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March 1, 2010 | by  | in Music | [ssba]



Technically complex, and mind-crushingly heavy, Sweden’s Meshuggah play Wellington for the first time this week. Formed in 1987, the five-piece progressive outfit became a dominant force in metal following the release of their 1995 critically acclaimed album Destroy Erase Improve. Recognised as one of the most important bands in aggressive music today by both Rolling Stone and Alternative Press, Meshuggah remain reliably solid in a scene inundated with questionable bands.

In a bid to pacify fans after a substantial break in studio output, Meshuggah recently released the live CD/DVD package aptly named Alive. Consisting of material filmed during their 2008 and 2009 tours of USA, Canada and Japan, the DVD offers a substantial presentation of a band renowned for their consistency in the live arena. As Meshuggah drummer Tomas Haake confirms, “I think the DVD gives people a good indication that we are consistent live performers. Not a band that puts all their stock into one show, filmed for a DVD, that hopes it comes off right”.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we wanted to do right the first time, rather than end up regretting a half-assed effort.” This is no understatement considering the band has released six full-length albums spanning an impressive 23 years. With a career stretching that length, any release comes bound with expectation from both fans and the band alike. Although hard to gauge considering its recent release, Haake comments that the feedback from fans has been “amazing so far”. And as for the band themselves, Haake assures that the DVD captures the Meshuggah experience “more so than we could’ve possibly hoped. We’re very happy with the result.”

Despite the release of Alive, it’s unlikely Meshuggah’s rabid fan base will be tied over for any lengthy period of time. The vast majority of interviews from 2009 and 2010 concentrate on attempting to elicit information pertaining to the prospect of a new album. Haake confirms, “we’ve been able to sustain a lot of juice out of obZen. Certainly the time will be nearing to make the next shift into the studio.” Refusing to offer anything binding, however, he continues, “we cannot confirm when that will be just yet.”

Considering the workmanship behind 2008’s obZen, it’s not surprising that the band are in no hurry to lay it to rest. The writing and recording process stretched to almost a full year, six months of which was needed to master the technical complexity with which Meshuggah albums have become renowned. Released in March of 2008, the band have toured relentlessly in support of the album, catching their breath only when Haake sustained a debilitating back injury in early 2009. Nevertheless, with the prospect of a new album looming on the horizon, Haake comments on the band’s enthusiasm. “We always look forward to recording. The studio always presents amazing challenges to our musicianship (though) we’ve been doing it long enough for it not to be daunting.”

For a band that refuses to be pigeonholed, it’s hard to predict which direction Meshuggah are likely to take with an upcoming record. Constant experimentation and stylistic adaptation have ensured the band remains progressive and cutting-edge while many of their peers seem to stagnate. Throughout their existence the band’s trademark has been their consistent mastery of unusual polyrhythmic structures, however their overall approach has been less consistent. Their first releases were cemented in fast-paced thrash, while Catch Thirty-Three and I saw the band take more of an avant-garde approach, experimenting heavily with indisputably impressive result. On 2008’s obZen, Meshuggah evolved yet again, offering a neck-breakingly heavy but compositionally more simplistic approach, which closer resembled the earlier albums than their forays into experimentation. In terms of where the band are heading looking toward the new album, Haake is hesitant to give anything away. “That’s for you all to find out!”

Due to the geographical isolation of New Zealand, Meshuggah have only graced our shores once before, playing Auckland in 2008. Like too many bands with such interminable careers, the opportunities to travel here and play seem to be few and far between. Incredibly overdue, and hotly anticipated by a strong metal contingent, Haake comments, “The one show we played in Auckland was amazing. It was a really slick venue, sold out with a great crowd vibe.” Such a response helps to determine the reasons surrounding a relatively quick return. Here with somewhat more of a relaxed schedule compared to their previous visit, the band look forward to more time spent within our borders. “Apparently we’re going to get more tourist stuff done this time around—some scuba diving and fishing is on the cards, so I’m told. So really looking forward to getting down there and not just being at the hotel, airport and venue.”

Wellington fans can catch the bands first appearance in the windy city on Wednesday 3 March at the San Francisco Bathhouse, aptly supported by Auckland progressive outfit, Fornax Chemica.


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