Tool, Jack Osbourne Patronage Pays Off For Meshuggah

Swedish metal outfit enjoys being the hardest band on the Ozzfest bill.

Thrash metal heavyweights Slayer and trippy hard rock visionaries Tool have both taken Meshuggah around the States as a supporting act. And now, thanks in part to Jack Osbourne, the Swedish quintet can add Ozzfest to its resume.

“I heard that Jack Osbourne really wanted us to be on the second stage, which is of course a big help,” Meshuggah guitarist Marten Hagstrom said. Though the word “meshuggah” is Yiddish for “crazy,” the men of the band — which includes Hagstrom, vocalist Jens Kidman, drummer Tomas Haake, guitarist Fredrik Thordendal and touring bassist Gustaf Hielm — take their craft very seriously.

Like their Swedish contemporaries in the Haunted, Arch Enemy and In Flames, Meshuggah play an abrasive though sophisticatedly polished brand of extreme metal. What differentiates Meshuggah from their countrymen and other metal bands abroad is their complex blend of jazzy time signatures and staccato rhythms and the off-kilter guitar showmanship of Hagstrom and Thordendal. It’s a far more punishing recipe than what even the standard Ozzfest band has to offer.

“It feels kind of good,” Hagstrom said of being one of the more aggressive bands on the touring festival bill (see “Papa Ozzy Bares Fangs Again As Ozzfest Hits Boston” ). “Because you know that every night you’re gonna be one of the hardest acts and there’s always people out there wanting to catch the hardest act. It’s kind of a good thing, I think. It works to our advantage.”

Since the release of the band’s first album, 1991′s Contradictions Collapse, Meshuggah have established themselves as a unit willing to discard established heavy metal convention in favor of more creative and often disturbingly complex songwriting. Meshuggah records like Destroy, Erase, Improve and Chaosphere have pushed the genre’s sonic envelope like few other platters.

“What we do is strict metal, but still it has some overtone or vibe to it that doesn’t really apply to other bands,” Hagstrom said. “I don’t know why that is, it just comes out that way. The first time you hear us it’s like, ‘What’s happening? What’s going on?’ People kind of go like that. But after a while, it kind of grows on you and I think that’s our approach.”

It’s an approach that grew on the members of Tool, who invited the seasoned European touring act to support them on a number of U.S. dates last year.

“For us, [touring the States] is way better [than touring Europe],” Hagstrom said. “Being in Europe is cool, but the biggest difference when you’re in the United States is the crowds are excellent to us, like very energetic and intense crowds, while some places in Europe might be more mellow.”

Meshuggah recently completed a new album, Nothing, which will be released on August 6 (see “Jack Osbourne’s Favorite Metallists Meshuggah Prepare For Nothing ).

—Ryan J. Downey, with additional reporting by Iann Robinson