February 2, 2018 Meshuggah Entrance The Wiltern Los Angeles, CA 1-29-18
Innovation is the key to a successful future in all aspects of life, including the world of Heavy Metal. Ahead of the curve, in the early ’90s Swedish Metal act Meshuggah strongly impacted the future of the genre, offering their own, unique brand of Progressive Technical Death Metal, later dubbed by some as Math Metal. On the tailend of their brief tour of the west coast of North America, Meshuggah, along with Code Orange and Toothgrinder, arrived in Los Angeles, California on Monday, January 29th to a packaged house at The Wiltern.
A tour of only six scheduled shows, as Meshuggah continue to promote their 2016 album, The Violent Sleep Of Reason, the headlining gig revved up a ton of excitement. Thankfully, no time was wasted and promptly at 7:30 PM New Jersey’s Toothgrinder took the stage. A mix of Hardcore, Deathcore, and Progressive Metal, the exciting band branded their mark on the audience with a thirty minute set of chaos.
Very much worthy of putting under the broad label Progressive Metal, let’s face it, it is not at all a simple style, and it requires deeply planned thought in its structure. Toothgrinder – Justin Matthews (vocals), Jason Goss (guitar), Matt Arensdorf (bass, backing vocals), Wills Weller (drums), and Johnuel Hasney (guitar, backing vocals) – offer an interesting genre mix. Performing songs off their 2017 album, Phantom Amour, including “The Shadow,” “Red,” as well as the title-track, they put in a good effort with plenty of energy. That in mind, the acoustics at The Wiltern are always a bit more raw than other venues, and starting a set with violent Metal and loud progressive overlays may not be for everyone. Nonetheless, if you can take the heat, check out Toothgrinder as they continue to tour in early 2018.
Next up, Code Orange was a definite highlight of the evening. Impressively nominated for a Grammy at the 60th annual Grammy Awards, Code Orange are very young, fresh, and perform a unique blend of Hardcore Punk, Metalcore, and Groove Metal. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as a collective unit, they brought amazing, inspiring stage presence. Full of life, their enthusiasm helped the audience quickly fall in love with Code Orange’s music as much as they clearly loved playing it.
With only three albums, their latested being the award nominated 2017 effort Forever, this youthful band are quickly rising to the top, and talent is an understatement with them as well. The only female member, Reba Meyers, is an absolute badass on guitar as well as vocals. Honestly, she can keep up with the toughest of the tough. With a sound most definitely rooted in early ’90s east coast Hardcore, Code Orange have all the heaviness of Hatebreed, but with some very exciting backing synth sounds that fit well, playing an important role in the bridge between songs in a live setting. As far as the other players behind the band, there is Eric Balderose on guitar/vocals, Jami Morgan on the hard-hitting drums/vocals, Joe Goldman on bass, and Dominic Landolina on guitar/synthesizer/vocals, all doing a formidable job.
There are simply not enough compliments to throw at Code Orange and the mastery at their songs’ structure. It is easy to see why they are a perfect fit to directly support Meshuggah. With orange lighting dominating the stage, Code Orange literally looked a big ball of fire surrounded and engulfed them. In many ways, they stole the heart of the show, but the only downside, the crowd was left wanting more. Justifiably, the majority of their set was songs off Forever including “Kill The Creator,” “The Mud,” and “The New Reality.” Showing how diverse they can be, they branched into a bit of an Industrial flavor with screeching noise samplings throughout the set. Travelling with the right foot forward and appealing to older and newer generations alike, the complexities in their style is astounding. More over, the execution is what is commendable as they jump, dance, and headbang. Yes, Code Orange on are fire.
After bearing witness to Code Orange’s blistering performance, the crowd packed into the very sectioned off and segregated floor area of The Wiltern. Everyone who has seen Meshuggah live know the ritualistic mind implosion that it is and that listening to an album is only about half as pleasurable. Essentially carrying out the same set as they did in 2017, the stage setup featured four banners and one large backdrop with the vein-popping mechanical face with metal gears featured as part of The Violent Sleep Of Reason artwork. Needless to say, it set the mood perfectly.
They also had the Progressive Metal band signature backlighting, creating a shadow effect on members of the band, making for an eerie experience. Not for those who suffer from epilepsy, there was constant flickering of white lighting along to match the groove beats in the music. Quite effective, it put the audience in a trance-like state. Doing what they do best, Meshuggah switched time signatures from the 4/4 base and fast and furious staccato to polyrhythms with Neo-Jazz chromatics. Certainly keeping the interest of any and all complex-minded musicians and listeners, they really could be looked at as the godfathers of the Djent movement. Skill-wise, they have seriously leaped boundaries conquering the Extreme Metal sound, and it is never more evident than live shows such as this night at The Wiltern.
Playing 4 songs from The Violent Sleep Of Reason, including the title-track, and opening with the infamous “Clockworks,” the audience’s minds were completely invaded by the mesmerizing sounds of the band. Other highlights of the 13 song set included 2012’s “The Hurt That Finds You First,” 2008’s “Bleed,” and a 2 song encore which featured old favorite “Future Breed Machine.” Still, there was so much in between it all that made the show blister from start to finish.
A Meshuggah mosh pit is usually little to non-existent and features metalheads who appear to be in a walking state of seizure. The beats are so abruptly overlayed, turned, and twisted in all directions to the point where mental wires could get criss-crossed while chaos of the most structured and intricate kind ensues. When it was all said and done, Jens Kidman (vocals/guitar), Per Nilsson (guitar), Tomas Haake (drums), Mårten Hagström (guitar/vocals), and Dick Lövgren (bass) played a lengthy headlining set that left all fans satisfied. Hopefully, in the next year, Meshuggah will bring more new material with them on tour that perhaps, if even possible, will be even more mind-imploding.
Wrapping up the abbreviated tour in Los Angeles, Meshuggah literally jumped ship to the 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise on February 1st, setting sail out of Florida. If you are lucky enough to be on board, do not miss their set, but for everyone else, patiently wait for Meshuggah to return to the US coast again soon.
Photo credit : Karina Diane Concert Photography