Monday, October 17, 2011

Live in Concert: Opeth

This past Saturday, along with my buddy Justin from Oceans of Ale, I stood witness as Opeth rolled into Seattle wielding their mighty Metal war hammer and proceeded to smite their fans with their punishing brand of death metal...Ok, so it didn't go exactly like that, but it was still quite wonderful.

This was my second time seeing Opeth.  I first saw them when they hit town a few years ago touring for the Ghost Reveries album.  This time around, it was almost like seeing a completely new band.  There were a couple new guys in the line-up and the set list consisted completely of songs where Mikael Akerfeldt sang  in his clean vocal style.  From reading about other shows from this tour on the web I had a feeling it would be a pretty mellow set, but I wasn't expecting the show to be completely devoid of death-metal growls.

Despite not playing their heaviest songs there were definitely some metal moments, but I couldn't shake the feeling that the show was lacking because of the lack of growl-age.  Still, Opeth is a band that is so musically gifted that seeing them live is a real treat.

They kicked off the set with The Devil's Orchard which is one of the best songs off Heritage.  Around the middle of the set, in minstrel like fashion, Mikael sat down with an acoustic guitar and played three obscure Opeth tracks.  One, which can be found on the deluxe edition of Heritage, another which I think he said was a song they wrote for a game, and the last which was written around the Blackwater Park era.  On the one hand, it was cool to hear three Opeth songs that were completely new to me, but at the same time, I was a bit frustrated that such a large chunk of the set was dedicated to music that was totally obscure to all but the most devout Opeth aficionado.

My disappointment was almost immediately erased when Porcelain Heart and A Fair Judgement (my favorite Opeth Song not titled Black Rose Immortal) followed the obscure songs in close succession.

Like most things in Seattle where lots of people are drawn together, the crowd enthusiasm would best be described as tepid.  There was also a strong sense of disappointment in the air when it became quite clear that the band was intent on putting on a mellow performance.  I think a lot of fans still yearn for the Opeth of old where blistering, yet melodic riffs shredded the silence and the double foot bass pounded out the beat to yet another epic song.

After hearing Heritage, and seeing them live, one thing seems abundantly clear: Opeth has evolved from their death metal roots into a progressive, technical metal band.  Like many fans, I'm also still coming to terms with this fact, but unlike many fans, who seemed unsatisfied with the show on Saturday, I enjoyed the show.  Sure there may not have been any growly vocals, but Opeth is still incredibly gifted and talented.  As a band they are incredibly tight, and play together well.  They slowed down and sludged out the ending of A Fair Judgement, and it was one of my favorite moments of the show, and seemed completely spontaneous rather than a rehearsed alteration to a back catalog song.

All told, it was a great show at a less than great venue, with great company.


Niall Alexander said...

Sir, you sound disappointed.

I guess I can see why that would be, but honestly I couldn't be happier to hear that Opeth are exploring their pretty, proggy side, rather than taking on their dark passenger again. I know it's a borderline unpopular opinion at this point, but what I've heard of Heritage has been beautiful.

Anyway, I shall be seeing the fellas in early November myself, when something wicked this way comes - just in time for the other half's birthday, too - so I'm trying to keep my hopes high. No more raining on my parade! :P

Ryan said...

No doubt, Opeth can make some beautiful music, and I'm a fan of Heritage, but I do miss the heavy element to their sound.

I think my personal grievances pale in comparison to the disappointment many of the folks at the show displayed last Saturday. There seemed to be an underlying sense of discontent in the audience.

I'll be interested to hear what you think of their show when you see them.

Justin said...

Nice review Ryan. It was a fun show overall but I wish they would have played a couple of heavy songs since most of my favorite Opeth songs fall under that category. Still, the fans who were expecting the heavy stuff should have known better. That's not the band they are anymore.

Regardless, I'll always follow them no matter what musical direction they take.

Ryan said...

Thanks Justin! It was sweet catching a show with you. I think the last time we went to a show together was Fantomas!

Don't forget there's a Mastodon with Red Fang show coming up in November!