Opeth

support The Eternal
author PP date 24/04/06 venue The Forum, Melbourne, AUS

Opeth is the band almost every other prog metal band aspires to be. The band has an indescribable amount of class and grandeur both in their appearance and in their sound, which is why today's venue, The Forum in Melbourne, fitted perfectly for the preconceptionary image of Opeth that I had in my mind. Red carpets and pillars were everywhere, with beautiful stone (?) sculptures on the walls, and the stage was clearly a re-decorated old theatre, with statues high up on the sides surrounded by more pillars, making it all look almost like ancient Rome. Somehow the entire venue glowed with upper class kind of status and aristocrat atmosphere, and somehow that was the only way I could imagine seeing a band like Opeth.

A local act, The Eternal, had been selected to support the band during their Australian tour. Unfortunately, if you're going to support a band as great and influential as Opeth, you yourself have to have a certain degree of greatness hiding within your sound. Instead, The Eternal proved to be the perfect answer to the question that I've been pondering in my mind for a while now: 'Why don't more metal bands have singing instead of growling?'. The reason is, that once you create monstrous riffs that thunder across the hall, your clean vocals make you sound like a pussy. They're weak and are dominated by the instruments most of the time. Now, this would be fine if The Eternal would combine them with at least some growling, which would've fitted perfectly to their music, but no. Each time when I was waiting for a growl, more clean singing came out of the singers mouth. On top of that, the band showcase the incredible quality vacuum that's left behind by the great prog metal bands like Dream Theater and Opeth. Once you've heard the two prior bands, and you hear mediocre songs like the ones The Eternal put out today, you just can't help but to dislike the band.

Performance-wise, The Eternal weren't much better. Their stageshow was boring to say the least, with not much movement, which is much needed if your material isn't deep and quality enough to speak for itself, like that of Opeth's for instance. Just look at the hardcore movement: many bands are absolutely shit but they make up for it by their insane liveshow, where they damn near destroy the stage and/or themselves! The crowd wasn't much into The Eternal either, the floor had maybe two, maybe three rows of people all at the front, while the rest of the crowd was sitting at the bars or at the tables further down the hall. During several songs, the chatter from the tables was at the level of the amps, which must have been frustrating for the band on stage. However, once their drummer got his chance to shine with a drumsolo, loads of more people staggered to the floor. I'm sure you know how it looks like when something moves fast enough to seem like a big blur - well, that's how their drummer's drumsticks were moving. I didn't think it was possible for anyone to ever move as fast as his hands and body was during that awesome, original drumsolo, which raises the grade of this review by one or two. However, no matter how much I try, I can't remember any other positive parts about their act, but that's probably because it was boring.

4

Opeth has long been one of the most respected names from the Swedish metal scene. The way they are able to create 10+ minute epic songs with overwhelming amounts of depth and beautiful ballads combined with brutal death-metal style songs is a true sign of a genius mastermind, namely Mikael Åkerfeldt. Everything about their stage-appearance shines elegance and modesty. Despite them playing two damn-nearly sold out shows in the same city (one yesterday as well), at no point did I feel like the band was being arrogant about their own greatness or pricks towards the crowd. As perfect evidence of this, Mikael announced that since they played here yesterday as well, they're going to change the setlist quite radically tonight. We heard some really, REALLY old songs, all the way from their second album "Morningrise", some from "Still Life", some from "Blackwater Park", "Deliverance" and from "Damnation". Some of the songs, according to Mikael, the band hadn't performed since their early tours many many years ago, which made the crowd feel ever-so special.

Opeth didn't need to move much on stage. Their music simply speaks for itself, when it echoes around the hall from the front to the back to the top to the sides. The grandeur of songs like the dominating "Deliverance" was so amazing, that I could only stand there shivering of the greatness I was witnessing on stage. This is something most bands aspire to do, but fail miserably in doing so. "The Baying Of The Hounds" and "The Grand Conjuration", both from the new album "Ghost Reveries", thundered their way across the hall and induced the entire crowd to headbang like the world was going to end tomorrow. Before "The Grand Conjuration", Mikael gave a little bit of a history lesson on the band. He stated that "back when Opeth was starting, all Swedish bands were doing this twin-guitar harmony thing, and we just wanted to be different. Since then we have created music that WE like, much more riff oriented than lead oriented. Now do you wanna hear a good riff?" and they broke into the intro riff of the song. And I swear, at least 70% of Melbourne's long-haired males were in attendance tonight, with the average age being at least 24-25 years old. I saw many 40+ year olds who seemed like they could've been fathers of some of the younger members of the crowd, and they were dancing and headbanging more intensely than the younger kids. All conversation had stopped, everyone was enjoying what could be one of the best metal performances I've seen in my life.

My only criticism to the band and the performance is the amount of ballads. The crowd seemed much more active and awake when the band was destroying their way through the heavy songs, while during the ballads I saw people yawning. In fact, Mikael even said to the microphone jokingly, that "if someone headbangs while they are yawning, well, just don't do that!" (or something similar to that). Whenever Mikael spoke, it was crystal clear that he thought about what he was going to say before he said it. He didn't just launch those meaningless "I love you guys" comments, but instead he thanked the crowd for showing up and genuinely meant it as well. At the end of the show, Mikael introduced everyone in the band resulting in thunderous applauds, before they broke into their last song "Demon Of The Fall". When a band plays as long as Opeth did (2 hours and 10 minutes!!), and it does not result into crowd being bored or tired, you know you've been to an amazing show.

8

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