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A Meshuggah tour is always a cause for a celebration. Even though Meshuggah have been pretty consistent about touring North America since the release of obZen in 2008 (visiting the United States in 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2014), it is always big news when they come around and they have become social events for metal fans both local as well as for well-known musicians. This time, Meshuggah booked a short tour, in response to flying to Santa Cruz as headliners for Kirk Hammett’s Fest Evil 2015. The tour also consisted of stops at the House of Blues in Anaheim as well as the House of Blues in San Diego. Normally, when Meshuggah comes around to Los Angeles, they either book a show at both the Hollywood and the Anaheim House of Blues, or they just play one show at the Wiltern, which is significantly larger. Since the Anaheim House of Blues is smaller, the show was sure to be packed. Not even a Monday night or the last minute booking could stop metal fans from seeing the band that they love.

Doors opened at 7 PM, and the first band went on at 8 PM. That band was Intronaut. Originally, the opener was supposed to be Warbringer, but because the House of Blues is on Disneyland property, they have become notorious for banning certain bands that they feel are “undesirable”. Luckily, Intronaut was up to the challenge. It made sense since they had previously opened for Meshuggah in 2013. They started their set with “Milk Leg” off of their latest album Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones). From their, singer/guitarist Sacha explained that they were going into the studio the following day to start recording their new album, and they wanted to play some stuff from it. However, he also explained that vocals had not yet been written for them. So the majority of the set was instrumental music that the crowd had never heard before. It was a risky move in my opinion, but no other band could handle it as good as they did. It gave them the chance so show off their technicality, groove, feel, and tightness as a band as well as individual players. The new stuff continues their trend of venturing more into the psychedelic and jazzy direction that they have been taking since their 2010 release Valley of Smoke. The majority of the crowd responded well, while a couple of people shouted for more old/heavy stuff. They finished off the set with just that, as the final song was “The Literal Black Cloud” from Prehistoricisms. This is always a great live song cause of its sludgy riffs and growled vocals. The band and audience alike were left with smiles on their faces, and It was the perfect start for what was about to happen next.

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Right before Meshuggah’s set, a public service announcement stated that moshing and crowd surfing would not be tolerated. The crowd responded with shouts of disapproval and laughing. For anyone who has been to a Meshuggah show, they know that such things just can’t be stopped. At exactly 9:15, the lights went down and the crowd cheered. A chant of Me – shug – gah!” erupted and the band members walked out to the dark stage. The red lights created a mood against the backdrop, which was a giant poster of the album artwork for their latest release Koloss. The lights went on and the band erupted into “Rational Gaze”. At that moment, the entire pit started moving, with a mixture of pushing, shoving, bouncing, and jumping, and did not stop for the remainder of the 90-minute set. The band went through an entire setlist of fan favorites. Of course a band like Meshuggah play every single song their fan base wants to hear, but it seemed like they got pretty close. They did a good job of representing albums from the majority of their career (with songs from their first album Contradictions Collapse being excluded). They played 4 songs from Koloss, 3 songs from obZen, 3 songs from Catch Thirtythree, 3 songs from Nothing, 2 songs from Chaosphere, and 1 song from Destroy Erase Improve. Every song in the setlist had to ability to get the audience into it and scream along, especially songs like “obZen”, “Do Not Look Down”, “Future Breed Machine”, New Millennium Cyanide Christ”, “Bleed, and “Dancers to a Discordant System”. “Lethargica” is always a great live song because the ambient middle section allows the band to hide in darkness before a blast of light when the music gets heavy again. As impressive as the musicianship and flawless vocals from the band is the light show, which syncs up to the musical perfectly, creating a spectacle that is often not seen in extremes forms of heavy metal. The three songs from Catch Thirtythree also provide ambient moments with robotic voices and lights flashing to the sound of rumbling drone. The setlist was perfectly balanced. Not too long and not too short. People left the venue satisfied and exhausted, and it didn’t seem like anyone was calling out a song that they didn’t play.

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All in all, it always impresses me how solid Meshuggah are every time they come around, and how professional they are for being one of the heaviest bands out there. Jens makes small talk in between songs, but he addresses the audience in a polite manner while still engaging them and getting them excited for the next song. It is no wonder why Meshuggah is one of the most emulated bands in the metal genre, and it is rightly so. As for Intronaut, they did a great job stepping up to the task of opening for them, and I look forward to hearing their material with the vocals when they release the album.

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Meshuggah Setlist

  1. Rational Gaze
  2. obZen
  3. Do Not Look Down
  4. The Hurt that Finds You First
  5. Swarmer
  6. Swarm
  7. Stengah
  8. Future Breed Machine
  9. Lethargica
  10. New Millennium Cyanide Christ
  11. Bleed
  12. Demiurge
  13. Straws Pulled at Random
  14. Mind’s Mirrors
  15. In Death – Is Life
  16. In Death – Is Death
  17. Dancers to a Discordant System