Meshuggah / A Complex And Captivating Bloodstock Headline Performance

Bloodstock 2023 – Saturday. Bloodstock, as a festival, has never veered away from giving bands who may not get more mainstream opportunities an opening, whether it is as a small up-and-coming band looking to make their way in the industry, or a more accomplished and settled act that needs that next step up, to show what they are really all about, and to show that they have the ability to move up to headline status. This is the case in question. Meshuggah have always leaned towards the extreme, alternative side of the Metal world.

Bloodstock – Meshuggah

So, all credit to Bloodstock for naming them as Saturday night headliners. Perhaps, it was controversial, and they may not have pulled as many fans as other headliners, but there were plenty who either were already sold to the cause or were prepared to see what it was all about and perhaps to find a new favourite band.

Meshuggah - Bloodstock Festival 2023.
Meshuggah – Bloodstock Festival 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

What was clear, though, was that Meshuggah were more than capable of making the step up to the headline slot. Like Killswitch Engage the night before, they owned the stage and were going to ensure that Derbyshire knew that they had arrived.

In the past, guitarist Mårten Hagström has been quoted as saying, “The band…stripped Metal down to the bare essentials before completely rebuilding it in a totally abstract form,” and that is actually a great analogy of the approach that Meshuggah take to their music.

It is as relevant now as it was when they started, way back when they released their first self-titled E.P. back in 1989.

Meshuggah - Bloodstock Festival 2023.
Meshuggah – Bloodstock Festival 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

The band make no pretence that their music is complex, and various musos have struggled to silo a title around them, naming them as Alt, Extreme, Prog, Thrash, Death, Technical Death, Groove and even Math Mmetal due to its complexity.

Quite honestly, if you can’t categorise a band, then don’t. Let their music speak for themselves. However, what is quite obvious over this weekend is how many other bands they have influenced and supported.

They took a chance by opening their set with not one but two songs back-to-back from their latest album, Immutable. Broken Cog, the first song from that album, was followed rapidly by Light The Shortening Fuse.

Yet, this set the level for the show to follow, with the band dipping into their widening catalogue of material from across their career. With songs such as Pravus [obZen] and Born in Dissonance [The Violent Sleep] in their catalogue, there was plenty for the adoring fans to feast upon.

Meshuggah - Bloodstock Festival 2023.
Meshuggah – Bloodstock Festival 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

At times they can come over as a cacophony, with the band appearing to be playing different songs or pieces simultaneously. However, when stripped down, it is clear that there is a definite progression built into their musical output.

It is fair to say that Meshuggah are not a band you are going to understand or identify with on a first listen. Because of the complexity of the structure surrounding their music, they need repeat listens, though even in the live environment, it was clear that there was a technical prowess and form to the complexity of their songs.

Meshuggah - Bloodstock Festival 2023.
Meshuggah – Bloodstock Festival 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

Because of the complex nature of the pieces, Meshuggah songs are not three-minute rock ‘n’ roll songs, and as such, the ninety-minute set comprised of thirteen songs. One highlight particularly was the combined track In Death – Is Life, which rolled into the extensive cerebral onslaught of In Death – Is Death.

The set closed out with Skull crushing, fan favourite Future Breed Machine from their second album, Destroy Erase Improve, and as soon as they seemed to have started, the set was over.

Meshuggah, as a band, have a very distinctive style and sound, and though not to everyone’s taste, it was very clear that they won over a whole host of new admirers following this set.

If nothing else, they are a band that will always give you something to think about.

Meshuggah - Bloodstock Festival 2023.
Meshuggah – Bloodstock Festival 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

Bloodstock Festival 2023 is held over the weekend of 10-13 August 2023. MetalTalk’s Paul Hutchings and Adrian Stonley report from Catton Park.

All Photography: John Inglis and Paul Hutchings

All MetalTalk Bloodstock Festival 2023 coverage can be found at  MetalTalk.net/tag/bloodstock-2023.

Weekend early bird tickets for Bloodstock 2024 will be available to purchase at the box office on-site for £165. This is the cheapest way to buy a 2024 ticket, minus any online booking or admin fees.

Bloodstock 2022 can be relived at MetalTalk.net/tag/bloodstock-2022.

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