On the Front Line: Meshuggah & The Black Dahlia Murder at Hammerstein Ballroom, May 16, 2019

There is something special about that Hammerstein Ballroom that forever associates it with New York City. It’s cavernous and gorgeous when empty, but becomes a very different place when the lights are low and the crowds roll in. And when the pit opens up, the floor rumbles like a 1 train thundering down the tracks. That said, there could be no better place to welcome metal legends Meshuggah and The Black Dahlia Murder to the Big Apple. As one of a select few East Coast/Midwest dates shared by both bands, Alternative Control was On the Front Line!

With no local support for the night, The Black Dahlia Murder were the first to take the stage. Leading off with back to back cuts from their latest album, Nightbringers, the clock was then set back sixteen years with a performance of “Contagion” off 2003’s Unhallowed. “I want to see the bottom of all your cool shoes jumping for this one!” commanded vocalist Trevor Strnad before launching into “Malenchantments of the Necrosphere.” Another couple blast (beats?) from the past, 2005’s Miasma was featured through the title track and “Statutory Ape.”

The title track from Nightbringers segued into the anthemic “What A Horrible Night to Have Curse” off 2007’s Nocturnal. Living up to its namesake, “On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood” from 2011’s Ritual witnessed crowd surfers set sail over some two thousand fellow headbangers. With a heartfelt thank you to fans and the almighty Meshuggah on their last day of tour (both bands were set to play separate days at the Chicago Open Air Fest), the carnage came to an end with “Everything Went Black.”

After knocking back a few brews and singing George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” played over the PA during changeover, a hush fell on the crowd as the house lights faded to black. Those who had not seen Meshuggah before hopped in place with excitement. Those who had seen/survived them prepared themselves for the intensity about to unfold.

Breaking the darkness with blinding strobe lights, “Pravus” from 2008’s classic obZen gave way to the Earth shaking “Born In Dissonance” off 2016’s The Violent Sleep of Reason. Slowing down the tempo while continuing to dial up the intensity, “Rational Gaze” was the first of three track from 2002’s Nothing.

As the opening notes to “Future Breed Machine” off Destroy Erase Improve rang like an alarm from Hell, everyone prepared for the all out war the song has instigated since 1995. We returned to Nothing with performances of “Stengah” and the fan favorite “Straws Pulled At Random,” before being treated to more recent cuts including “Clockworks” and “The Violent Sleep of Reason.” Unsatisfied with letting anyone leave the venue in any manner above a weak crawl, the Swedish tech-titans closed out the set with a spine shattering performance of “Bleed” and “Demiurge” off obZen and 2012’s Koloss respectfully.

While so many concert packages are comprised of at least four or five bands these days, it is amazing what you can do with just two of the right bands. Now if only you could reset bones post-concert with just two of the right aspirin…

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