Meshuggah and High on Fire Live at LA’s The Novo
Words by Jason Roche
Meshuggah’s U.S. tour with openers High On Fire delivered few surprises when it rolled through The Novo in Los Angeles on October 19. The question of how many songs Meshuggah would play from their latest record, The Violent Sleep of Reason - released earlier this month – was the only source of suspense for concertgoers heading into the show.
The 8pm start time allowed fans of both bands plenty of time to fight Los Angeles rush hour traffic. High on Fire played to an at least half-capacity crowd by the time they took the stage. Meshuggah fans expelled energy via the moshpit in a carefree manner, knowing that with the headliner being off the stage by 11PM, they had a fighting chance at a reasonable night’s sleep before work the next morning.
High on Fire’s musical racket sounded monstrous in the larger 2,300-capacity concert hall. Matt Pike’s throaty rasp sounded rough and world-weary with age. The hour-long set focused on material from more recent High On Fire albums. Those looking to jam out to favorites from albums such as 2005’s Blessed Black Wings were out of luck.
With High on fire, Meshuggah continued their pattern of selecting openers that differ from themselves stylistically, much like Tool did with them during the Nothing era. Baroness opened for them on the U.S. tour supporting Koloss. One could see a visible divide between fans of both bands – typically shaggy-haired dudes with facial hair – and those who just killed time and nursed their drinks until Meshuggah took the stage. As a result, High on Fire played to a lower-energy audience than at most of their headlining shows.
Meshuggah fans that conserved their energy during High on Fire’s set erupted when the headliner took the stage. Meshuggah has avoided oversaturating themselves in the American market. Since they typically only tour the U.S. once per album, Meshuggah concerts remain heavily anticipated events. If you wanted to get a closer view and not get barreled over by a tornado of moshers, the approximately 75%-filled room was a tough spot to find room for a safe space. When security capped the number of people allowed access to the proper pit area in front of the stage, Meshuggah fans took it upon themselves to create their own pits on the next level up from the main floor.
Meshuggah delivered their sonic force in the live setting with the same amount of ruthless precision as their recorded output. An intense moving strobe-light show and creepy backlit scrims featuring artwork from the new album accompanied the band. Vocalist Jens Kidman eschewed stage banter other than a quick “thank you and good night” at the end of the evening. The band provided plenty of energy live, but overall Meshuggah kept the focus of the show on the riffs and time changes they throw at their listeners.
Four songs out of the ninety-minute set came from The Violent Sleep of Reason. The rest of the set spanned their career with the exception of their 1991 debut Contradictions Collapse, which they usually ignore, and 2005’s Catch 33, which they had been showcasing more in recent years. Drumkit from hell or no, Meshuggah once again overpowered the imitators with an assault-weapon level firepower and sniper-like precision that is unique to their erratic din.
– Jason Roche
High on Fire
All photos by Levan Tk. Follow Levan on Instagram at @levan_tk