Welcome to McMenamin's Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR. This gorgeous, multi-floored venue was the perfect setting for the destruction to come. It was here that I had the pleasure of fulfilling a lifelong dream of seeing Meshuggah live in all of their glory, and the added bonus of being utterly pummeled by new favorites Code Orange. If you have the opportunity to catch this tour, it is an absolute must. All bands were in top form with no dissapointment. So let's get into the acts...
Toothgrinder is a progressive metal band out of New Jersey currently signed to Spinefarm Records. They recently released their full length album, Phantom Amour, back in November and had the honor of kicking off the procedings. The group have a little Southern flair to the riffs as well as some sludge elements, and I must say that I could have taken pictures of the guitar player all night. Their energy was high on stage, and even though the crowd was sparse at this point they did an admirable job. I brought my brother-in-law along and he enjoyed them more than I did, but they had two tough acts to go up against. Solid opener, but the best was yet to come...
F#@king hell. Meshuggah, I'ma let you finish, but Code Orange had the best set of the night. Seriously. I've been a Meshuggah fan for almost twenty years and a Code Orange fan for only one...but they stole the damn show for me. With youthful angst and bodies not yet broken down by the weight of life on their side, they rivaled even my previous favorite performance of Taake.
For those living under a rock, Code Orange (formerly Code Orange Kids) is a metallic hardcore band out of Pittsburg, PA currently signed to Roadrunner Records. While their previous album I Am King helped to bring them some critical acclaim, it was last year's Forever that cemented them in many people's eyes as the next big thing. With seriously vicious vocals, neck-snapping low-end riffs, dark electronics, and even some grunge influences; this band slays in every possible way. There are those out there that seem to see this as hipster trash and a passing fad, but they are dead wrong. This live show was testament to that.
Every member of the band did their part to make each song go off without a hitch. They sounded just as good as they do on the record from Jami Morgan's double-duty crushing drums and hip-hop-meets-hardcore delivery to Eric Balderose's atmospheric synth additions and occasional death growls. The band played all of their hits, both new and old, including instant classics like "Forever" and "Bleeding Into The Blur," the latter further showcasing what an utterly imposing presence Reba Meyers is on stage despite her diminuative stature. She is not to be counted out.
This is a band that understands showmanship. Their movements on stage were captivating from start to finish: jumping, throwing kicks, and even doing some dramatic choreographed freeze poses during key moments in the music. Bassist Joe Goldman was particularly unpredictable and terrifying, repeatedly somersaulting into the crowd without warning and climbing between the barriers. He actually knocked me out of the way at one point as he made a beeline through the divider. When you see a dude his size with his bald head and epic beard coming your way, it's best to gtf out of the way.
Epic set. Amazing performances. Snapped some decent photos of the action below. Moving on...
The main event! I was beyond stoked to finally see these Swedish madmen hit the stage. The crew is signed to Nuclear Blast! and still (imo) going strong after all these years with more recent albums like Koloss and The Violent Sleep Of Reason. With a discography that I argue is more consistent than other longtime groups like Slayer, I am in awe of what Meshuggah is still capable of after nearly three decades as a band.
As tends to be the case with a big headliner, the crowd was champing at the bit as the lights went out to signal the band's triumphant walk onto the stage, led by the incredibly talented Tomas Haake. I was bummed that I didn't get any good pictures of Tomas, as he is arguably the lifesblood of Meshuggah's technical, polyrhythmic sound, but sadly the (admittedly cool) light show was placed in front of his kit in such a way to make my s#!tty photography pretty much impossible. Oh well. I could certainly hear his monstrous beats resonating through the bouncing third floor space.
The band kicked things off with "Clockworks," followed by an uninterrupted onslaught of deliciously groovey hits like "Do Not Look Down" and "Rational Gaze." And of course, the band let loose with fan favorite "Bleed," which I poorly attempted to capture live on our Facebook page. Standing no more than a foot in front of syncopated screamer Jens Kidman (pictured below) was a surreal experience for me. I'll admit to being a little starstruck and even having a corny "reach out and touch him!" voice scream out in my head. I restrained myself, but you have to understand that I've been listening to this band since high school and they have a special place in my heart as a result.
That spritual/historical connection came to a head when the band played their first encore, "Future Breed Machine." This was the first song I ever heard from the band, and among the first truly extreme and technical songs I had heard up until that point. I had previously been listening to a lot of Slipknot and metalcore, so I count hearing that song as a hugely formative experience for me as a metalhead. Hearing Meshuggah live playing those first squealing, off-kilter notes ring out over the initial blueprint of what would become known as "djent," was the closest to a time traveling experience I could ever hope for. I was transported back to my high school buddy's car, doing some aimless weekend driving back when gas prices permitted, and just jamming out to some new metal tunes we had probably pulled off of Napster.
Fast forward and here I am witnessing a massive crowd of people get destroyed by that same song; some feeling the same things as me, others hearing it for the first time. Pits repeatedly erupted and crowd-surfing was the norm. There were a handful of kids I saw make laps down the divider at least 5 times each, grinning from ear to ear as security escorted them back from their ride up to front stage. Rock on you kids. I'm getting too old and responsible for that s#!t, but it pleases me to live through their energy vicariously. Ultimately the band closed with more recent favorite, "Demiurge," a song whose every note and even music video are like an instruction manual for moshing. The crowd lost it, I banged my head, much fun was had by all.
Again, if this short tour is passing your way and you are on the fence about it, ABSOLUTELY GO. I enjoyed it so much that I made the effort to get this up just the morning after so that the few dates left wouldn't go unnoticed. The tickets aren't horribly pricey, and they are absolutely worth the value. Seeing such a diverse crowd fill a ballroom with fans from their teens to well into their 60's all enjoying the same music puts me over the moon. GO NOW!
Setlist: Clockworks, Born in Dissonance, Do Not Look Down, The Hurt, Rational Gaze, Pravus, Lethargica, Nostrum, Violent Sleep, Bleed, Strengah, Future Breed Machine, Demiurge
-Review by FlightOfIcarus
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