Reviewed by Leo Kindred
The promotion of this event has been a billing of it as being a championship level bout, a clash between colossi. Meshuggah Vs. Devin Townsend Project. Roll up, roll up! Two titans in the extreme metal world meet in a tectonic level collision! Indeed.
Opening on this rumble in the jungle double-header, Meshuggah have become an established giant in the metal world. Carving a name out of bare concrete as a rhythmic, polymath juggernaut the success of their last record, coincidentally and aptly named Koloss, hammered home their reputation as being an influential by-word for heavy uncompromising music. And I don’t even like them that much. Djent isn’t my bag, it just isn’t, but it becomes clear that Meshuggah live owns whatever I thought of Meshuggah on record.
Vocalist Jens Kidman – raspy of growl, primal of posture, and sporting a Big Lebowski “The Dude Abides” t-shirt – lumbers around the stage, arms often spread like a hanging gibbon, and crisply snarls over the expertly delivered multi-chunk craziness. The crowd interaction is minimal but quite frankly the sound speaks for itself, and whilst it’s mostly around walking pace the ultra-low end sound is bowel-looseningly heavy. You get the impression you’re witnessing something beyond the realms of ordinary reason, some form of vast cosmic-chaotic vision; like when the Master in Doctor Who goes insane from being forced to look into a time vortex (except not as disappointingly boring and melodramatic).
Aside from the driving and elastic ‘Bleed‘ I couldn’t name any further tracks, but the blackhole-heaviness generally speaking veers from the energetic bizzarity of some numbers, to the eerie and disconcertingly erratic stumbling of others. I don’t understand the mathematics behind this, but the ability to incorporate such irrationality and complexity into a sound that seems so simple is to be praised in making for an accessible live show, even if you’re nodding along in the wrong time signature.
After the sober gravitas of Meshuggah, Devin Townsend seems something even more of an oddity than he already is, and the effect of having a selection of internet memes and toilet-humour on the big screen, before Townsend himself arrives, coming on waving and shouting “Hi!”, is akin to trekking for days through harsh deserted jungle and suddenly stumbling upon an upmarket hotel managed by a manically friendly frog.
After a round of commemorative applause and shouts of “SLAYER!” for the recently departed Jeff Hanneman, vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen, Devin’s now seemingly near-permanent collaborator, begins the show with vocal refrain for ‘Angel‘. From the beginning the sound quality is an issue. The bass from Ryan Van Poederooyen kick drums is over-powering, and whilst the blunt effectiveness of Meshuggah was served by the huge bass and volume, it interferes with the clarity of DTP’s style, making things muddy and too loud in general.
Sometimes this is not such a problem on some songs like ‘Kingdom‘, on ‘Juular‘ and ‘By Your Command‘ – there are times I struggle to hear the familiar nuances, not to mention it muscling out Anneke’s vocals and Devin’s comic segues. Despite this, and even a rather limited scope of song choices, weighted heavily on the recent Epicloud material, it can’t detract from a set that has ‘Deadhead‘ a warm glorious rhapsody to relationships and love, and the sinful boogie of ‘Bad Devil‘.
The evening finishes in a similar warm and glowy stylee.
After an encore of ‘Divine‘ 100 or so extras arrive on the platforms on stage to sing along to the life affirming lyrics of thunderer ‘Grace‘, all gospel choir arm movements and beaming grins. Despite the misgivings about the performance (and the tinnitus I’m still currently enduring) you can’t knock that, and this is probably Devin’s trump card, the power of positivity.
Even if things aren’t perfect, you come out smiling and feeling good.