Meshuggah / Baroness / Decapitated Sound Academy, Toronto ON May 17

Meshuggah / Baroness / Decapitated Sound Academy, Toronto ON May 17
There was no easing into this show, dipping a tentative big toe into the heavy metal pool and gradually becoming accustomed to the temperature and timbre of the violence. From the moment that Decapitated began their set, the Sound Academy crowd surged forward, bodies crashing against barriers, while the security guards came with as much energy as would be appropriate for a final encore.

The technically dazzling death metal masters were in fine form this evening: "Mother War" blasted out at the audience with an awful radiance, and the final song of the set, "Spheres of Madness," evoked the chaos of a mind coming undone. The set was lean, a bare half-hour, and when the lights came up for the quick set change, the crowd seemed twitchy and eager for more.

Baroness took the stage after an extended intro characterized by a repetitive, aching throb that had many audience members actually screaming in frustration. They employed a novel lighting setup, the predominant colour of the lights corresponding to which album whatever song they were currently playing came from (Red Album, Blue Record, the new Yellow & Green).

Their rendition of "Steel That Sleeps the Eye" had an eerie, lullaby-esque quality, and new track "Take My Bones Away" from their forthcoming album had a smooth, silky delivery with just the right amount of grit. Baroness's set was a radical change from the blistering aggression of Decapitated, and succeeded brilliantly in making the audience antsy and ill at ease, all the more ready for the release promised by the headliner.

In the Bible, when the monster and guardian of the hellmouth, Leviathan, is described, Job says: "When he rises up, the mighty are terrified; they retreat before his thrashing" (Job 41:25). When Meshuggah took the stage, they became Leviathan, the monster.

Their set contained almost no banter, save for the briefest of thanks from Jens Kidman. The rest of it was wave after wave of relentless music, the dense complexity of the songs matched only by the intensity of the delivery. Kidman frequently raised his hands to the crowd in the manner of a conductor, as though orchestrating the pit in front of him with gestures, as well as his voice.

The force of Tomas Haake's drumming shook the huge banner behind him, which rippled like a sail to the rhythm of the kick. The band members remained relatively still on stage, aside from some almost meditative headbanging and the occasional shift in position. It made them seem more like a single unit than a band, a hive-mind in perfect sync. "Do Not Look Down" was at once devastating and joyous in its excess, and the first song of the encore, "Future Breed Machine," sent the crowd crashing and howling together like a maddened sea.