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Every genre of music has their legendary bands, that created a sound that could not be put into a box of pre-existing music. The Beatles gave us the British Invasion that brought a new style of rock n roll to the masses. Black Sabbath are the god fathers of metal and laid the foundation for all future metal to come after them. Eddie Van Halen with Van Halen basically reinvented how the guitar could be played. One style of music that is not a household name but is held to a high degree of love is that of Djent. Mixing palm muting of the strings and syncopated playing, another new style of music was invented. The creator of Djent has been Fredrik Thordendal of the Swedish extreme metal band Meshuggah. I finally had my chance to see this innovator for myself on the first stop of their North American tour down in San Diego. Bringing with them two other power houses in the metal community: In Flames & Whitechapel. As the line rounded multiple blocks with fans ready to go crazy, I waited to see what Meshuggah had in store live.

Even before the opening band could hit the stage, SOMA was already packing in the fans who were making sure they showed up for every band this night. Whitechapel knew how to get the show started with their song “Let Me Burn.” Vocalist Phil Bozeman is notorious for his low guttural vocals that have helped define the band. As Phil paces the stage glaring into the crowd with visceral intensity, the audience fed it right back to him with how crazy they screamed. One of the most unique aspects of Whitechapel to me is that they unconventionally use three guitarist. That of Ben Savage on lead guitar, Alex Wade on rhythm guitar, and Zach Householder on third guitar. The three men know how to layer their playing to help each other shine, while creating some of the crunchiest melodies. Drummer Brandon Zackey manipulates the beat of the crowd by blasting them with lightning fast double bass kicks. Only elevated by bassist Gabe Crisp playing in perfect sync. The crowd roared in tandem with Whitechapel for songs like “Forgiveness is Weakness,” “Brimstone,” “I Will Find You,” “A Bloodsoaked Symphony,” and ending with “The Saw is the Law.” There was no way the show could have started with any less energy than what Whitechapel brought. The crowd was fired up, and ready for more.

Up next is a band that I have most recently gotten into, In Flames. Another band tonight that hails from Sweden, showing that the Swedish know how to create ever lasting metal music. Vocalist Anders Fridén has the perfect duality in his voice to change from clean melodic singing to harsh guttural screams. Many modern metal vocalists have named him as a big inspiration for how they scream, and here I am getting to take in this pioneers’ abilities. Lead guitarist Björn Gelotte knows how to make a Gibson Les Paul shred. Sometimes it takes a classic guitar to really exemplify that a master of their craft can pull out any kind of music on their axe of choice. The Legendary Chris Broderick has played with many iconic bands, but seeing him play with In Flames, he fits right in. Playing off Björn’s leads and making them float through the venue with grace and melody. All the while drummer Tanner Wayne is being a technician behind the kit, maneuvering his playing to create groove, vibe, and blast beats that let the crowd go crazy. Throughout In Flames set Anders kept calling for the crowd to go even crazier, as he wanted to see the start of this tour kick off with a bang. During “I Am Above” I feel the crowd finally gave him what he wanted, as one after another crowd surfers came hurling over the barricade. Their set also included bangers like “Foregone Pt. 1,” “Pinball Map,” “Darker Times,” “Everything’s Gone,” “All For Me,” “Behind Space,” “Cloud Connected,” “State of Slow Decay,” “The Mirror’s Truth,” and ending with “Take This Life.” In Flames kept the fire burning that was brewing in the fans of SOMA who only wanted to let that fire rage even more.

It was finally time for the djent creators and the extreme metal pioneers known as Meshuggah. I’ve heard from many a friend that a Meshuggah show can have some of the most chaotic and heavy hitting fans of the metal scene. It wasn’t just the band I was excited to see, but the fans had a lot to live up to. Neither disappointed one bit. Opening the night with “Broken Cog,” the band stepped on stage cloaked in darkness. As the song kicked into gear, these panel boxes lit up behind each member casting a gloomy silhouette of the band. Vocalist Jens Kidman did not fail to excite the crowd with his guttural voice, almost sounding like he’s just straight screaming at us. Dual guitarists Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström show off what a djent band is supposed to sound like. Even though the style consists of a lot of palm muting of the strings, both men can pull out tone and variety to their playing. Bassist Dick Lövgren crafts more groove infused base lines. While drummer Tomas Haake is waltzing behind the kit with the way his feet handle the double bass. As a first since 2019, the band played their iconic hit “Bleed” which starts by Tomas playing a herta pattern on the kick. This pattern creates a gallop type sound effect that forces the fans in the audience to get the mosh moving crazier than it has been all night. We got a few other notable first being the inaugural show of the tour, with the band playing “Perpetual Black Second” for the first time since 2017, “Electric Red” for the first time since 2011, “and “Humiliative” for the first time since 2009. The other songs included “Rational Gaze,” “Born in Dissonance,” “Ligature Marks,” “The Abysmal Eye,” “In Death – Is Life,” “In Death – Is Death,” and ending with “Demiurge.”

The fire inside the crowd started by Whitechapel, was only enhanced by In Flames, and by the time Meshuggah finished their set the crowd was ready to burn the place to the ground. Even with this being a November show, and the air blowing with a cool crisp breeze, not a single person left the venue dry. The ferocity, the tenacity, and the energy that the crowd brought to SOMA caused everyone to drip in sweat for these icons of metal. I truly see why so many people hold Meshuggah up to such a high standard of quality. They create and craft such a unique presence for themselves that truly must be experienced live to take in the true power of their music.

Matt Martinez

Editor - Orange County

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