Venue: Nokia Theater (New York, NY)
Opener: High On Fire, Nachtmystium
Label: Roadrunner Records
It’s clear that Opeth has been a very busy band since their signing onto Roadrunner Records artist roster and with the release of their latest album “Watershed” a few months ago have not slowed down one bit. 2008 found them very productive and joining forces with Dream Theater on the bands first ever “Progressive Nation” tour that also brought the likes of The band Three and Between The Buried and Me to the fans of that which was heavy but very, very Progressive as well. Having missed out on the “Progressive Nation” tour I was happy to learn of their appearance at the Nokia Theater as this gig would offer the fans a longer set, and present some other purveyors of crushing Metal that would surely be interesting. The evening was kicked off by Nachtmystium and High On Fire, and should you have missed the concert here are some of the finer details about it.
Nachtmystium: Tonight would be my first time seeing Nachtmystium in concert and while relatively new to their sound I was into what I was seeing rather quickly. It’s a mix of Black Metal and a more conventional Heavy Metal style but I detected a strong Pychedelic vibe to them as well. Sadly their set was all too brief and the band was done before they began when it came down to it, but with most of the crowd already being in place and getting into it, you could almost predict that they would be back and be able to snare more supporters to their side. The band had recently signed on to Century Media Records and will be releasing material for us soon enough so if you like your Dark Metal with a slight difference be sure to look into them. High On Fire was next up.
High On Fire: The absolute insanity that I ran into getting into the Gigantour this year over at Hammerstein Ballroom made me miss the entire set from High On Fire so I was happy to have the chance to check them out this evening. The band is signed to Relapse Records and has been supporting their latest album to date which is entitled “Death Is This Communion”. Having never seen this band either I was really getting into their slightly Motorhead driving material that blended in a lot more of the Stoner ethic to it. The bands front man also handled the guitars and that’s Mr. Matt Pike who started his rocking evening off properly at the down the block Smith’s Bar, the place where many of the Metal heads gather before Nokia and B.B. King Blues Club shows. I was slightly bummed that I didn’t really know their songs off the top of my head but I was certain that many of them came off of the Relapse album and if you are a fan of the likes of Motorhead, Monster Magnet and St. Vitus then you would probably be very into what they are doing. They played a little bit longer than Nachtmystium did and to be honest I would have rather seen each of them play the same amount of time as opposed to performing in tiers because both bands were bringing the Opeth fan base something interesting tonight. After they were done I was left interested in their own album and will be looking to add that one to my review pile sooner than later. Now it was time for Opeth and the audience was getting antsy.
Opeth: I must admit that I was not one of the early fans of Opeth and this didn’t come from ignorance as much as it came from the fact that I wasn’t following this kind of stuff when the albums ‘Blackwater Park” and “Morningrise” had first come out. While enjoying them now, I needed to use what I learned from “Still Life” and the newer albums and work backwards to develop my better understanding of this amazing group. “Watershed” might have been my fourth go at the band but that was alright because this and its predecessor “Ghost Reveries” had opened the doors for many listeners and that was a very good thing. If you disagreed with me on this then I would point out the sold out Nokia Theater to you to settle it up without any further argument. Opeth always manages to entertain with their performance and it is entirely based on the music along with a healthy dose of wit that comes from bandleader Mikael Akerfeldt. There is no “show” per se along the lines of pomp and circumstance and it is instead all dramatic moods and peaks and valleys as melody after melody goes by your senses. Having seen them perform at a headlining show or two, an outdoor summer festival and the Gigantour – I have realized that the band needs a longer set to get their point across the best. I think they played long at ProgNation but those festival gigs were maybe 40 minutes and that does not do the trick when it comes to the lengthier numbers in their catalog. Tonight this would not be an issue as the band delivered about a two hour set and one of the immediate highlights was the guitar work of Fredrik Akesson. I had seen him when he was touring with Arch Enemy a couple of years ago and was impressed then. Tonight, with the Opeth material he was really proving to raise the bar and making me realize he was a truly worthy addition to the band.
The rhythm section of Martin Axenrot and Martin Mendez was also on the money tonight and in a tight musical lock that many bands would envy. I have to be honest and admit that I no longer miss the drumming that was once done by Martin Lopez. Folks who might question this view should be made aware that Axenrot is also a member of Bloodbath, which is a Death Metal super group that Akerfeldt was also a part of. Believe me, this guys chops are on the money. One also cannot forget to mention the amazing Per Winberg who stands up behind the drums on his keyboards but since the rig is draped and he moves so much he is often a blur to the audience eye. Akerfeldt was in great spirits and sporting a vintage music shirt tonight for Vertigo Records. I did some digging around and found out that this was a Progressive Rock label from many years ago. My friend who joined me for tonight’s fun mentioned that during the PN show he saw with Dream Theater that Mikael was wearing an old Scorpions shirt from their “Virgin Killer” years. Definitely a fan of the vintage in this musician and it made me wish that I still had some of the tattered band shirts from my past but alas I don’t. As expected, the set would deliver some of the material from the new album, but given the length of Opeth numbers and the two hour set time, they would not completely focus on it, and instead deliver a number of classics from their catalog as well. They would open with a new track, visit their previous album and then close with two of their most stunning archival numbers from “Blackwater Park” and “My Arms, Your Hearse”. The great thing about a set list like this one was to experience up close and personal just how well all of the bands music works together. Throughout the night Akerfeldt did his very casual standup comedian routine as he pointed out in subtle fashion some things that amused him. Around this time the band was up for an award in Classic Rock Magazine (at least that was who I think he mentioned) and said that the band was up against the likes of Def Leppard, Scorpions and Whitesnake. His dry tone was great as he said all of the band names in sequence and when getting to his own sounded almost puzzled at being in that list. Despite this, it was good to find out that the band was receiving the well-deserved recognition.
Closing it up I had to say that it was yet another fine concert from one of the most important bands on the scene today. The tour for “Ghost Reveries” found a live recording being released called “Live At The Roundhouse” and we have read that a DVD for this same recording would see the light of day as well. Now is the perfect time to find yourself getting into the music of Opeth because there is a rich history about them in terms of Progressive Death Metal. They are a band that continually pushes the envelope and chooses to reach passed any bar that has been set.
1. Heir Apparent
2. Grand Conjuration
3. Serenity Painted Death
5. The Lotus Eater
7. Night And Silent Water
9. Demon Of The Fall
10. The Drapery Falls (encore)