On the Queens platinum jubilee weekend, Swedish Metal royalty Meshuggah arrived in town for a show at the iconic Royal Albert Hall, with avant-garde Swiss rockers Zeal & Ardor in support. The historic amphitheatre is one of the most beautiful concert halls in the country, holds in excess of 5,000 people, and was absolutely packed to the rafters with a purist crowd, eager to have their senses distorted by one of the most influential bands in the extreme music scene.
Zeal & Ardor took to the stage at 7.30pm as the room was growing in anticipation and audience size, and instantly it was clear that the sound and acoustics in the room were on another level as they arrived to the sound of a deep, rumbling bass. They dived head first into an hour long set of their eclectic blend of rock and metal, which saw vocalist Manuel Gagneux switch from sumptuous blues and soul style clean singing, to blackened screams in the blink of an eye.
With two backing singers and a super tight band around him, Gagneux got the party started in style, as they expertly warmed the crowd. Working their way through a set pulled from across their discography, including Devil Is Fine and their excellent new self titled release from this year, which has seen them become one of the most talked about bands of 2022, making them a clever addition by Meshuggah for their European tour. On paper this may have been an audience that was going to be a tough nut to crack, but Zeal & Ardor achieved it and then some, offering something uniquely alternative to the headliners, and no doubt gaining some new fans in the process.
After a 30 min break that saw the bars swell and Meshuggah’s impressive stage design put in place, the headliners came out at 9pm to an almighty roar from the crowd that echoed around the stunning auditorium from the floor to the rafters. The band eased themselves in with a haunting cinematic intro, and opener Broken Cog lifted from their stunning new album Immutable, before quite frankly unleashing merry hell for the next 90 minutes, with an un relentless assault of perfectly executed and full on technical-death metal, that had the crowd eating from the palm of their hands throughout.
Led by the huge stage presence of vocalist Jens Kidman, the sound of the band around him was perfectly engineered for the night, providing an enormous sonic experience, supported by a phenomenal show of lighting and lasers. All of which combed to cause a hypnotic effect that saw a mosh pit take over virtually the whole of the floor, while the majority of people watching from up in the gods were on their feet, swaying to the pulsating robotic, and complex rhythms the band created.
This was a strong return to London for both bands, who in 2022 have each released album of the year contenders, and tonight showed that live music is well and truly back and at its best. As Meshuggah’s titanic display came to an end and the thousands in attendance poured out into the drizzly streets of leafy Kensington, moving together en-mass through Regents Park or down to the local tube station, there was an excitable and satisfying mood in the air, and the feeling that this merging of dark, heavy, innovative music in such a historic setting … had just combined for an unforgettable night of pure music performance and visual art.
Words // Photos // Videos // by Abstrakt_Soul
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