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.