PROGRESSIVE NATION (Live) – Dream Theater, Opeth, Bigelf And Unexpect

at Oslo Spektrum, Oslo, Norway, September 26, 2009

All photos by Karolina E. Piwko

The time had finally come for veterans of Progressive Metal, Dream Theater, to lead their Progressive Nation tour overseas for the first time ever. Progressive Nation founder and Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, once again hand-picked the bands to join them based on musicianship, originality and diversity, not necessarily by popularity and marquee value. Portnoy commented himself in a press release: “After the excitement of putting together two very cool Progressive Nation packages for North America, I knew it was time to bring the concept overseas and share some of these other great bands with our amazing fans throughout Europe and the UK.”

Joining Dream Theater for this tour is Canadian Avant Garde styled Extreme Progressive Metallers of Unexpect, Psychedelic Progressive Rockers of Bigelf and Progressive/Death Metallers of Opeth. Oslo, Norway, was the third stop on their tour, and the attending audience was exposed to what actually seemed a mini-Progressive Metal festival filled with four extremely different approaches to the genre.


First on stage was the Canadian septet Unexpect. This is the youngest band in the tour line-up, if you consider their releases. They released a self-funded album in 1999 (Utopia), continued with an EP in 2003 (wE, Invaders) after signing with The End Records, and released their only album so far on the label in 2006 (In A Flesh Aquarium).

According to the band’s MySpace site Unexpect is a Metal laboratory mixing elements of Black, Death, Core, Symphonic, Progressive and Melodic Metal; Classical, Operatic, Medieval, Goth, Electro, Ambient, Psychotic, Noise and Circus music with an occasional Jazzy touch. Be that as it may, their live show was a bizarre experience. The entire band was dressed in what seemed to be a mix of Gothic and medieval clothes. Vocally speaking the band sounded kind of like a “beauty-and-the-beast” style that’s characteristic of bands like Tristania.

Unexpect’s musical style is best described as Folk/Gothic/Progressive Metal with one violin, a 9-string bass guitar, keyboards/samplers, a female vocalist/dancer, two guitars/vocalists, and one drum kit. The one thing that might strike you as odd when you hear the band is that the songs often consists of different parts that are so unalike that the transition between them seems a bit weird. However, the band is worth checking out, because there are so many interesting things going on with their music.


The Los Angeles based quartet, Bigelf, entered the stage to the tones of the well-known “Imperial March” from 1977’s Sci-Fi Adventure Star Wars. As they were about to start their first song, the march faded out and the transition to the opener “The Evils Of Rock & Roll” seemed a bit weird, since these two pieces of music have literally nothing in common.

Bigelf was everything Unexpect wasn’t, or the other way around. The music was basically 70s Groove/Progressive based, but with an up-to-date sound. Bands like Yes and Genesis quickly comes to mind. Bigelf’s vocalist is also the keyboardist of the band. He was located between a Hammond organ and what looked like a Mellotron, and wore a top hat. He often used both instruments at the same time as he was singing, and by that added a lot to Bigelf’s soundscape. Vocally he sounds a good deal like Peter Gabriel (ex-Genesis), but he definitely has a signature voice in spite of that.

Musically there was a lot of synchronized guitar/bass/keyboard riffs, and the band has based their sound more on groovy riffs than showing off. It was also noticeable that Bigelf had the smallest drum kit on stage this evening. It looked like a ten piece set and that is very small for a Progressive Rock band, but it definitely got the job done. The band played songs from all of their four albums, and their performance seemed to be highly appreciated by the attending audience. The songs were groovy and perhaps a bit easier on the ear than the previous band.

Bigelf setlist:
1. The Evils Of Rock & Roll (off Cheat The Gallows)
2. Neuropsychopathic Eye (off Money Machine)
3. Frustration (off Closer To Doom)
4. Hydra (off Cheat The Gallows)
5. Madhatter (off Hex)


OpethThis is Opeth’s tenth concert in Norway this year, as they played eight different towns on a government sponsored mini-tour in March, plus one concert in Oslo in July. With two gigs in Oslo already this year (this being the third) one would perhaps think that the fan-base in the Norwegian capital already have had their share of Opeth, but it seemed that a noticeably large amount of the audience had come just to see them.

Opeth’s sound is a mix of Progressive and Death Metal, and since their soundscape is very dynamic and varied it might be difficult to work as their sound engineers. This seemed to be the case this evening, especially at the start of their set. Though the semi-acoustic opener “Windowpane” worked out great, the heavier “The Lotus Eater” didn’t sound as well, especially the technical parts which vanished in the muddy sound. Also Michael Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals suffered in the first part of the concert. The vocals sounded loud and you could hear every word he sang, but the vocals were plain and sounded a bit insecure as it should have had a lot more delay to sound as good as it does on the records. After the first two songs the overall sound was a lot better and the concert experience improved a lot.

OpethThe band used an annoyingly lot of time in-between the songs on tuning the guitars. Vocalist/guitarist Åkerfeldt tried to fill the gap a few times with his bizarre and black style of humor. After the first song he introduced the band:
– We’re Swedish, from Stockholm, the capital of Scandinavia.
This “insult” caused the crowd to boo him a bit, but that’s simply the way Åkerfeldt’s dark humor works. He continued saying the previous song (“Windowpane”) wasn’t the heaviest song they have, and as an introduction to the next, heavier song, he explained how he had been reading in the guestbook on Opeth’s homepage after the Helsinki concert (September 23rd). Here he had come across a post that said “…you are a talented, skillful group of musicians […] but…that growl bullshit destroyed everything. […] To avoiding misleading these customers you could print on all growl-albums e.g.: Innehåller skit [Swedish for “contains shit”]”.

Opeth’s set list contained a few surprises. The only songs that had remained from their set in March were “The Lotus Eater” and of course the obligatory “Deliverance.” “Windowpane” was left out of the set in March, but was now back, accompanied with a great version of “Reverie/Harlequin Forest,” “Hex Omega” and the oldest song of the set, “White Cluster.”
All in all, the band did a great performance even though they had some sound issues in the beginning and used a lot of time in-between the songs, they really delivered. A couple of complex riffs, like for instance the ending of “Reverie/Harlequin Forest” and “Deliverance” showed that the band is extremely tight. Opeth are still one of the most important bands of the Progressive Metal genre and Metal in general.

Opeth setlist:
1. Windowpane (off Damnation)
2. The Lotus Eater (off Watershed)
3. Reverie/Harlequin Forest (off Ghost Reveries)
4. White Cluster (off Still Life)
5. Deliverance (off Deliverance)
6. Hex Omega (off Watershed)

Dream Theater

Dream TheaterThe headliners and godfathers of Progressive Metal, Dream Theater, entered the stage to the theme from 1960’s Horror/Thriller movie Psycho.
They opened with the opening track from their latest release, “A Nightmare To Remember,” which is a doomy and dark Progressive Metal song. The organ sound from the keyboards along with the pounding double kick drum action really underlines the new style of Progressive Metal that Dream Theater have adopted for their two latest albums. Dream Theater is a lot heavier and darker than they once were, and drummer Mike Portnoy’s dark-voiced bad boy-vocals in the middle of the sixteen minutes long song, is proof to this.

Three big screens switched between showing what was going on on-stage and showing animated videos during the set. One was located behind Portnoy’s drum kit, and the other two were located on each side of the stage. There was also an approximately 50” screen located by Jordan Rudess’ keyboard that showed a little animated green wizard, surrounded by a keyboard shaped as a hexagon, seemingly synchronized so that the little wizard played the same notes that Rudess played. That gave the audience the opportunity to study Rudess’ playing in a more detailed and funny way. Rudess was on fire this evening and on the second song of the set, and the second song from the new album, Black Clouds And Silver Linings, he even played a solo on his iPhone. Between this song and the next he had a solo spot where he used both piano sound and more techno oriented sounds on his keyboard. The structure of the solo spot was very similar to the one he plays on the Live: Scenes From New York CD/DVD, and what he played was strikingly similar as well.

The band continued with “Prophets Of War” off 2007’s Systematic Chaos, before they played the two oldest songs of the set; the brilliant instrumental “The Dance Of Eternity” and “One Last Time,” both off 1999’s Metropolis part 2: Scenes From A Memory. Vocalist James LaBrie sings just as great as he has done on the last two-three Dream Theater albums. It has taken him a long time to really recover from the food poisoning he suffered in 1994, that ruptured his vocal cords. The only noticable thing, when it comes to his vocal performance, is that he has trouble pronouncing words when he goes high-pitch. But that has kind of become LaBrie’s trademark and is something that you can hear on early releases of his career as well.

Dream Theater“Solitary Shell” is part six off the forty-two minute song “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence” (the longest song Dream Theater has ever recorded), off the record with the same name. The first part of the song saw guitarist John Petrucci play a double neck guitar, then after a while he switched to his regular six-string guitar. This song also had an extended instrumental part that started with Portnoy getting up from behind his drums, and walking in front of the kit hitting the cymbals and showing off a bit. Rudess used the opportunity to play his keytar, a portable keyboard the size of a guitar, and wear his red wizard hat.

An excellent version of the almost fifteen minute long “In The Name Of God” followed before the band went off-stage. After a short break they came back on to play the obligatory encore. The encore consisted of only one song, but since this one song lasted twenty minutes, the audience didn’t seem to mind. “The Count Of Tuscany” is arguably the best song off Black Clouds And Silver Linings. It’s got a feel of the 90’s Dream Theater while it’s still a really heavy song.

Although Dream Theater delivered a great show, the lack of old songs was a bit of a surprise. In Helsinki, Stockholm (the two previous dates on the European tour), Copenhagen, Berlin and Bydgoszcz (the three dates following the Oslo concert) they played songs off 1994’s Awake, and songs off 1997’s Falling Into Infinity. However, Dream Theater are well-known for changing their set from night to night, and it’s impossible to please everyone. It’s also a rather impressive thing that they can play different (and such complex and demanding) songs each night and still be able to perform them with such ease and assurance.

Dream Theater setlist:
1. A Nightmare To Remember (off Black Clouds & Silver Linings)
2. A Rite Of Passage (off Black Clouds & Silver Linings)
3. Keyboard solo
4. Prophets Of War (off Systematic Chaos)
5. The Dance Of Eternity (Instrumental) (off Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory)
6. One Last Time (off Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory)
7. Solitary Shell (off Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence)
8. In The Name Of God (off Train Of Thought)
9. The Count Of Tuscany (off Black Clouds & Silver Linings)


  • 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.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.