Opeth

support Von Hertzen Brothers
author MST date 26/11/12 venue Voxhall, Århus, DEN

On a regular Monday night in November we entered a completely sold out Voxhall in Århus. The occasion: Opeth had come to town. With their mix of relaxing progressive rock/metal, death metal and brutal growls, these Swedes attract many different kinds of people: the metalheads, the proggers, the old timers, the hipsters, and the youngsters just getting into heavy music. The fact that Voxhall was filled to the brim for a metal show is a testament to their accessibility as well as the consistency in quality of their critically acclaimed discography. But Opeth had brought a surprise with them on tour, so at 20:00 it was time to get progged up.

All photos by Marika Hyldmar

Von Hertzen Brothers

Von Hertzen Brothers

As far as I've been able to gather, Finland's Von Hertzen Brothers have released quality albums in the progressive rock genre since their debut album "Experience" was released in 2001. I had never heard of the band before as they ascended the stage, but I was very posivitively surprised. The band consists of the three brothers von Hertzen (hence the name) on guitars and bass, and a drummer and a keyboardplayer. Mikko von Hertzen was stationed at the center of the stage, mostly playing rhythm guitar besides being the lead vocalist. Kie and Jonne were stationed at the far left and right of the stage, playing lead guitar and bass respectively while providing some impressive backing vocals.

The music coming out of the speakers was slightly psychedelic progressive rock that ventures back and forth between light-hearted fun tracks ideal for partying to and more serious sections with darker atmospheres that clearly evoked feelings in the hearts of the musicians. Kie played his guitar solos passionately, before the song headed back into a more joyous territory that saw him break out into dancing with his axe. Through keyboard solos that at times reminded me of Deep Purple, and both catchy and emotionally powerful choruses that showcase the combined vocal talents of the three brothers, the band would be more than able to impress with their music alone. Between songs, the band didn't spend too much time talking to the audience, but with an energetic performance in the faster paced parts of their songs and more serious parts delivered with intense passion, Von Hertzen Brothers turned out to be a surprisingly satisfying support act.

Opeth

Opeth

As the lights were dimmed to announce the imminent arrival of the Swedish prog metal masters, the venue was completely packed with screaming fans. Mikael Åkerfeldt and co. opened the set with "The Devil's Orchard" from the band's latest album "Heritage", an album that separates itself form the rest of the band's discography by completely shedding all of the death metal influences that usually make up a big portion of the band's soundscape. And although many people adore that record, it was clear from the reaction from the audience that most people prefer their heavier material. Nevertheless, the worship of frontman and sole remaining founding member of the band, Mikael Åkerfeldt, had begun. And during the first few songs of the set, Åkerfeldt was indeed the only one worthy of such praise. Granted, Martin Mendez's bass play was excellent, as was Fredrik Åkesson's guitar wizardry coming from the left hand side of the stage, as well as Martin Axenrot's diverse and tight drumming and Joakim Svalberg's backing vocals and keyboards that both add atmosphere to the music in general but also actively adds to the musical soundscape. But all focus is directed at Åkerfeldt, both because of the pedestal that many put him on as a god among vocalists, but also because he is by far the most interesting thing happening on stage. Mendez and Åkesson pretty much let the music do the talking, even when the band move from the prog rock of the first song to the band's usual mix of progressive metal and death metal with "Ghost Of Perdition" from the "Ghost Reveries" album from 2005.

Opeth

But with focus kept firmly on Åkerfeldt, what attendants experienced was a first-class frontman. First of all, the praise this man receives for his vocal work is not without reason; his clean vocals may not exhibit extraordinary range, but they emit a certain calming sensation that really add to the acoustic sections scattered across songs like "Hessian Peel" and "Deliverance". Moving into a territory I'm more accustomed to analyzing, Åkerfeldt's growls on the other hand showcase an amazing range, as he goes from deep guttural growls to a high-pitched note in one go without changing to a scream, and they're always completely audible. Add to this the fact that there's an everpresent aura of passion around him, as he moved to the music with closed eyes and geuinely smiled during the instrumental parts of the songs. Between songs he made everyone feel at home with friendly banter about previous shows, other bands and just generally fooling around. Indeed, Åkerfeldt pretty much left nothing to be desired. And as the set moved on to include more old material, a ballad as well as another new song in the relaxing "Häxprocess", Åkesson really opened up and started reaching out to the crowd a lot more. After bidding the fans farewell as "Reverie/Harlequin Forest" ends, the band returned to the stage to the sound of their name being chanted loudly, and ended the set with one hell of an encore as the announcement of the last song being "Blackwater Park" received the loudest roar of the evening. From previous experiences as well as impressions from friends, I really didn't expect Opeth's show to be anything more than a solid exhibit of the band's music. But what was showcased in Århus on this Monday night was proof that Opeth can pull off a great performance that, even after two whole hours, only leaves one longing for more.

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