You’ve got to hand it to Mikael Åkerfeldt. Moving away from the heavier side of Opeth’s music must have taken some serious balls, especially when that’s what won them their initial fanbase. We thought we’d head down to Brixton and get our prog fix.
Six things we learnt when Opeth played in London:
1) Pain of Salvation prove to be a great choice of support, showcasing tracks off their eighth studio album Road Salt Two. Daniel Gildenlöw’s bluesy voice sits perfectly over their vintage prog-inspired riffs and despite the muddy treatment of the Academy’s acoustics, the band show they are capable of great things.
2) As we were hoping, tonight Opeth set’s is very much Heritage themed – focusing on newer tracks as well as older material that explores Opeth’s more melodic side. In fact there’s not one death metal growl, at least not from the band. It’s always been obvious Mikael Åkerfeldt has a beautiful singing voice and tonight we are treated to more of it than usual.
3) It’s great to witness serious bands displaying a healthy sense of humour and Opeth seem to be in particularly good spirit – jamming the chords to ‘Faith’ (yes the George Michael song) for the crowd to sing along to. Later Mikael treats us to a slice of Whitesnake’s ‘Slow An’ Easy’ which ironically less people seem to recognise.
4) In terms of dynamics, this could be the best we’ve ever seen Opeth – even surpassing the greatness of that Damnation set at Shepherd’s Bush in 2003 when the band recorded their first live DVD. Songs like ‘I Feel The Dark’ explore the acoustic-led, folky side of Opeth whilst the sheer doominess of ‘A Fair Judgement’ prove Opeth can still be heavy without playing the death metal card.
5) It’s fairly busy in here tonight and would probably have sold out if Devin Townsend wasn’t in town performing Ghost in its entirety. If both bands were put together on the same bill, that would have been a prog-metal (well, less of the metal) wet dream.
6) The reaction to Heritage has been very good, despite the risk run by phasing out their extreme metal elements. This crowd are clearly loving what Opeth are doing right now, showing deep appreciation for a band that aren’t afraid to evolve. Tonight they remind us of just how boring “safe” music really is and how much we love them for daring to surprise us.