in realising that they can pull these songs off live, not just in the studio surrounded by technology. It is a warm reminder of how brilliant they are and an incentive to make sure you don’t miss them next time around, but more than most bands it is hard to capture the atmosphere in the room on tape to an extent that properly conveys what makes them such an immense live prospect.
If you are a fan, but have never been to one of their gigs, this is essential. If you have already had the pleasure then although not compulsory purchase material, it is a genuinely fine memento that will see you through those dark nights when they are selfishly not touring your country.
Many of the new generation of noiseniks, who have grown up listening to the 25 years of syncopated joy Meshuggah have sent our way, have borrowed bits, added clean vocals and soaring choruses, and generally produced something more accessible whilst retaining a polyrhythmic sensibility, but in 2014 there is still absolutely no substitute for the masters. This is the blueprint – everything else is just djentrification.