This Halloween I realised that as I approach my 30s, the prospect of having to find a costume, find a party, find friends to go with, and probably getting too drunk and not really having enough fun to match the hype just doesn’t appeal to me the way it used to. I don’t want to be stuck at work either, because the idea of watching everybody else have the fun I don’t get to be having is just as bad, if not worse. First world problems, am I right? Anyway, I figured going to see a metal show would serve as a happy medium, and luckily Meshuggah and High on Fire’s joint venture rolled in to Montreal’s Metropolis theater right on schedule.
There were a few denizens of the night dressed in spooky costumes, though by and large metalheads are scary enough looking that this may not even have been Hallow’s Eve related. High on Fire, for their part, were dressed in their usual garb; Matt Pike was rocking his shirtless beer gut (see the photos for evidence) and tattooed arms, while the other two members wore t-shirts and jeans. Way to get into the spirit, guys. Just as I was beginning to notice the pungent odor of marijuana in my immediate vicinity, Pike stated “I’m smelling weed in here. The fuck’s wrong with you? This song is about weed.” They then proceeded to play “Fertile Green” which is, you know, about weed. Due to the pummelling attack from the rhythm section of Des Kensel on drums and Jeff Matz and his overdriven bass, High on Fire sound twice as heavy live as they do recorded, and the Metropolis was the perfect sized room to showcase their huge doom metal jams. There were those in the crowd who probably woke up with some seriously sore necks after head banging to their closing number “Snakes for the Divine.”
When it was time for Meshuggah to take the stage, the room went pitch black and a relative silence fell over the crowd while discordant sirens rang from the stage. And then the sky fell. The chaos that Meshuggah rained down upon us, from the opening notes of “Clockworks” through to the end of the set, was absolute. No less than 24 lights (there were probably more, it was honestly very hard to count in between all the seizures), all flashing in varying colors, were timed in sequence to every ridiculous punch in this force of nature of a death metal band’s music. If you don’t know what Meshuggah sounds like, our boy Jason Greenberg does a pretty good job of describing it in his review of their latest release The Violent Sleep of Reason. Their music is kind of similar to being beaten over the head with a hammer in Morse code, but like you also get a chocolate bar. Also, here’s a video of their light operator doing his thing; it’s pretty crazy. The band did not address the crowd, save for vocalist Jens Kidman offering a greeting of, “Good evening, Montreal.” Between songs they remained shrouded in darkness. During “Bleed”, the way the red lights flashed across the stage – which was set to a backdrop of various pieces of their latest album’s cover art – made it look like the walls were actually bleeding. They didn’t perform an encore, since drummer Tomas Haake (who is probably a cyborg, I haven’t confirmed this but I’m almost positive it is impossible for a human being to drum the math that he drums) informed us that Kidman was suffering from a bad cold and was no longer able to perform. They left us with deep apologies and a promise of a stronger return the next time around. Still, no one could have walked away saying that Meshuggah and High on Fire didn’t bring it, and all in all this was probably my favourite Halloween in recent memory.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson