Isis/Meshuggah 3rd March 2010
The iconic venue now known as the San Francisco Bath House on Cuba Street in Wellington has seen some great acts of late but not many with such heightened anticipation as that held on the 3rd March 2010. Isis and Meshuggah, two very established but somewhat unknown bands to hit the New Zealand shores, were set to blow the roof off.
Isis contrasted their powerful and atmospheric music with quieter gothic like passages and scary industrial influenced progressions. The dark contemplative energy of Isis belies a strong foundation in well-crafted song writing, both evocative and visionary. Huge rhythmical expanses of ambient sound captivated the audience. Isis evoked images of barren deserts and stormy oceans; textures many alternative bands endeavour to achieve with their music. Hints of Primus influence and driving rhythms like 1990 stoner rockers Kyuss, with an underflow of New Zealand sound in the vein of Jakob. This Los Angeles band has triumphed where many have failed, re-inventing and challenging themselves with abstract metal music that is epic and invigorating. Isis has an extensive back catalogue of releases and their latest album Wavering Radiant is the most commercially viable to date. With their progressive, dynamic and intricate music Isis, as a three-piece, executed challenging songs with practiced precision. Intense and rhythmically contagious, Isis' short but sweet set was well worth catching.
After waiting almost an hour, Swedish metal band Meshuggah finally took to the stage. Sporting a black eye singer Jens Kidman stared down at the crowd who responded with a loud cheer. Then, the furnace of Fredrik Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom's eight stringed guitars ignited in intense detuned mastery. Power-chords enveloped the air in huge sonic waves, harmonics phased in demonic brilliance. Off beats twisted the downbeat like a python snake contorting around its victim. Venomous vocals from Jens added fuel to the fire. His lyrics of vexatious contempt towards humanity were an elixir the audience savoured. Jens menaced the crowd with his dominating presence, hissing at and enticing them to participate in the intense polyrhythms. Time signatures the band has conquered with intricate precision and ferocity. Dynamic double bass drumming full of attack and straightforward 4/4 thrash on hi-hats and crash cymbals in perfect syncopation. The contrast between drummer Thomas Haake's limbs most apparent in the second song in the set, Bleed from the album Obzen, which was played in its entirety and had a third of the packed audience moshing. Thomas hit his Sabian crash cymbal so hard it bent. At times the guitarists would headbang in unison, or stand stoically monolithic, scowling at the crowd; creating the disconcerting feeling that violence was about to ensue. Bassist Dick Lovgren was solid! Meshuggah sculled beers between songs as the San Francisco Bath House bathed in a heat wave from sweaty bodies. Condensation dripped from the roof. Meshuggah has definitely found a niche sound, one that will hopefully continue to diversify and evolve. I look forward to catching their next tour down under.
Not for the faint hearted, this concert was everything a metal gig should be: loud, aggressive and intoxicating. Meshuggah's set was particularly powerful although on occasion it was threatened by over anxious stage divers. In general the crowd was well handled by a vigilant security team. Predictable scuffles in the mosh pit were inconsequential. The sound system was very suited to the music although volume levels were at times excessive and produced some good ear ringing. The professional bar staff were kept busy by thirsty customers in what is a fantastic venue in a great location.
Reviewer - River