How do you critique a band that simply belies definition? How do you objectively set out to write about a live performance that has left you dazed, drunk and so glad that you are alive? Indeed, what can you say about an act that reminds you that life is about celebrating the senses and living the moment?
One can only try.
Opeth played at Sheppard’s Bush Empire, England, late last year – a wood coliseum just perfect for the occasion. As Mike Akerfeldt and his men took the stage, few would have had any notion of what was to follow. After all, no one can second-guess a band that goes from vulnerably beautiful acoustic parts in one instant to barbwire-stringed riffs in the next, that lulls you into a state of to unguarded bliss with lifting, clear vocals only to yank you into shocked sobriety with some rabid, cancer-ridden growling. But if the regulars had any expectations from the show, 2 hours of staggering, awe-inspiring magic from the enchantingly fragile ‘Damnation’ and the more savage ‘Deliverance’ did much more than just meet them.
To be honest, metal purists will find the first part of the gig (predominantly the ‘Damnation’ set) somewhat light on the palate– the band in fact doesn’t even headbang once! But in my opinion this only highlights the sheer musical latitude of the band, and their complete mastery in either form. Plus it serves as a perfect red herring for the coal-tar-gurgled attack of the second half. Gone is the unplugged lovemaking, gone are the feather-brush drum caresses, gone is the soothing singing. When the curtains part for the second time, it’s earwax-melting metal all the way (with Opeth’s unique coat of melody, of course). In fact, ‘Deliverance’ (the album) is probably the heaviest Opeth release yet. From the pickaxe massages of ‘Master’s Apprentices’ to the majestic title track to the sweeping, soaring grandeur of ‘A Fair Judgement’ – this is Opeth as they best sound.
The difference between a musician and an artist is clear once the person plays live. In this Swedish quartet’s case, there is need for a third qualifier. Opeth onstage is a tribute to the spirit, a wonder that music so beautiful, so flawless and with such a haunting aftertaste exists at all. It will thrill, elevate and humble you every time you press ‘play’.
Lamentations is a 14 song (+ in-depth band interview) digipak release by ‘Music for Nations’ records. You can place your orders at http://www.theendrecords.com/ . My pre-order cost me just $12 but the actual sale price is $22. A tad expensive maybe- but then the bigger loss would be to not own the DVD.
peace, love, empathy