Opeth released their tenth studio album, "Heritage," last month on the legendary Roadrunner Records, and last night brought their highly anticipated Heritage Tour to The Rave.
The Swedish progressive metal band played to a massive crowd eager to hear tracks from the new CD and older tunes rarely performed live. Fellow Swedish band Katatonia opened the show and played an hour long set full of dark and melodic metal that set the tone perfectly for the evening.
Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, the band's guitarist, songwriter and lead vocalist, walked out on stage about 9:45 p.m. with his bandmates, strapped on his custom PRS guitar, and proceeded to blow minds with a sparkling rendition of "The Devil's Orchard", a roughly 7-minute long track that proclaims bluntly "God is dead." The fans loved it, and the sparsely lit light show set an ominous but promising stage presence that matched the 70s vibe of the riff-heavy song. It's the first single off "Heritage", an album that lacks the infamous growling vocals of previous Opeth releases and can be, perhaps, considered more accessible in many ways than their previous efforts.
Of course this doesn't come without a sharp amount of controversy from hardcore fans because of the deviation from the standard death metal that they've become accustomed to Opeth producing, but I personally find that Akerfeldt's natural voice is worth showcasing at this point in their career. I have an incredible amount of respect for any band that is willing to shake things up and break free of the expectations of the past. There's nothing worse than being pigeonholed into writing the same album over and over, and repackaging the same songs with a different cover to a loyal fanbase that deserves better.
Opeth did a fantastic job of crafting a setlist that unified the old with the new, and after another new song "I Feel The Dark", the band ventured into familiar territory with "Face Of Melinda" and "Porcelain Heart", which featured a thunderous and savage drum solo from Martin Axenrot. The band looked on with the audience at Martin with equal parts amazement and wonder as he proceeded to systematically punch out a complex routine, and made it look all too easy.
There also was an acoustic portion of the evening that started off with "The Throat Of Winter," a song that was featured in the epic video game soundtrack "God Of War III Blood & Metal" digital EP. The song was the perfect vehicle to switch gears to the lighter side of Opeth and the band went on to play "Credence" and "Closure". While the songs may have been acoustic, the level of intensity with which Akerfeldt approached the music was a fascinating array of technique, talent and tenacity.
In between songs there was even time for some jokes. Someone yelled out for "Freebird" and Akerfeldt commented that people have been asking for "Freebird" even before it was written, and the brilliantly timed comeback was a great example of just how well Opeth's leader has control of his stage at any given time. Akerfeldt is exceptionally comfortable expressing himself to the crowd with hilarious banter that is as funny as it is natural.
There was a tribute song to the late Ronnie James Dio, the aptly titled "Slither," and after what was apparently a misfire in his guitar intro, Akerfeldt stopped playing and said "You don't f@ck up a Dio tribute", and promptly started over, getting it just perfect.
At about 11:15 p.m., the band came back onstage for their encore "Folklore", and after thanking the crowd, Akerfeldt announced that it was his youngest daughter's birthday and about breakfast time in Sweden. I felt a little bad, really, enjoying the show while his daughter would miss her dad on her birthday. I guess it's one of the demons of being a touring band, you're going to every so often miss some important events while on the road making a living.
They proceeded to play the 8 minute song "Folklore" that sounds, for lack of a better term, folksy in the intro. In typical Opeth fashion it erupted into a complex and jazzy riff laden adventure. It's a song that has not only a huge dynamic range of tone and emotion, it also paints the newest direction of a band that has over 2 decades of history in the books. It was a fitting end to almost two hours of amazingly constructed and orchestrated music, and by the reaction of the crowd, a job well done to the satisfaction of the fans.
Opeth has just a handful of U.S. dates left before they head back to Europe and finish of the tour.