Swedish prog-metal act Opeth packed a full house in Terminal 5 last night as they marked the band’s 20th anniversary with one of six global performances of the Blackwater Park album in its entirety.
Opeth played a staggering three hour, two set show last night, thrilling fans with a full career retrospective. While vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt is the only member to have played on all nine band albums, the group has built up a dedicated fanbase since their early ‘90s debut, and the audience sang along to every song.
Beginning with The Leper Affinity, the first track on 2001’s Blackwater Park record, Opeth masterfully recreated not only the sound, but the feel of the epic album. The musicianship was flawless, with the band nailing every note and nuance of the incredibly complex music, and intense lighting and dramatic projections on a screen and the walls of the venue pushed the music’s dark and brooding sound beyond a purely aural experience.
Guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, the newest member of a band reknown for a rotating cast of musicians, shredded alongside Åkerfeldt as they ripped through complex death metal riffs and spastic solos. Bassist Martin Mendez and drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot created a monstrous low end backdrop for the band, with death metal blast beats abruptly giving way to keyboardist Per Wiberg’s harmonious melodies and Opeth’s signature sound. Both Åkerfeldt’s death growls and clean singing were flawless as the band played straight through the 60+ minute Blackwater Park record without a pause, and received tremendous applause as they completed the album’s final, eponymous track.
While many metal bands would consider an nonstop hourlong set an entire performance, it was just a warm-up for Opeth. After a brief break which allowed fans to roam the always stifling but spacious Terminal 5 venue, including a rooftop bar complete with food grilled on the spot, the band returned to the stage and proceeded to play a single song from each of their eight other records, offering an enjoyable look at the group’s discography and memorable flashback for longtime fans.
Unlike the first set, which featured seamless transitions from song to song, Åkerfeldt was extremely chatty for the latter half of the show, introducing each album’s token song by reminiscing about that era of the band. Former members, albums sales, and tours were all discussed in the frontman’s heavily accented English, garnering laughs and applause from the crowd of die-hard fans. Intense, crushing songs like The Moor and Wreath gave way to the ballad-like Hope Leaves, and the band wrapped with The Lotus Eater off of 2008’s Watershed album just in time for an 11pm curfew.
Opeth is one of the most unique bands in heavy metal, with a distinctive, innovative style that combines death metal basics with the complexities of progressive rock. Their intense sound has created an ultra-dedicated fanbase, who were out in full force last night for this landmark show. What the band might lack in radio-friendliness, they more than make up for in raw talent and epic songwriting, and judging by last night’s marathon live show, they can only continue to grow in popularity.
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