OPETH (Live)

at Samfundet, Trondheim, Norway, March 11th 2009

Photo by Kristian Singh-Nergård

All photos by Kristian Singh-Nergård

Swedish Progressive Death Metallers of Opeth need little or no introduction. It’s been fourteen years since their first release and to this date they’ve released nine full-length albums. In other words it was a band with a great deal of routine that were to play at the sold-out venue, Studentersamfundet, in Trondheim, Norway.

Opeth has just returned from the United Arab Emirates, where they played at the Dubai Desert Rock Festival, and now they’re doing a Norwegian tour with eight concerts across the country, arranged by Rikskonsertene. This is their biggest Norwegian tour ever and the concert in Trondheim was the second date on the list.

The Norwegian Progressive/Black Metal band Ihsahn was billed as support for Opeth, but according to Ihsahn “…technical and practical difficulties [were revealed] at many of the smaller venues, and it has proven near impossible to run the necessary production.” One can only wonder what technical and practical difficulties that prevented Ihsahn from performing while Opeth had no such problems. The explanation doesn’t really seem adequate, but rather confusing.

Opeth, however, did not suffer from the lack of a warm-up band. From the second they entered the stage the audience seemed to be spellbound, and two hours of outstanding Progressive Death Metal by one of the genre’s leading bands was about to follow. They opened with “Heir Apparent” from their 2008 release Watershed. The song sounded much like it does on the record, and the band was incredibly tight. Perhaps the only disappointment, not only for this song, but the whole show, was that the acoustic parts weren’t played with an acoustic guitar like on the records, but on a clean channel with electric guitar. This was, however, only a minor “flaw” in an otherwise spotless performance, and it didn’t seem to bother the audience one bit.

Photo by Kristian Singh-Nergård

Next was the excellent “Ghost Of Perdition” off their 2005 release Ghost Reveries. It’s amazing to see lead vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt switch between his growling and his clean voice with such ease and confidence, and the man clearly deserves all the credit he gets. Bass player Martin Mendez is also interesting to watch where he plays intricate and technical riffs on his four-string bass for the newest songs, while he switches to a five-string bass and focuses on the darker notes for the old stuff. That’s a proof of Opeth’s development in a more technical direction right there.

Three older songs were to follow, starting with “Godhead’s Lament” followed by “The Leper Affinity.” The first represents the era of Opeth where the focus was more on guitar harmonies than technical riffs, and the other represents the change in the Opeth sound, with more technical riffs and (at least on record) a higher focus on effects on guitars and vocals. The third of the old songs was introduced by Åkerfeldt as “…a kind of ballade from ’97.” While they now had played four songs in forty minutes (!), “Credence” is a beautiful and semi-acoustic experience that lasted for “only” five and a half minutes.

Åkerfeldt was joking around in-between the songs as usual with his particular style of humor. For instance he introduced his band mates as acrobats. We now know that lead guitarist Fredrik Åkesson has a talent for standing on his head while drinking beer.

After some old songs and a bit of joking around the band played the longest song off their latest release, Watershed, “Hessian Peel.” The slow, almost ballade like start, saw the audience singing along to the words. Watershed was no doubt the Opeth album the audience was most familiar with.

From very technical and Progressive Death Metal Opeth once again took the pace down a few notches. “Closure” is a great mix of Psychedelic and Progressive Rock, and was the only song off their 2003 effort Damnation. That may have come as a bit of a surprise for some in the audience since they usually play “Windowpane,” but it’s also a good sign that Opeth vary their set lists to an extent. The final blast from the past came from their 1996 release Morning Rise. While some in the audience might have wanted “Advent,” “The Night And The Silent Water” isn’t a bad substitute. Being the oldest song of the set, this one went more to the roots of Death Metal than the other songs, but still there are some acoustic moments that break it up a bit and bring a nice variation to the song.

Photo by Kristian Singh-Nergård

The last song of the set was another new song; “The Lotus Eater.” This is perhaps the strongest song from Watershed and varies between a lot of different musical styles. Though the singles from this album (“Porcelain Heart” and “Burden”) didn’t find their way to the set list, the audience never seemed to miss them.

After the obligatory “walking-off-the-stage-for-a-minute-and-then-come-back-on”-routine they played the only song off Deliverance, a song that’s almost as obligatory as the sake of having an encore; the title track “Deliverance.” This song represents the heaviest parts, of their perhaps heaviest album, and was also the longest song of their set.

With a set consisting of songs where every song except two are of the length 8 minutes plus, and every album of their career, except their first, Orchid, is represented, Opeth must have satisfied every person in the venue. At least it seemed so.

As Mikael Åkerfeldt revealed in a interview with Metal Express Radio right before the concert, the last few years with the previous line-up wasn’t good, but now it seems they’re not only having fun doing what they do, but they also seem like a better band. The new lead guitarist, Fredrik Åkesson (Krux, Talisman, ex-Arch Enemy), is definitely extremely skilled, and though drummer Martin Axenrot (Bloodbath, Satanic Slaughter, Witchery) has a different style of drumming than his predecessor Martin Lopez, he still brings something new to the table and with the newcomers Opeth sounds reborn. “We don’t go out looking for guys who are worse players than the one we had, we always look for one whose better,” Åkerfeldt said to Metal Express Radio. Well, that’s just what’s happened with Opeth, and it really shows both live and on record.

Opeth is indisputably one of the most innovative bands in the scene right now, and they’re also a fantastic live band that delivers a good portion of great and varied music.

Opeth’s setlist
1. Heir Apparent (off Watershed)
2. Ghost Of Perdition (off Ghost Reveries)
3. Godhead’s Lament (off Still Life)
4. The Leper Affinity (off Blackwater Park)
5. Credence (off My Arms, Your Hearse)
6. Hessian Peel (off Watershed)
7. Closure (off Damnation)
8. The Night And The Silent Water (off Morning Rise)
9. The Lotus Eater (off Watershed)
10. Deliverance (off Deliverance)

Opeth is:
Mikael Åkerfeldt – Lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitars
Martin Mendez – Bass
Per Wiberg – Keyboards, backing vocals
Martin “Axe” Axenrot – Drums, percussion
Fredrik Åkesson – Rhythm and lead guitars, backing vocals


  • Kristian Singh-Nergård

    Kristian is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He is Metal Express Radio's Marketing and Communications Manager, and on occasions also reviewer and photographer. Based out of Oslo, Norway, Kristian is a bass player and owner of the independent record label Pug-Nose Records. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2006.

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