Meshuggah – O2 Academy, Bristol, 12/01/2017

Colder than a polar bear’s backside, the threat of snow overnight and more than a little bit damp – it can only be UK gigs in January. It’s the first concert of the year for Bristol’s O2 Academy, the first date of the headliner’s UK tour and whilst it’s not a sold out show, 1100 tickets for a Thursday night is seriously good going all the same. Oh, and Big Jeff is in attendance, so that’s never a bad thing either.

Continuing the theme of firsts is The Haunted (6), who were last on these shores in 2008 and immediately make up for lost time, flying out of the traps in a whirlwind of Lamb of God-esque riffs and pure Swedish power. Frontman Marco Aro, who himself hasn’t been here for nearly fourteen years as well, is having an absolute blast in every respect and seems genuinely overwhelmed at times, blowing kisses to the audience in between songs as the band storm their way through a career-spanning set including Trespass, Time (Will Not Heal)  and a thunderous rendition of The Flood, with pits opening up across the floor. Being the only support band tonight means they take advantage of a 45-minute time slot and that, in the end, unfortuantely leads to their downfall as the momentum wanes and they start to lose the edge that had been so brutal at the beginning. They’re also not helped by a fairly muddy sounds that sees the drums take precedence at far too many occasions, but if the set had been 3-4 songs shorter they would have had a much more lasting impact.

The roar that greets the headliners as their intro tape begins is on another scale entirely, so it’s really strange that they leave us waiting for a good couple of minutes with just an eerie yet monotonous tone playing over the speakers; it actually threatens to derail the hype and tension as the crowd simmers down and words can be heard clearly from halfway across the room. It’s all short-lived however, because halfway through opening number Clockworks Meshuggah (9) simply explode with an untamed ferocity that on another day would cause all the spirit bottles at the bar to shatter simultaneously. Immediately the Academy becomes a sea of moving bodies, rabid and  thirsty for every note and beat the Umeå goliaths throw in all directions. Tighter than a pair of super skinny jeans throughout, the highlights are numerous – Perpetual Black Second goes off like an atom bomb and follow up song Stengah gets a huge reaction as well, tracks like Lethargica and Do Not Look Down are met with universal acclaim and set closer Bleed is more than just a song in a live setting, it’s a religious experience. They’re also backed up by the most impressive light show the Academy has ever seen; sure, the band are silhouettes for the vast majority of the set but the lasers, ever changing colours and strobes contemplate the music perfectly, completely in synch with every single change in song structure and aiding the impact to devastating heights. Of course, it couldn’t last, could it? ‘Your showers suck, but in general you’re nice people’ jokes frontman Jens Kidmen as the impressive visual display needs rebooting in between Nostrum and Violent Sleep of Reason, but once it’s back up and running Meshuggah pick everything back up and continue on their already brilliant trail of destruction. An encore of Demiurge and Future Breed Machine delivers a final one-two knockout punch, rounding off what has been a hugely triumphant performance in typically bruising and crushing fashion. Best gig to ever open a calendar year? Damn straight.

Meshuggah setlist

Born in Dissonance
Perpetual Black Second
The Hurt that Finds You First
Do Not Look Down
Violent Sleep of Reason
Dancers to a Discordant System
Future Breed Machine

About Elliot Leaver

PlanetMosh's resident Iron Maiden fanboy and Mr. Babymetal. Also appreciates the music of Pink Floyd, Rammstein, Nightwish, Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot and many others. Writing to continue to enjoy life away from the stresses of full-time employment.