PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Meshuggah: The Ophidian Trek

This live collection acts as a pretty good primer or greatest hits collection for those curious about the band after buying Koloss, inviting new fans to explore the group’s back catalog all the way back to 1998’s Chaosphere.


The Ophidian Trek

Label: Nuclear Blast
US Release Date: 2014-09-30
UK Release Date: 2014-09-29

Sweden’s Meshuggah have done well lately. Though they are an extreme metal band -- one that actually straddles a number of umbrella sub-genres in the metal genre -- and have been fairly underground for many years, the group’s last album, 2012’s Koloss, debuted at No. 17 on Billboard’s Hot 200 albums chart. That’s a pretty high position for a metal group, especially out of the gate, and it seems that American success has beckoned. To that end, as a victory lap, and the fact that it generally takes three or four years for the outfit to deliver studio album, Meshuggah has now come out with The Ophidian Trek, which is a double-CD live album paired with a DVD or BluRay of concert footage, as a stop-gap measure to tide fans over. Performed and filmed at a 2013 stop in London, England, The Ophidian Trek pulls a lot from the album they were touring behind, naturally. Now, some may think this set is entirely superfluous, as Meshuggah put out a live album in 2010 called Alive. They may be right to a degree, but The Ophidian Trek only shares five tracks with Alive, and this collection acts as a pretty good primer or greatest hits collection for those curious about the band after buying Koloss, inviting new fans to explore the group’s back catalog all the way back to 1998’s Chaosphere. So victory lap or not, this live set works as an introductory calling card for newcomers, and I suppose old fans, some of them, will find much to like about this release, too.

Now, I didn’t get the DVD of the concert for review consideration, so I can’t talk about that aspect of this release. However, I can say this about the music: Meshuggah doesn’t talk to the audience very much, and when they do, it is very, very briefly. And it only happens twice: a hello and a goodbye. So anyone coming to this album looking for evidence of the dynamic between the band and the audience will be disappointed. And, as far as the audience goes at this gig, they’re politely receptive. Basically, the album takes a song, audience cheer, song, audience cheer approach, so there are no sing-alongs here or stunts pulled by the crowd, at least audibly. That may lead you to wonder what the point of this album is, and why not release a studio greatest hits package? Well, there are some differences in the material. "Demiurge" runs a minute shorter here than it does on its Koloss counterpart, for instance. The album does work as a means to appreciate how versatile Meshuggah’s members are on their instruments in a live setting. You listen to The Ophidian Trek and gain a greater appreciation of how much rehearsal went into moulding these songs for a live audience. Per the metal genre, the band is incredibly proficient and virtuoso on their instruments. And listening to how Tomas Haake handles the complex drum parts on "Bleed", programmed or not, is a revelation in itself.

Basically, anyone coming to Meshuggah probably knows that the variations between songs can be subtle at best. This is a group with a bass-heavy, thudding, mid-tempo style of metal. However, the disc is interesting in how the band positions its material in a live setting. For instance, the group leaves its longest songs, the 10-minute "Dancers to a Discordant System" and the 14-minute suite "Mind Mirrors / In Death – Is Life / In Death – Is Death", to the very end of the concert. So this is indeed a trek to the epics. And it’s interesting in how Koloss tracks "The Hurt That Finds You First" and "I Am Colossus" segue into each other, showing the band shaking up and repositioning the songs. It’s also intriguing to listen to this and understand the group’s trademark sound and how they’re able to convey that throughout a 90 minute set without making things boring. You can really hear the care and craft that went into the band’s live act, and that everything Meshuggah does in a concert setting has a purpose to it. As for the performance, The Ophidian Trek seems to capture the guys on a pretty good night. There are minimal flubs and editing errors, and the playing is impassioned.

Being a live album, the sound of The Ophidian Trek is a little on the thin side when compared to the studio versions -- there’s not as much meatiness to the band’s guitar sound here, though the bottom end still stands up -- and the vocals are a notch lower in the mix, but since they’re guttural moans, it probably doesn’t matter unless you have a lyric sheet and are following along. Meshuggah capture the essence of what they’re about with The Ophidian Trek, which makes it particularly valuable to a new fan. There’s much to think about here in the performance, and, besides that, things are pretty balls to the wall, providing much auditory pleasure. Now, if you’re a long time Meshuggah fan, and tend to really prefer the early stuff, you might think a little less of this, as there is some overlap between this set and Alive; The Ophidian Trek additionally leans pretty heavy on Koloss as six songs (out of 15 performed) come from that record. However, even though you can be cynical and call this a cash-grab for following so relatively soon on a previous live release (and God knows that Rush fans, for instance, now get a live album after every studio album and tour, so the live album in the metal/hard rock sphere is almost becoming a cliché), it’s a great summation for those who really want to get at what Meshuggah is about either in concert or musically. Old fans get to relive concert memories, new fans get a sampler of where they might want to dive next into the Meshuggah discography. Overall, The Ophidian Trek is, despite the fact that the band isn’t very talkative and you can’t heard the crowd mosh and bang their heads, an apt summary of where the band now stands. It seals the deal on the fact that Meshuggah is a pretty big and important group in the metal community, Sweden or otherwise. If you don’t know that, and are looking to understand why, this live disc set is ultimately a great place to gain enlightenment.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.