Concert Review: Megadeth, Meshuggah, and TesseracT @StageAE Pittsburgh

Love him or hate him Dave Mustaine knows how to scorch on guitar, put together a killer band, and melt your metal face off when playing live.  The music of Megadeth has never been under question, but more of Dave’s attitude and his singing voice.  While Dave’s personality has not exactly calmed, his singing on their newest effort, Dystopia, is vastly more palatable to the ear.  Seeing Megadeth live can certainly change one’s opinion as well, for they play fast and hard and keep the crowd engaged the entire time.

Pittsburgh Setlist

Kicking off with Hanger 18, Dave and company blazed a path immediately, moving about the stage more than any band that preceded them.  Kiko Loureiro is one helluva guitar player, just burning up the fretboard and following in the footsteps of Megadeth’s greats, including Chris Broderick and Marty Friedman, which is no easy feat.  Of course the legendary and original Megadeth bassman David Ellefson was engaging and entertaining and drummer Dirk Verbeuren filled the shoes of recording drummer Chris Adler (Lamb of God) with perfection.  Adding to the show were excellent graphics on the giant screen behind the band.

The second half of the show was filled with Megadeth gems such as, “Sweating Bullets”, “Symphony of Destruction”, and “Peace Sells”, all crowd pleasers.  The performance, musically, from all four band members was impeccable.  Dave’s voice went in and out at times which may or may not have been a sound issue.

Combining Megadeth with the ultra heavy Meshuggah was not only brilliant tour planning, but a great gift to Pittsburgh.  The steel city does not often see the Swedish band and the number of concert goers who came out just to witness their ferocity was palpable.  Meshuggah has been around since 1987, a time when many of the crowd were in high school or college.  Currently touring their eighth studio record, THE VIOLENT SLEEP OF REASON, the band was very cognizant of playing a nice mixture of their history.

The unbelievable aspect of Meshuggah is their ability to replicate what is put to wax, live, and perfectly.  Any musician can tell you the complexity of Meshuggah’s material and that it is a major feat to pull it off in concert.  Add to that the brutal and guttural vocals of Jens Kidman and it becomes an even tougher equation. Watching Mårten Hagström and Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry), filling in for Fredrik Thordendal,  trade riffs was a clinic in metal guitar, playing so many strings it was dizzying.  The entire set was intense and mind blowing.  Also, getting to witness Tomas Haake throw down on drums was a special treat for he is definitely in the top five of metal drummers.  The seven song set (Clockworks, Born in Dissonance, Do Not Look Down, The Hurt that Finds You First, Violent Sleep of Reason, Bleed, and Demiurge)was a non-stop barrage of goodness.

TesseracT has been to Pittsburgh many times and the British prog metal band never disappoints.  Although not as “in your face” as the two main acts, TesseracT are extremely technical and melodically proficient.  They are a technically proficient band live, but maybe not the most exciting, although the crowd was very respectful (singer Daniel Tompkins’ words) and engaged.

All photos © 2017 AWeldingphoto

 

The Sword in Pittsburgh September 29th @StageAE with Opeth

The Sword is from Texas (Austin) and released their latest album, High Country, on August 21st to rave reviews. The band received great press from Village Voice, Revolver, Brooklyn Vegan, USA Today’s “Dad Rock”, Alternative Press, and many more. The album debuted at #14 upon release. The band is set to release the acoustic version of the release on September 23rd called Low Country.

 

The Sword Bio:

There’s an unspoken edict handed down through the ages when it comes to rock bands: there are no rules.

Nobody picks up a guitar to be constricted or oppressed. It’s all about feeling free artistically. Now, The Sword—John Cronise [vocals, guitar], Kyle Shutt [guitar], Bryan Richie [bass], and Santiago Vela III [drums]—cut out boundaries since day one. Their style never stood predicated on a trend or a template. They always create what feels right and let the results speak for themselves.

When it came time to record the group’s fifth full-length album, High Country [Razor & Tie], Cronise landed at something of a spiritual crossroads. Following the final tour for their critically acclaimed Apocryphon, he holed up in his North Carolina home and eventually began writing new songs. The material began to veer into a different space that at the time Cronise felt was somewhat outside of The Sword’s sphere.

“I didn’t even intend for the demos to be Sword songs,” he explains. “But then I realized that I had taken on a sort of limiting view of what The Sword was, and that wasn’t actually what I wanted it to be. I think the new album is more reflective of the music I listen to and where our heads are at collectively. With each of our albums, it’s become less about fury and bombast and more about trying to write good songs. We realized that our music can go wherever we want it to go. There’s no pre-determined course here now, and there never was.”

High Country became new territory for The Sword, and they began doing things differently. That approach included more attention to backing vocals and harmonies, implementing more synthesizers and percussion elements, and tuning to E-flat instead of all the way down to C. As a result, the guitars stand out as more vital and vibrant than ever.

“I felt like the low tuning had become more of a crutch than a tool,” he says. “It was all a matter of trying to keep things fresh, and not fall prey to habits or expectations. We wanted to break out of any classifications and just put out a good rock record.”

Inspired, the boys headed to Church House Recording Studio in Austin, TX to cut High Country with Adrian Quesada of Brownout and Grupo Fantasma producing, Stuart Sykes [The White Stripes] engineering, and J. Robbins mixing. Over the course of four weeks, they hammered out the album’s 15 tracks in the old converted church. Thematically though, Cronise’s head was still in North Carolina.

“There are a lot of lyrical themes that run throughout the album,” he explains. “I live out in the mountains, so nature really inspired the whole record. That’s a large part of the lyrics.”

The title track and first single “High Country” springs from a transfixing guitar melody into a sweeping refrain, illuminating the group’s inherent dynamics. Over those rolling riffs, the singer paints a thought-provoking topography.

“That was actually the first song I wrote that ended up going on the record,” he says. “The title can have quite a few meanings. Physically, it might mean mountains and literal high country, but it can also refer to a plane of being; a place of wisdom and enlightenment.”

“Empty Temples” opens with a psychedelic buzz that quickly ramps up into towering guitars and another robust vocal display evocative of rock’s golden age.

“It’s loose and swinging, but it has these epic moments,” says Cronise. “Lyrically, it’s about letting go of the past and moving on. You just have faith if you embrace change and be unafraid, and you’ll find where you need to go.”

The gathering storm of “Early Snow” eventually gives way to a rapturous horn section, another first for the band, while “Mist and Shadow” stirs up a haze of blues that’s instantly thunderous. “That song is based around riffs written by Bryan, which is a new thing for us. He contributed quite a bit of music to this album, and in many ways it’s our most collaborative work to date.”

Both “The Dreamthieves” and “Tears Like Diamonds” have titles inspired by the work of science fiction author Michael Moorcock, though Cronise insists the lyrics have lives of their own. “I’d prefer to let people interpret the songs how they want,” he says, “which is one reason the lyrics aren’t printed in the album sleeve this time. I think they’re pretty intelligible and accessible, and I didn’t want them to distract from the music.”

The Sword’s impact continues to expand. 2012’s Apocryphon debuted at #17 on the Billboard Top 200, marking their highest entry on the chart. Since first emerging with 2006’s Age of Winters, the group has been extolled by everyone from Rolling Stone and The Washington Post to Revolver and Decibel. Metallica personally chose them as support for a global tour, and they’ve earned high-profile syncs in movies including Jennifer’s Body and Jonas Åkerlund’s Horsemen. However, High Country is the band’s biggest, boldest, and brightest frontier.

“I want to make positive, uplifting music,” Cronise leaves off. “High Country has moments of darkness and thoughtfulness, as anything I write probably will. But at the end of the day I want to put smiles on people’s faces.”