CONCERT REVIEW: MESHUGGAH, IN FLAMES & WHITECHAPEL Unleash Musical Chaos at History, Toronto (December 14th, 2023)

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The year is quickly drawing to a close, but there’s still time for a few concerts in Toronto before we wrap things up. Last Friday, it was time for us to witness a barrage of notes and a million time signatures, provided by Whitechapel, In Flames, and Meshuggah.

The show was the second to last of the 19-day trek, and the first to sell out when the tour was announced. Luckily for the 2,500-strong crowd, all three bands delivered. The History was transformed into a den of noise ferocity, as these metal giants joined forces to deliver an unforgettable night of pure, unadulterated metal madness.

Kicking off the night with a ferocious display of deathcore mastery, Whitechapel left an indelible mark on the audience from the very first note. The Tennessee-based band’s unparalleled energy and bone-crushing breakdowns had the crowd moshing and headbanging in unison. Phil Bozeman‘s guttural vocals were nothing short of spine-chilling, adding a layer of intensity that set the tone for the rest of the evening.

The concert opened with “Let Me Burn,” an absolutely ferocious track. The crowd erupted into a frenzy as Bozeman‘s growls reverberated through the venue, accompanied by the thunderous rhythms and razor-sharp guitar work that define Whitechapel‘s signature sound. The stage was bathed in an ominous red glow, creating a fitting atmosphere for the sonic onslaught that was about to unfold.

Photo by Joel Barrios

The band seamlessly transitioned into “Forgiveness Is Weakness,” a track that showcased the band’s ability to blend brutality with melodic undertones. The interplay between Ben Savage and Alex Wade‘s guitar work provided a dynamic backdrop for Bozeman‘s versatile vocal range, ranging from savage roars to haunting cleans. The crowd swayed in unison, caught in the ebb and flow of the music’s emotional currents.

One curious detail about the audience on the floor is that it was voluntarily split into three levels: the nosebleed section, with those who were fighting for every millimeter to be closer to the stage, the circle pit, which grew larger at every song and included a hilarious guy with a banana costume, and the back portion, composed of older metalheads and/or couples, with a few girlfriends probably thinking “what the hell am I doing here?”.

Photo by Joel Barrios

“Brimstone” followed, delivering an unrelenting barrage of blast beats and crushing riffs. The intensity of the performance reached new heights as the band dove into this relentless assault. The crowd, now fully immersed in the maelstrom of sound, responded with frenetic energy, creating a symbiotic exchange between the stage and the audience.

As the set continued, Whitechapel demonstrated their versatility with “We Are One,” a track that showcased a more anthemic and atmospheric side of the band. The melodic interludes provided a brief respite before plunging back into the sonic abyss with “A Bloodsoaked Symphony.” The intricate guitar harmonies and punishing breakdowns showcased their technical prowess and mastery of their craft.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Closing out the night with “The Saw Is the Law” – the only song in their set to feature a guitar solo – Whitechapel left a lasting impression on the audience. The song’s frantic pace and unyielding aggression brought the concert to a cathartic climax, leaving the crowd in a state of exhilarated exhaustion.

Following Whitechapel‘s energetic set, In Flames took the stage with their melodic death metal prowess, to the pre-recorded sound of “The Beginning of All Things That Will End”. The Swedish veterans showcased a perfect balance of aggression and melody, mixing classic tracks with newer material. Anders Fridén‘s vocals soared above the intricate guitar work, creating a landscape that resonated with both longtime fans and those new to the In Flames experience. The band’s stage presence was electrifying, and the synchronized light show heightened the visual and auditory experience, creating an immersive atmosphere that captivated the crowd.

Photo by Joel Barrios

In Flames played twice in Toronto in 2022 – first as part of Megadeth and Lamb of God’s touring package in May, and then as headliners in September. They have developed a cult following around town, and it seems the love is reciprocated. Anders said multiple times on stage that they love Canada, and some of their members even own a bar in Gothenburg named 2112, as a tribute to Rush. This was no ordinary occasion for the Swedes because they were showcasing not only the new album “Foregone”, but also presenting a revamped lineup, with touring bassist Liam Wilson making their debut in the city as part of In Flames.

The show kicked off with the haunting and atmospheric “Foregone Pt. 1”. The ethereal melodies and intense vocals immediately captivated the young crowd. Overall, the demography of the night consisted of teens and mid to late 30’s, which by today’s standards in metal can be considered quite refreshing. Aside from the artists who were part of the lineup, the bands most represented in the shirts were Tool and Motörhead – how’s that for variety?

Photo by Joel Barrios

“Deliver Us” followed, showcasing In Flames‘ ability to fuse melodic and electronic elements with heavy riffs. The crowd responded with enthusiastic headbanging, fully immersed in the sonic attack and singing the chorus. The transition into “Darker Times” brought a change in mood, with its brooding atmosphere and poignant lyrics creating a captivating contrast.

As the set progressed, the band treated fans to a mix of old and new favorites. “Everything’s Gone” and “All for Me” demonstrated the band’s evolution over the years, incorporating a more modern sound while still retaining the signature In Flames intensity and bringing in hardcore elements. The classic “Behind Space” had the die-hard fans in the audience roaring with approval, a nod to the band’s early days. The momentum continued to build with “Cloud Connected,” a track that seamlessly blended electronic elements with ferocious guitar work. The crowd’s energy reached a peak during “State of Slow Decay,” an unstoppable barrage of heavy riffs and thunderous drums.

In Flames then shifted gears with “The Mirror’s Truth,” a melodic masterpiece that showcased the band’s versatility. The emotionally charged “I Am Above” followed, with Fridén‘s commanding stage presence and powerful vocals leaving an unforgettable impact on the performance. The set reached its climax with the timeless anthem “Take This Life.” The venue erupted into chaos as the crowd moshed and sang along with unbridled enthusiasm. In Flames delivered the song with raw intensity, leaving fans craving more. The now veterans proved once again why they are a force to be reckoned with in the world of metal.

Photo by Joel Barrios

As the night progressed, anticipation reached a fever pitch for the headlining act. The PA system alternated hard-hitting numbers such as AC/DC’s “Let Me Put My Love Into You” and local boys Danko Jones“I Think Bad Thoughts” with oddities like Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration”. Curiously, George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” was the intro song for Meshuggah to enter the stage.

The pioneers of the djent movement did not disappoint. Meshuggah‘s performance was a mind-bending journey into the depths of polyrhythmic complexity. The precision and technical proficiency displayed by each member were nothing short of awe-inspiring. Tomas Haake‘s drumming was an assault on the senses, perfectly complemented by Fredrik Thördendal and Mårten Hagström‘s intricate guitar work. The setlist spanned their illustrious career, leaving no stone unturned and satisfying fans of all eras.

The show kicked off with the jagged intensity of “Broken Cog”, with each member staying static in front of red, luminous squares with a humanoid figure on fire. This was a sight to behold, and the difference in production values between the other bands in the bill was staggering. They wasted no time delving into classics, unleashing the frenetic energy of “Rational Gaze” and the relentless precision of “Perpetual Black Second.” The crowd was instantly thrust into the sonic maelstrom, captivated by the band’s intricate rhythms and mind-bending polyrhythms.

Photo by Joel Barrios

The light show that accompanied the Swedes’ performance was a visual spectacle in itself, enhancing the auditory assault with a mesmerizing display of colors, patterns, and synchronized strobes. The synchronized movement of colors added an extra layer of intensity to their already overwhelming sound, creating an immersive experience that left the crowd in a state of awe. Honestly, this is a show worth bringing sunglasses to.

“Born in Dissonance” and “Ligature Marks” demonstrated the ability to combine punishing heaviness with intricate musicality. The lighting really made a difference on the former, with yellow and red strobe lights pulsating to the beat of the song. The haunting atmosphere of “The Abysmal Eye” added a layer of depth to the performance, showcasing the band’s dynamic range.

Meshuggah’s show can be defined as a tale of two acts. The second act was brought by the piped-in version of “Mind’s Mirrors”, which was followed by “In Death – Is Life” and “In Death – Is Death.” These compositions displayed the band’s experimental edge, as they explored complex musical landscapes, inviting the audience into a trance-like state. The set continued with “Humiliative,” a barrage of sonic complexity that kept the intensity at its peak. They then launched into the fan-favorite “Future Breed Machine,” a track that ignited a frenzy among the crowd with its thunderous grooves and unrelenting aggression.

Photo by Joel Barrios

As the concert reached its zenith, Meshuggah delivered the quintessential “Bleed.” The sheer technical brilliance and rhythmic complexity of the track left the audience in a state of musical bliss. The night concluded with the powerful “Demiurge,” leaving everyone in a state of catharsis.

Meshuggah‘s performance was a testament to their unparalleled musicianship and innovation. The setlist, carefully curated to showcase the band’s evolution over the years, provided a visceral experience for fans old and new. The intense energy, coupled with the band’s unwavering precision, made this concert a sonic journey that will resonate in the minds of those fortunate enough to witness the group in all their live glory.

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