Hard to believe that it's been 20 years since the formation of Sweden's masters of progressive extreme metal Opeth. To celebrate this, the band have undertaken a quick yet historic tour called 'Evolution XX' to commemorate this achievement. Hitting spots in Sweden, London, Germany, France, and two here in the US, New York City and Los Angeles, Opeth wanted to make this a concert to remember for the fans, and the results were six sold out shows. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo was on hand for the April 7th NYC event, and brings this full show review.
To add to the 'special-ness' of this day, not only was Opeth making their way into New York City for this important show, but we also saw record breaking temperatures in the city, as it pushed near 90 degrees...way too hot for April 7th. That didn't stop the Opeth faithful, as they packed their way into the large Terminal 5 venue down on 11th Avenue & 56th Street on the West Side of Manhattan. Opeth has been here before, opening up for Dream Theater on the Progressive Nation tour a few years ago, and managed to sell this show out a few weeks ago. So, packed house, unusually high temperatures outside, sweltering 100+ degrees inside...you get the picture.
Not only was Opeth going to be starting off the set with the entire Blackwater Park album, but then they were going to dip into one song from each of the other albums, in chronological order. As the band made their way onto the stage at exactly 8:00PM, the opening strains of "The Leper Affinity" drove the audience into hysteria. This is a band that moves their fans not only on aggression & brutality, but also with their melodicism, complexity, and beauty of their compositions. One classic after another from Blackwater Park was played, and the highlights were easily "Bleak", "Harvest", "The Drapery Falls", and the epic title track, which ended the first half of this set on a thunderous note. So far, the band were spot on, easily at the peak of their powers, though Mikael Akerfeldt's growls seemed a little rough around the edges on this evening. At times he sounded a bit like Celtic Frost/Triptykon vocalist Tom Gabriel Warrior, though things did improve for him as the evening wore on. Akerfeldt's clean, melodic vocals were quite good however.
After a brief 10 minute break, the band came back for a set of rarely played classics. From the start, Akerfeldt was in normal 'chatty' mode, which was in direct contrast to the opening set where there was no interaction with the crowd at all. Mikael mentioned that he had a bad 'meatball hero' prior to the gig, which might have explained his ragged growls during the opening set. He also asked the crowd a few times if they liked the band Ace of Base, which drew plenty of laughs! Prior to each piece played in this half of the set, Akerfeldt explained a little history of the album it came from, and the band line-up at the time it was recorded. For many, hearing & seeing the band play "Forest of October" from Orchid, "Advent" from Morningrise, and "April Ethereal" from My Arms Your Hearse could very well have been the highlight of the evening. These are three songs the band haven't played in quite some time, and though Opeth have grown leaps and bounds since the years these tunes were originally written and recorded, there's still a certain charm to these early progressive death metal classics. Fredrik Akkeson is quickly becoming quite the shred guitar hero, as his flashy & virtuoso guitar work sits quite well next to Akerfeldt's more melodic, bluesy lines. Behind the kit, Martin Axenrot is a drummer with a ton of talent, and it shines through on all these great older pieces just as much as the new material. The ever dependable Martin Mendez and his wonderful lead bass lines on "Advent" were remarkable, and keyboard player Per Wiberg added a healthy dose of Hammond, Electric Piano, and Mellotron sounds to all the songs, which adds a great amount of depth to these complex tunes.
Other highlights on a night of highlights? "The Moor" from one of my favorite albums, Still Life, is a great balance of folk, prog, and death metal, while the ferocity of "Wreath" gave way to the lush folk/prog of "Hope Leaves", both coming from the back-to-back releases Deliverance and Damnation. Newer fans were treated to the wonderful "Reverie/Harlequin Forest" from the mighty Ghost Reveries album, and from the latest CD Watershed the band chose the crushing "The Lotus Eater", another track that showed the contrast of styles that Opeth can pack into one song.
At just about 3 hours, this was a performance for the ages, and left no doubt that Opeth are a band that is really in peak form musically and lyrically. Seeing as the last few headline shows the band has played here in NY have been sell outs in larger venues such as The Nokia and Terminal 5, the groups increased popularity is easily apparent. Akerfeldt mentioned that they were going to get ready to put together their next album shortly, so the world better get ready for another Opeth classic!
Opeth Set List
1.The Leper Affinity
4.The Drapery Falls
5.Dirge for November
6.The Funeral Portrait
7.Patterns in the Ivy
9.Forest of October
16.The Lotus Eater