Meshuggah are returning to Australia for their first headlining show since 2008.
With the tour kicking off in under a week, drummer Tomas Haake says fans are in for a performance like never before.
The Swedish extreme metal pioneers’ past two visits to Australia in 2010 and 2012 were part of the Soundwave tour, but while festivals are a whole lot of fun, Haake says they are not exactly conducive to the metal experience.
“We’re not super fans of festivals,” reveals Haake, “especially if you’re playing in the day time. There’s nothing evil about being outdoors in the light,” he laughs.
After performing at Wacken in Germany this year for the first time, Haake admits while he hasn’t been to a festival as an attendee for many years, the concert is completely different.
“It definitely makes for a different vibe when you take it in doors and you can make it more of a show. We’re bringing our own lights so we can have a lightshow, and of course Lamb of God always bring heaps of shit so there’s definitely a big difference, especially visually.”
Meshuggah’s most recent Soundwave appearance in February 2012 showcased the new material from their latest, groundbreaking album Koloss, which was released the following month. Dealing with the fusion of religious doctrine and politics, the concepts underpinning Koloss could not be more relevant in light of Australia’s recent federal election, in which gay marriage – a prime example of the contention between religion and politics – was fiercely debated.
“It shouldn’t even be a question of whether gay people should have the right to marry,” says Haake. “To me, it’s just sad. Politics should never have anything to do with religion. They’re two very separate things and they shouldn’t ever intertwine but they do, worldwide.”
This violent interrogation of societal structures is echoed loudly among metal brethren, and Haake says the connection to the genre is no coincidence, but forms an intrinsic part of the metalhead psyche.
“Metal has always been a bit of an uproar against whatever your parents were about, or what their beliefs were,” Haake explains. “When you’re a kid you’re trying to do something different and that kind of rebellion has always been inherent in metal. That entails, in the music itself, a kind of questioning of the kind of upbringing you have had or the reflection of things around you.”
As Meshuggah lead the revolution in aggressive, rhythm-based metal and inspire literally swathes of bands around the globe, their unique sound continues to be carefully refined, and maturity has tempered the once boundless energy that drove the band’s earliest releases.
Haake began playing drums with Meshuggah in 1990 before the release of their debut album, Contradictions Collapse (1991), and says the biggest difference in their music is song structure – an amusing statement from a band renowned for their chaotic compositions.
“You learn to write for the song instead of for yourself,” says Haake. “Now we definitely put a lot more thought into the actual construction of songs and try to keep every song streamlined to get the best out of it without making it too confused.”
“When we were young we just wanted to hit everyone in the face and show everything that we’ve got in every part,” Haake explains. “If we listen back to our first album now, we all start laughing because you can hear that youthful energy. There’s just so much you want to be heard and to come out in each and every song that really, it makes the songs unlistenable because there’s just too much going on.”
Naturally, Haake says that over time his drumming style has improved too. Influenced in part by injuries sustained throughout his life, and concurrently by an overall “streamlining” of his performance, Haake continues to develop the setup of his kit and demonstrate why he is held in such high regard among the drumming community.
“We all get older, and over the years I’ve had issues with my forearms and my shoulders,” says Haake. “[The current setup] is more ergonomic. With just one big rack up in front of me it’s so much easier to have the second high hat and the china more easily accessible, rather than going so far out with my right arm.”
Returning in their most highly-evolved form yet, Meshuggah are a band nearly impossible to describe to those unfortunate enough not to have seen them live. A certain contender for concert of the year, Meshuggah are bringing their groove-laden aural assault to Australia this week with fellow Soundwave alumni and American heavyweights, Lamb of God. You can purchase tickets.