This is a past event.
When: Tue., May 15, 6 p.m. 2012
Price: $30, $27.50 in advance
What Donald Barthelme was to postmodern short fiction in the 80s, Swedish five-piece Meshuggah is to progressive death metal in the 10s—each has inspired a legion of talented imitators whose failure to approach the idiosyncratic power of the original only enhances its reputation. The practitioners of the young subgenre half-jokingly called "djent" (after Meshuggah's distinctive guitar tone) have a handle on the basics—down-tuned eight-string guitars, tricky time signatures, riffs that feel like they've been mapped out on a fine grid—but just like all the little Barthelmes in the writing workshops of yore, they can't get those tools and techniques to add up to an emotional effect. Meshuggah's seventh full-length, the new Koloss (Nuclear Blast), simplifies the moving parts of the band's perversely alien music—often by making them bigger and heavier, so that they swing slowly enough for you to decode their patterns. The groove of "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion" sounds like a nest of massive eccentric gears milled from blocks of gray extraterrestrial metal, driven by a chain that slips—but drummer Thomas Haake superimposes a regular snare backbeat on that unparseable rhythm (which, of course, he's also playing). Most of the galloping "Swarm" rides on two equally weighted pulses, with four beats of the central riff played against three beats of the four-four meter that provides the backbeat—and it's equally easy to follow either, in part because Jens Kidman's vocals land on accents in both. This technique of suspending the listener between competing meters helps to create the special Meshuggah kind of tension—the exact midpoint between paralyzing anxiety and ecstatic trance. And when the band discharges that tension with a song where everything pulls in the same direction—the blistering jackhammer swing of "The Demon's Name Is Surveillance," for instance—you suddenly understand what it must feel like to be water that's coming to a boil. —Philip Montoro Baroness and Decapitated open.

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