The Industrial Metal genre was never something that I paid much attention to or even called myself a fan of even though I had enjoyed some of the tunes I heard over the years from some of the scene's biggest providers. The name that everyone immediately calls to mind when it comes to this sound is the band Ministry and this is largely because they spearheaded the genre when they were founded some 27 years ago by Al Jourgensen. He has directed and guided a number of different lineups over the years but without the ideas that he first brought to the table there would be no blueprint to follow by bands like Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park and many, many others. They have established a cult status that still packs a venue when they come to town to play and when an album is released it does well among the genres demographic. Despite all of this it was never my thing and while friends were always excitable about them I was mostly only curious about what I was missing. The NYC show that was happening tonight was the perfect chance to dig into the band and rather historic because they were calling it the "C U La Tour", as Jourgensen has decided to stop touring and recording with his iconic act. The other reason I wanted to hit the show was because the dates were the only US appearances of the mighty Meshuggah for the year and that was unbelievable to me. Hemlock would start the night off but we didn't get a chance to see them. Here is how some of the action took place.
Meshuggah: For the show I was on the Meshuggah list and felt lucky to get a place inside as the event was sold out for months in advance. Given the fact that there were two shows so I was a little surprised to find both selling out completely. Yet when you have the kind of following that Ministry has one should expect this a little and that's totally good for moral knowing you are playing to a full house. Meshuggah had recently realized the stunning "Obzen" on Nuclear Blast Records and while it was a couple of years since they had toured over here or released an album I am happy to report that it was worth the wait on both accounts. The band hit the stage with an electricity and intensity that they are used to doing on a regular basis but there was a downside to be experienced tonight because you see the band was performing in almost complete darkness. This made it impossible to snare photos of them from the permitted area while everyone behind the security barrier popped off shot after shot with their cell phones or little cameras – oh well, you can't win them all. Right off the bat the bands sound was impeccable and it was tight and energetic which I loved but the band was also practically on top of one another based on the setup of the Ministry gear behind them. This arrangement left no room for the members of the group to move around or even get into it a little more themselves. Lead singer Jens Kidman was confined to a small space off to the side of drummer Tomas as opposed to having a little room to be mobile, and if you have ever seen Meshuggah perform before you know how into the track he often gets as a singer. The lack of space took away from some of the visual excitement that Meshuggah is capable of delivering and that aspect really annoyed me. After all, we were not dealing with some unsigned band with a demo out but instead Meshuggah, a band who has influenced almost every Technical Metal band on the scene today. To make matters worse their songs would only number eight and before you even got yourself fully immersed in what they do, they were done and gone. While I am sure that this was a great gig for Meshuggah, I definitely know that I can speak for their fans and say that all of the surrounding issues made this more of a disappointment than something cool. As I glanced around the crowd at The Fillmore, I noticed a great deal of space in the room which to me meant that the hard core Ministry fans didn't care enough about Meshuggah to arrive on time. Clearly their loss without a doubt.
Pete Pardo-prior to the show we had a chance to chat with Meshuggah guitarist Marten Hagstrom on their tour bus, and the guitarist was very excited about this tour with Ministry. "We are so happy to be out on the road with Ministry", exclaimed Marten, "they've been very good to us, and their fans have welcomed us each night so far." When asked whether the hardcore Ministry fans have been aprehensive once Meshuggah hit the stage, he replied "well yeah, initially, but once they give us a chance they quickly see what we are all about and get into the set.". The topic of the new album Obzen came up, and I asked Hagstrom how the band feels about the heaping amount of praise that has come in the wake of the CD. "Well, sure, we love the fact that the fans and the metal press like the CD, but you know, we always make records for ourselves, and Obzen was no different, but it's always nice when everone likes what we do. This time around, we wanted to move away from the more epic, concept type thing that we did on the last two records and get back to a more song based approach. I think it worked!" I commented that the songs on the new album, while extremely heavy, have lots of groove and the plenty of the trademark Meshuggah bottom end. Marten stated "Yeah, the album does, but we always try to make sure that our songs have that quality. Even though some of the stuff is pretty intense and complex rhythmically, it's great that listeners can feel that groove. Rehearsing these songs for the tour was a lot of fun!" I also asked him about the return of the guitar solos on Obzen, which he replied "Yeah, Fredrik (Thordendal) managed to fit in some pretty wicked solos on this one, something he hasn't done on the last few CD's. Funny thing is, when you listen to the album, not all are flashy Holdsworth type solos, some are more atmospheric and linear. At one point Fredrik even thought that maybe he should take the solos out, but they really worked so we left them in!" For the band's set this night, it was kind of bizarre seeing the mighty Meshuggah playing practically in the dark with little to no room on the stage, but that didn't seem to bother them as they plowed their way through an 8 song set that was superb from start to finish. Favorites like "Rational Gaze" and "Future Breed Machine" mixed in well with new crushers like "Bleed", "Electric Red", and "Pravus", and the only really unfortunate thing was that at roughly 45 minutes their quick set was done. Marten mentioned a potential early 2009 US headline tour, so let's see what happens.
Ministry: I was obviously going to stick around to see what Ministry would do tonight because this was their final tour ever and while I had never followed or seen them before I expected to be both throttled and floored by the entire performance. The bands stage setup was blocked by a giant linked fence and there was only a small space between it for leader Al Jourgensen to pop his head out through. Needless to say the presence of the fence made me realize that this was not going to be a fun show to watch. Behind it were of course Jourgensen and the bands final lineup Tommy Victor (guitar), Sin Quirin (guitar), John Bechdel (keyboards), Aaron Rossi (drums) and Tony Campos (bass). Campos had stepped in to perform after the bands bassist Paul Raven passed away. The group arrived to a packed house and despite my own reservations about the looming fence the other members in the crowd didn't seem to care. I guess I am old fashioned in the sense that I like to see the band while they perform and not feel that I am out in the schoolyard watching them play from a blocked distance. For the set I expected also to find a wide assortment of the bands greatest numbers from over the course of their career but this did not seem to be the case for tonight's show as it began with a whopping five numbers from the new album "The Last Sucker". Ok, so perhaps that was the last original album but the most recent release from the group was their covers recording "Cover Up". It was the latest edition in a seemingly endless stream of such albums but that is a topic for another discussion. The band sounded tight and was very good at what they were doing and from most angles you could see Al behind his customized microphone stand which seemed to be made of bones and skulls and it reminded me a little of the device that Blackie Lawless uses in WASP. Jourgensen is considered a prolific mastermind in this genre and you could tell by the response he would get when he climbed up over the fence to gaze over at his fans that this was clearly the case. The assembled audience was formed into a pretty active mosh pit for most of the show and given the amount of folks in the venue the temperature of the place was at times uncomfortable.
At one of the later points in the show the band was joined by Burton C. Bell, lead singer for the one and only Fear Factory, and he would provide both lead and backing vocals to several tracks much to the audiences delight. Most notable of the songs sung by Bell this evening would be the industrialized rendition of The Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb". There were a few covers in the second half of the set and as mentioned earlier these were recently collected and released on the "Cover Up" album. The band played for what seemed to be over two hours and while that is a long show it didn't have that feel to it since the bands music is rather quick in the way it moves. Having limited understanding about them I felt that a lot of it sounded the same in many cases but that is largely due to the manner in which Industrial Metal works. There is a musical consistency to it that enables much of a bands style to connect and feel like one long contiguous track. As the show ended the crowd was going wild but even their energy level was starting to subside based on how much they were all getting into it. I found some time to talk to some of the apparent diehards who were around me and while many declared the group as "innovators" and "leaders", there were also quite a few who had expressed disappointment in the makeup of the set list. It seems as though too many crucial numbers were left off and a number of albums not touched upon at all, and for a group that was going through these motions for a final time this was not what they had expected. To be honest, I have watched the "retirement" of Ozzy Osbourne and the final shows of KISS during their own "Farewell Tour" and since both artists are still going strong I will believe that goodbye's to Ministry will not be something we should find ourselves getting to misty over.
Meshuggah Set List
The Mouth Licking What You've Bled
Straws Pulled at Random
Future Breed Machine
Ministry Set List
Life is Good
The Dick Song
The Last Sucker
Rio Grande Blood
Just One Fix
Just Got Paid
Under My Thumb
take me to the graveyard
Official Web site: www.thirteenthplanet.com
Official Web site: www.meshuggah.net