I arrived at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana California at around 8 PM. Eyes of Fire took the stage a little after 8:15. At first I believed that Eyes of Fire were another standard metal band of the new millennium, all growls and screams, with the only variation in the music being slight rhythmic changes of the same three chords around the chorus. Happily this wasn't the case. Eyes of Fire certainly had their fair share of seeing how fast they could go, melody be damned! However, there were plenty of surprising moments in which the keyboard player (otherwise doubled over with head-banging) took over, filling the hall with rich sonic textures. During these moments the lead guitarist took over vocal duties from the Bass Player, adding a one octave higher, and more flowing voice. The result is a Mushroomhead-like sweeping sound that loses no part of the heavy nature of the other tunes. The best moments of the Eyes of Fire show were when the Bass Player and the lead guitarist harmonized their voices together to create a layered assault that keeps the listener guessing! At one point I thought I heard them scream "I love Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiist! I... Love... Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiist!" I'll have to check. If I heard wrong then I'm a-gonna write that song, man! Also I am delighted to state that the "Heavy Metal Image" died long ago. These guys were of varying weight and hairline, and cared much more about their music than about "The Look!" You might want to see them if your wet dream is a Mushroomhead tour with Dillinger Escape Plan. YYY
After another sound check, a new drum kit, and even more Marshall Stacks Strapping Young Lad seized the stage in a bloodless coup! I wasn't sure what to expect of a band with a name like "Strapping Young Lad" but among my mental images was of a gay, leather group, a Hoobastank style workout band, or a group of heavy metal women into bondage and discipline! None of these proved true, luckily (B&D Biscuits might have been nice though)! Instead Strapping Young Lad is a group of very heavy metal men whose music evokes memories of Overkill and old Metallica, with (at times) just a hint of "Surprise, you're dead!" era Mike Patton! The lead singer/ rhythm guitarist, Devin Townsend has an almost operatic wail that variably reminds one of Overkill (again) as well as Anthrax and Rob Halford. I'd love to comment on his lyrics, but I couldn't understand a word he said any more that I could understand Eyes of Fire. It was a good show though, interlaced with one thing that Eyes of Fire lacked: Humor! Townsend had some excellent one-liners here, including his addressing the audience, thanking "Both of you for coming!" Every so often Strapping Young Lad brought forth another of their influence... Hardcore. I could hear just a hint of Bad Brains in the mix, and it was welcome. Luckily "the look" remains dead. Michael Bolton called during the show and indicated that he wanted his hairstyle back! Strapping Young Lad did overstay their welcome by maybe one or two songs, but since the songs weren't bad, it was acceptable. More humor arose as Townsend indicated that he didn't care whether we liked them or not as they got paid either way! "Fuck you, goodnight!" he said at the end! You might want to see them if you get nostalgic for Overkill's Elimination and wonder when new material is coming out; you have always wondered what it might look like if Michael Bolton fronted Slayer! YYY
As good as these two bands were (and they were), I didn't go out for them. I went out for Sweden's favorite sons, Meshuggah. I was turned on to Meshuggah a little over a year ago by my oldest friend Jeff! Say what you will about my ignorance surrounding Tim Skold (I have my excuses) but I do my best to learn as much as possible about a band I get into. Jeff indicated that these guys were among the best (and heaviest) musicians he had ever heard. He was right. Meshuggah is the epitome of "polyrhythmic math metal!" Never before have I heard so many different courses and beats going on at one time. Destroy Erase Improve proves this conclusively, but no matter how good they sound on the disc, it's nothing compared to Meshuggah live! Meshuggah's entrance was in the pitch black of the Galaxy stage, when the music began the lights came up in as much of a machine gun start-stop as the music. Meshuggah has so many tempos at once that one practically needs a scientific calculator to keep up with what's happening next. The current crop of metal bands (and Eyes of Fire, and Strapping Young Lad are no exception) seem to shy away from guitar solos, either to break convention, or because they don't know what to do. The idea of lead versus rhythm guitar in many cases (right or wrong) is extinct. Meshuggah destroys that, throwing in scorching guitar solos with a completely different tempo than the other six or seven already going on (it almost feels like each member has his own internal chronometer). The solos are fast, but speed isn't the point, it's the proficiency. A Soundgarden ad from the Louder than Love era used the slogan "Speed doesn't kill, Impact does!" Hear hear. Meshuggah is able to handle both speed and impact with mechanical accuracy. If a single mistake was made all night, I certainly couldn't hear it!
If Meshuggah has any fault at all it's that they seem very attached to the style of music they do. Candiria for example is every bit as heavy as Meshuggah, but loves to bend genres, adding in Jazz and whatever else they can find. Meshuggah does no such bending. As the lead singer (Jens Kidman) stated to the audience "Rock and roll music is Good! Pop music is bad!" Meshuggah sticks to the formula that they do best. In defense of this, they have essentially created their own genre, and why should they borrow? They created it, they like where they live. Also, no one can claim that all Meshuggah's songs sound the same. They experiment with the formula of multiple rhythms and tempos at the same time on every song, but they never once do the same thing twice. Drummer Tomas Haake deserves much credit for hammering out so many rhythms at once!
Most importantly, this band obviously cared about what they were doing! They love their jobs, and want to give the best show they can! And they did. Jens Kidman's shaven head and David Boreanaz style of dress was almost as frightening as his grimaces and animalistic posture before the crowd. At times he almost seemed like a boss inspecting his employees to make sure they were doing their jobs of becoming one with the mechanical Asynchronous sonic build. He need not have worried! The Galaxy's strict "Absolutely no moshing!" policy was absolutely broken time after time! (In case you're wondering, I wasn't one of the Moshers! Those days are behind me, I'd say. Plus I'm a Sunday School teacher now, and I can't imagine explaining the bruises to my kids!) One fan did body surf to the stage though, and was thrown out by the security staff (though it wasn't before he was rammed straight into the lead guitarist)!
Mercifully, Meshuggah offered us a full encore! They then raised the level of the assault to the point that I was afraid the Galaxy's crystal chandeliers might fall into the Mosh Pit (not that it would have slowed them down). During this, Kidman showed his own sense of humor. When one female fan obtained the stage she began "doing the Robot" of all things. In response, he fell to his back and began to do break-dancing back-spins. He also loved to tease the seated people in the back (like me) stating "To all of you in the back, there's an after party after the show... and the people on the floor are invited!"
Meshuggah gave one of the best concerts I'd ever seen, and I'd recommend this show to be sure! Surviving a Meshuggah show should be a badge of honor I'd say. You might want to see them if you're a university Math Major; you're a fan of excellent music (or are a music student); you need to prove that rock isn't dead; you consider Nuclear Assault to be light rock easy listening! Four Stars for Meshuggah's tour in support of their Nothing album. If they were playing tonight, I'd see them again. Lastly, I'd like to point out one thing: Tickets were $17.50 including tax. For that I got to see three shows (almost three hours of music) plus I was given a free 18 track Sampler CD for Nuclear Blast America! Nearly 70 minutes of music (Including Meshuggah) for free. So as you can see, money should be no object... Meshuggah pays for itself, man!!! Okay, I'm off to see my ENT Physician! See ya in the next reel!
The original Lead Singer was named Roger Olofsson, however the current singer for Meshuggah is Jens Kidman! Great Singer!