Meshuggah + Animals As Leaders + We Are Knuckle Dragger @ Slade Rooms, Wolves – Friday 13th April 2012

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Review by Jason Guest

We Are Knuckle Dragger‘s set drew the kind of attention usually reserved for a drunk, sweaty-breathed tramp hurling empty beer cans and incessant-yet-somehow-meaningful rants against an absurd world. Their heavy muddy stomp was a malaise of harsh guitar noise unceremoniously torn out of the strings, grizzly bass grumbling and rumbling discordantly along with wildly spasmodic drums bashed out on a surprisingly diminutive kit. With vocals spat from three savaged throats, WAKD gave the crowd an acerbic tongue-lashing with such songs as ‘iPhucker’, ‘Get The Horizon Yourself’, and ‘Mr Son of a Bitch’. Noisy, experimental… erm, music(?) spiked with hardcore punk attitude may not have been what was expected to fill the opening support slot to Meshuggah, but as the bizarre bashing that the crowd received from this wonderfully messy three-piece continued, more bodies twitched and more heads nodded with approval. The scabby tramp’s ramblings triumphed. Make sure to check these guys out when they come your way.

Animals as Leaders, on the other hand, are as a surgeon: rational, astute, precise, each cut contemplated, incisions methodically made, the flesh stitched together seamlessly, holes strategically left for the occasional demon to escape and the light to find its way back in. With their carefully selected 8-syringed implements readied, Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes sculpted true music, with the occasional flaccid moment soon resurrected by melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically tumescent tangents of tuneage. The recent addition to AAL, new drummer Matt Garstka, fits like, well, like a surgical glove, maintaining the groove and feel of the tracks as on the recordings and adding his own touch the supremely crafted tracks. Though they may not be the most physically active on stage, the fusion-imbued metal(ish) songs were an array of such technical virtuosity and of such musical depth that the crowd couldn’t help but be transfixed. Where the tramp’s filthy and grubby ostentation concealed his genius, the doctor’s brilliance was laid out like a patient etherized upon a table, the wonders of its anatomy unapologetically displayed for our voyeuristic pleasure.

With the effervescent energy of the tramp happily returned the bottle (the band are booze in hand at their merch stand at the back) and the doc’s djent-erprising fusion of prog and metal returned to its refrigeration unit, the demonic energy that has been encroaching the crowd in its thick, sweat-drenched air has reached its zenith. Fathers to the djent genre and masters of polyrhythmic perversity, the Meshuggah demon seeped into the room with the trance-like esoteric warmth of ‘Obsidian’ encircling the captive crowd, urging their corruption as they inhaled its intoxicating breath. Thus, imbibed, infused, inebriated, the crowd were furnished with an absurdly tight set. Meshuggah bear the precision of the surgeon and the rampant madness of the hermit and wield that strength hundredfold. Tomas Haake is a drummer par excellence, his drum parts are incredible and he is machine-like in his precision. Thordendal, Hagström, and Lövgren are a lesson in riffage, their technical ability and sheer force unmatched. And Kidman, whose role could easily be overshadowed by such adroit musicians, is the consummate frontman, dominating the crowd with furious headbanging, gruesome grimaces, and a monster of a voice. To witness this band pull off what they do is truly a privilege. Material from their latest album, Koloss, gets a great reception, and deservedly so as Meshuggah continue to push extreme metal ever further into stunning levels of complexity and technical virtuosity. A stunning set from a stunning band.

Download the Track Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion from the album Koloss as MP3 for free from Nuclear Blast.

Set List: Obsidian, Demiurge, Pravus, Combustion, Glints Collide, Lethargica, Do Not Look Down, The Hurt That Finds You First, Mind’s Mirrors, In Death – Is Life, In Death – Is Death, Bleed, New Millennium Cyanide Christ, I Am Colossus, Rational Gaze

Encore: Future Breed Machine, Dancers To A Discordant System, The Last Vigil