Thy Art Is Murder and Meshuggah together equals one of the heaviest tours of 2017.
It’s been three decades since Meshuggah’s inception, and just what more can you say about them?
In their time together, this Swedish band has inspired enough young musicians to the point where they essentially spawned their own damn genre. That’s not something you can say about a whole lot of bands. This quintet has released some truly monolithic metal albums in their time, my personal favourite being ‘Nothing’ [yeah, backed – Ed], and they hit our shores this month in support of their eighth studio release, ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’. With Thy Art Is Murder in tow, this was sure to be a truly memorable night. Even if it was as humid at 10pm as it was during the earlier sunny 32-degree day.
Anyway, once 170 Russell was about three-quarters full, Thy Art Is Murder came onstage.
This is frontman CJ McMahon’s first tour back since his brief exit from the band in 2016 and his return at Unify this year, but by no means was he off his game. Donning his signature black windbreaker, the vocalist seemed to slot straight back into his role as a commanding frontman.
The band wasted no time, opening the night’s proceedings with ‘Holy War’ and ‘Light Bearer’, and got a decent response from the crowd. Coming into the night, it was easy to see that Thy Art Is Murder are kind of a dark horse supporting a band like Meshuggah. The fans in attendance were definitely a more ‘metal’ variety rather than a deathcore crowd, something McMahon pointed out on a few occasions throughout the set.
One thing I will say is that it was good to see CJ inject some real humour into his mid-song banter to liven the mood and make people laugh. It’s too often you see bands take themselves far too seriously and seem rather cold, so this was definitely refreshing. The rest of the set consisted of songs off ‘Hate’ and ‘Holy War’ which isn’t overly surprising, but it was definitely cool to hear oldies such as ‘Dead Sun’ and ‘Shadow Of Eternal Sin’. CJ also mentioned his reasoning for his prior departure and the scourge of substance abuse, and it was good to see just how candid he has been with his past issues.
All in all, this was a great set from Thy Art Is Murder. However, one thing that desperately needs to happen soon is the addition of new material in the set, because as I previously mentioned, the entire set consisted of songs from their last two albums. If you’re like me, then you’ve heard those songs live more than a few times. Putting that aside, this was a great showing from one of Australia’s dominant metal bands.
And now, onto our main event.
Meshuggah are absolutely not a band for the faint hearted, and after a long and eerie introduction, they wasted none of the following 90 minutes on proving that. They came out of the gate swinging plenty of new material our way, with songs like ‘Clockworks’ and ‘Born In Dissonance’ kicking off the set.
The crowd really lit up when the opening notes of ‘Stengah’ blasted through the PA, and the band barely let up from there. The musical prowess of this band is common knowledge, and more often than not I saw people around me struggling to headbang or mosh in time with the band’s complex time signature changes and polyrhythms. Adding to this experience was the fact that the sound was crisp and clear mix wise, and that’s more than a basic requirement when you use 8-string guitars.
Drummer Tomas Haake as ever is the glue that holds this band together live and is the human equivalent of a drum machine. Considering the complexity of the band’s music, he simply didn’t seem like he was struggling at all during any point of their set. Guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom once again proved just how tight they are and each riff just sounded crushing. Of course, frontman Jens Kidman did ‘that’ face thing (as seen in this article’s header photo) and he sounded fantastic overall.
In essence, watching this band live is great if you like your live performances to be perfect in the musical department. However, it’s clear that they’re not exactly the most engaging band in terms of their onstage presence. There’s not a lot of movement going on, but they made up for this in other many ways, such as their tight playing, setlist selection, and the light show.
Man, I absolutely have to talk about the light show! It was probably the best I’ve ever seen for a heavy band and had some really awesome touches like lighting synced to the rhythms of the band’s music, which is no simple feat, and not for one such as Meshuggah. I didn’t go into this show expecting a fantastic visual spectacle but that was one of the most memorable parts of the whole show. As the band’s closing three songs, ‘Bleed’, ‘Deimurge’ and ‘Future Breed Machine’. With this final trio being some of their key fan favourites, the band certainly didn’t disappoint. Though to be fair, I would have loved to hear ‘Rational Gaze’ at some point.
All in all, this sold-out crowd definitely walked away from this low-tuned gig having seen two pretty special performances. Meshuggah proved once again that there’s a very good reason they’re considered one of the most innovative and inventive bands in metal, with a truly crushing set that covered a lot of their material from their storied career.
After three decades, there are no visible signs of these guys slowing down or, God forbid, getting less heavy.
PC: Digital Beard Photography (AKA Owen Jones).
Check out more shots of his from the gig below!