The Meshuggah/High on Fire 1-2 punch of skull-shattering heaviosity laid waste to NYC's Playstation Theater last night (11/3). This double bill, with no openers, was a smartly conceived showcase of two of my favorite flavors in heavy metal's complicated cornucopia of styles; the technically complex and mathematically precise polyrhythmic mayhem of Meshuggah, and the towering, monolithic sludginess of High On Fire. These two bands reside on wholly separate ends of the metal spectrum, and on paper this may have seemed like an odd pairing. But the pairing was a brilliant way of uniting what may have been a room full of disparate metal preferences.

High on Fire hit the stage just around 8pm and delivered a 10-track setlist that covered a lot of ground from their prodigious career. They kicked things off with the first two tracks of 2015's Luminiferous, starting with the thrashy "The Black Plot" and segueing into an incredible performance of the headbang-inducing anthem "Carcosa." From there they went into another thrashy crusher "Rumors of War" from 2007's Death Is This Communion, followed by "Serums of Liao" from 2012's De Vermis Mysteriis, "Slave the Hive" and "The Falconist" from Luminiferous, and more. The full setlist is below. I am no musicologist, nor do I have the scruples to dissect decades of metal and its myriad genres to put High on Fire into some sort of intellectual perspective. I am actually sort of a dimwit. But I do feel that, though they do live within the realm of sludge, doom, and stoner metal, it's their ability to change things up with thrashy masterpieces, and Matt Pike's status as a guitar God, that make them a truly special sight to behold and to hear live. To the uninitiated audience member, the setlist High on Fire unleashed last night was probably the best sales pitch they could have produced.

After a brief intermission that had the line to use the men's room practically stretching outside the venue, the mighty Meshuggah took the stage at about 9:30pm for what would be a career-spanning 13-song neckbreaker of a set that saw the band in absolutely top form. Touring in support of their latest masterpiece The Violent Sleep of Reason, Meshuggah blasted off with the first track of that album, "Clockworks" which, with its complex drum signatures, whining guitar wails, and low-end, polyrhythmic chug-chug guitar chunks, immediately had the venue swept into a roiling, headbanging mass of metal humanity. "Clockworks" is an absolute crusher, signature Meshuggah without feeling like caricature or rehash. From there they kept the momentum at a fever pitch and went straight into track two from Reason, "Born in Dissonance," which has an absolutely vintage Meshuggah feel to it. It's a little faster than usual and has a more pronounced guitar solo, and is still just a total crusher.

They followed these songs with monsters from further back in their catalogue: "Sane" from Chaosphere (1998), "Perpetual Black Second" and "Stengah" from Nothing (2002), Klaus favorite "Lethargica" from Obzen (2008), "Do Not Look Down" from Koloss (2012) and more. The big takeaway from last night's show is how well their new tunes stack up against their classics. In terms of intensity, heaviness, and signature Meshuggah twists, The Violent Sleep of Reason really is an incredible continuation of their already impressive catalogue. And as far as a live performance goes, Meshuggah have never sounded better. As I approach 40, I am amazed at how their sludge masterpiece Lethargica is still capable of getting me off my ass and into beast mode with a complete disregard for injury or what could happen to my glasses. My only complaint is that "Combustion" never made its way into the setlist, but otherwise it was a great night.

Check out the setlists below. Pictures are in the gallery above.

High on Fire : Playstation Theater : November 3, 2016
The Black Plot
Rumors of War
Serums of Liao
Slave the Hive
The Falconist
Fertile Green
Blood from Zion
Snakes for the Divine

Meshuggah : Playstation Theater : November 3, 2016
Born in Dissonance
Perpetual Black Second
Do Not Look Down
Violent Sleep of Reason
Dancers to a Discordant System

Future Breed Machine


photos by Greg Cristman

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