As some of you might know, Opeth are quite possibly my favorite band in the entire world. Their eclectic blend of death metal, acoustic ballads and jazz-styled breaks make them far beyond a death metal band. Their most recent album, Heritage, is effectively an homage to 70’s prog rock, with no death growls at all, and a focus on contrast and musical sensitivity. Their seventh album, Damnation, is entirely soft and jazz-like, without death growls and without distorted guitars.
The point is, they are technically, musically and compositionally one of the most accomplished bands in the world, and their 20-year, 11-album career has given them a musical prowess unmatched by almost any other band. They are one of those bands that are actually better live than they are on record, and the chance to see them live was an opportunity I simply could not pass up.
So I didn’t.
I was lucky enough to see them in 2003, right after the release of Deliverance, which contains some of the most rhythmically complex music they’ve ever written, and their performance of the title track was astonishing. I heard it again this time, and if anything they were even better.
Their opening band, Katatonia, were musically accomplished and a good compliment for Opeth, but sadly their singer was not on form, and was out of tune far too often (by contrast, Mikael Åklerfeldt was spot on every time, despite being sick and having a sore throat). I’ll skip them therefore, other than to say that they played a number of my favorite songs, including Day And Then The Shade and Deliberation.
Then it was Opeth’s turn. They opened with the first song from the Ghost Reveries album, Ghost Of Perdition, which was simply perfect. This was their first album after the soft Damnation, and it opens with four slow, gloomy, acoustic chords, and the suspense on the first listen is wonderful, because you don’t know what kind of song it’s going to be…until the guitars blast in, and we’re off on a rampant, heavy journey.
The addition of a keyboard player to the live band is now invaluable, since the majority of their newer stuff relies heavily on rock organs, piano and synths. This meant that the outro of Deliverance was simply beautiful, with the dizzying guitar rhythms and the great, faded-in piano chords:
They ended up cutting the set slightly short because of Åkerfeldt’s illness, which meant they missed out on The Leper Affinity, one of my all-time favorite songs. I suppose I can’t complain, though – I did see them perform it ten years ago, and I have to give immense credit to him; a lot of singers/musicians would call out sick if they came down with a cold; Opeth have the kind of tenacity and determination that means they’re dedicated to their audience, every single time.
Oh, and there was some amusing banter regarding his moustache.