Meshuggah and Zeal & Ardor
@The Royal Albert Hall, London
June 3rd 2022
Review and Photos by Elesha Jepson
When someone tells you Meshuggah are great live, you had better believe them. I went in a little sceptical as some say they have been making the same album over and over for a while now, but that scepticism quickly disappeared. The band are incredible live, the entire performance was made to seemed so effortless.
Meshuggah are a Swedish extreme tech-metal band forming in 1987 made up of Jens Kidman on lead vocals, Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal on guitars, Dick Lövgren on Bass and Tomas Haake on drums. Finding the band name from the Yiddish word for ‘crazy’, it is now one any metal fan will recognise. Well known for their polyrhythms and polymetered structured songs, the band have gained a dedicated, cult following over the years which was evident at the Royal Albert Hall.
Opening the show tonight was Zeal & Ardor, a Swiss avant-garde black metal band. As the band took to the stage the crowd erupted with excitement. Dressed in all black with hooded robes, the band began with ‘Intro’ followed quickly by ‘Church Burns’. The crowd were fired up quickly and everyone was clearly enjoying themselves. As the venue filled up the atmosphere increased dramatically, everyone was excited about the two insane performances that were to take place.
Upon the stage stood Manuel Gagneux (lead vocals, guitars, synthesizer and programming), Denis Wagner (backing vocals), Marc Obrist (backing vocals), Tiziano Volante (guitars), Lukas Kurmann (bass) and Marco Von Allmen (drums), all putting on an incredible performance, only stopping a few times to speak. No one in the venue stood still, this was a common occurrence throughout the night. “Why thank you. This is the last song before we fuck off and clear the stage for the all-mighty Meshuggah” Joked Gagneux as the impressive 17 song set came to a close, finishing off with “Baphomet”.
A 6ft bald man may be what you expect to see at a Meshuggah gig, just not one wearing a pale blue unicorn onesie. This was a sight to see, but when Meshuggah plays The Royal Albert Hall it seems like anything goes. Speaking of everything goes, during the pre-show playlist we were treated to some classical piano music and ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael along with a few other unexpected surprises.
As the crowd got prepared for the incredible performance a chant of ‘Meshuggah’ broke out, uniting the entire venue. As the band finally took to the stage the lights dimmed leaving the venue in almost complete darkness, Haake led the entrance followed closely by the rest of the band. Each took their place in front of screens which, when lit up, would create a silhouette of the performer. To open the incredible show was opened with ‘Broken Cog’ followed quickly by ‘Light The Shortening Fuse’.
With an insane lighting setup, it was very clear a lot of thought had gone into it. This was matched with the seemingly effortless playing from the band and the grandeur of the venue to make an unforgettable night. A mosh pit broke out in the middle of the crowd only a few songs in, carrying on all though with the energy of the crowd only growing, a sea of crowd surfers cascaded through the audience; one person, right at the front, was so enthusiastically head banging he had to be held down by security guards to ensure he didn’t fall over the barrier down the stairs.
Seven songs through the set, the band exited the stage. As ‘Mind’s Mirror’ plays through the speakers the backing curtain dropped to reveal a new one and banner boards were quickly put up ready for the band to re-enter only minutes later.
As the hour passed “This will be our last song…maybe,” Kidman announced before the band launched into ‘Straws Pulled At Random’. The song came to a close and the band exited the stage, the crowd stayed put, getting the earlier hint. Mimicking the opening, a chant of ‘Meshuggah’ broke out before the band took their places to play an incredible encore of ‘Demiurge’ and ‘Future Breed Machine’; but sadly the gig had to end at some point. Before exiting the stage members held up heart symbols with their hands, mouthed thank you to the audience and threw out drum sticks, picks and a drum head: showing their honest appreciation for everyone who turned up that night, huddling together the band took a photo with the crowd, thanked everyone again.
A powerful night of metal that will be almost impossible to beat.