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Technical Deliverance: Meshuggah, Cynic, and the Faceless at the Recher Theatre, Friday, Feb. 20

February 24, 2009

Last Friday, Baltimore metal fans swelled within the sold-out Meshuggah show at Towson’s Recher Theatre to partake in a wide range of experimental metal, while a line of chilly hopefuls hugged the exterior of the building. Long waits and tight security checks aside, the night was worth the discomfort as each band provided a breadth of diverse technicality, ranging from grind inspired progressions to ambient tranquil riffs and, by night’s end, submerging into intricate death metal.

Los Angeles’ the Faceless kicked off the night with “Akeldama,” a progressive epic enriched with stirring, melodic breakdowns. However young this band appears, it’s clear that it propelled itself far into a promising career, as this night was only one stop along the band’s globe-spanning tour. The insane, ear-piercing guitar work, melted with ravenous vocals and drums during “An Autopsy,” easily won this writer over.

Cynic broke the night up with an ethereal set, enveloping the room in what felt like eternity-long, jam -band breakdowns. At times, the crowd looked confused by it; some engrossed themselves in audible conversation, while those who knew what to do with the dreamlike sound undulated their heads to the jazzy riffs. Perfectionism could have easily been mistaken by some as pretense, which is to be expected–Cynic hasn’t produced an album in 15 years and its first and only before that has reached legendary status in terms of progressive metal. Needless to say, the band has had time to hone its eerily soothing sound. Haunting emo vocals rich with low growls and zen-like rhythms trickled through the sway of the crowd during “Evolutionary Sleeper,” and served as a mellow introduction to the hell which would be unleashed. Cynic’s humble performance radiated talent, and it was obvious as drummer Sean Reinhert tossed his drum sticks to eager fans, they were happy to be back on the scene.

Swedish headliner Meshuggah revived the room. The crowd could agree on the band’s sound, and the veteran grinder is no stranger to inciting a room into a frenzy. Which was exactly the effect on the crowd as Meshuggah took the stage: every craning neck and restless head bashed in rhythmic motion. The bluesy, technical blast beats sliced every ear like a machete during “Bleed.” Soaring, relentless guitar riffs bounded off of thunderous drums as a grindcore inflicted groove hammered down and all bodies bounded together, seemingly stuck in the riffs.

There were traces of sporadic, politely feeble pits throughout the night that became stronger as Meshuggah raged on. If and when moshing ensued it was quickly broken up by beefy security, which refused to tighten its grip throughout the set. This was a little disheartening for a metal show, but the energy permeating the crowd made up for any disappointment.

Howling, exasperated guitars gave the crowd the release they needed as front-man Jens Kidman pelted the room with crisp, glowering vocals raining down during “Suffer in Truth.” Meshuggah fed the night with a sound pitched against itself–technically delivered breaks mixed with bass-driven hardcore grooves provoked a thrash of movement from every corner of the packed room. It became impossible to stand still with each blast. Despite the restless crowd not quite sure what to do with itself, the night fleshed out into an array of exceptional metal with enough diversity to please any fan–even if they were just standing with their hands in their pockets.

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