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Meshuggah, Cynic, and The Faceless in Des Moines, Iowa
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I recently had the pleasure of attending the Meshuggah / Cynic / The Faceless tour presented by Myspace Music (Hey, you can't say nothing good ever came out of Myspace!) It was a three hour drive to Des Moines, Iowa from Lincoln, Nebraska and then back again right after the show. Nothing to see along the highway but open fields, except that Iowa has a lot more wind turbines than Nebraska. Those things can be kind of hypnotic if you pass by a whole group of them spinning in unison.

The venue was on the third floor of a building called The People's Court, located in the heart of the downtown area. The first floor was occupied by a Legends Bar & Grill. I had the steak quesadilla, which featured juicy chunks of carne asada steak inside a yellow corn tortilla that was grilled to perfection and served with a side of salsa. But enough about that.

First up was Upon Death's Arrival, a local band from Des Moines. They play slightly melodic brutal death metal that sometimes reminds me of None So Vile era Cryptopsy. Their debut album is due to be released in 2009. Check 'em out, their drummer's insane.

Next up was The Faceless, a promising bunch of young whippersnappers who look like they're barely old enough to drink. I actually thought they were the roadies until they launched into a technical prog-death opening sequence. Calling this band death metal is really selling them short when they actually have a lot of diversity in their music. Their performance was even better than I expected.

Then came the mighty Cynic, whose shape-shifting aural beauty seemed largely lost on the mosh-minded crowd. I didn't get the impression that most people were familiar with the songs, or maybe they were just too blown away to react. Needless to say, their performance was flawless, and featured a good mix of songs from both of their CDs. Their set was short and sweet, but I was thankful for the rare opportunity to see them live. I felt it would've been more fitting for them to be playing a large concert hall where a seated audience could applaud after every solo and crescendo, as is customary during great jazz performances.

Meshuggah came out and rocked the place for a satisfying 90 minutes, playing all the fan favorites and closing with "Future Breed Machine" as I expected. Here's what they played from each of these albums:

Destroy Erase Improve
Future Breed Machine
Suffer In Truth

New Millennium Cyanide Christ

Rational Gaze
Straws Pulled at Random

Electric Red

Unfortunately, they didn't play "Humiliative" from the None EP, which I had read they were playing on this tour. I also thought they should've used another song with a clean guitar section to break up the onslaught a little bit, but overall it was a good set list, and the sound was near perfect. Between songs, you'd hear some amp feedback for a few seconds and then the next song would just start abruptly without warning and people would start going crazy again.

Over and over the same scene repeated itself in front of the stage: Someone would get propelled out of the mosh pit into an unsuspecting pocket of the crowd, and then they would come back around later using their cellphone as a searchlight to scan the ground for whatever they dropped during the ruckus. I was surprised to see some crowd-surfing and stage-diving, and security didn't seem to mind. They also allowed cameras and video-recording throughout the show. Vocalist Jens Kidman noticed a guy filming in the front row and decided to give him some close-ups of his microphone. "This is a pretty awesome microphone, huh?" he remarked. "It's metal... I wouldn't sing into a plastic thing. It has to be metal."

May 10, 2009
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