Sunday, 27 April 2008

LIVE: Opeth / Manchester Academy 1 - 25/4/08

A somewhat muddled touring bill finds Opeth squeezed in between the humdrum chugga metal of Devildriver and the more palatable Swedish mega riffs of Arch Enemy. Quite why some clever bod has seen fit to dub this Defenders of the Faith, we can only speculate, but my money's on some half cocked attempt at religious irony.......whatever the case, the music is the real reason to be present tonight.

Missing openers 3 Inches of Blood due to the early doors (used literally for once, rather than colloquially), also passed on Devildriver because, well, cheap lager is frankly more interesting. Reports from others in the building range from "best band of the night" to "underwhelming", so my guess is it depends whether you enjoy standard fare metal or not. Arch Enemy are co-headlining this tour and topped the bill this evening, of which I caught about half the set. The core of their blistering metal has its foundations in the superb guitar work of Michael Amott, whose tight riffing and inventive licks give the songs an individuality they might otherwise lack. However, the main focus of my night was Opeth, who delivered and then some.

Having caught up with the bulk of older material in the past year (initially my earliest understanding of the band was only Still Life onwards), it was heartening to hear the intro to 'Demon of the Fall' belt out to announce the Swedish masters of dynamic black metal. With a back catalogue expanding into the double figures and consisting of many songs of which they could also say the same,there will always be glaring omissions from an Opeth set, yet tonight they cover a number of these releases. 'Master's Apprentices' whips up even more of a storm and hot on its heels is a frenzied 'The Baying of the Hounds'. The centre of the set comprises the glorious contrast of the delicate, hopeful 'In My Time of Need', offset by the following malevolent thunder of 'Wreath'
. These are taken from the intended double album of 'Damnation'/'Deliverance', which unfortunately got released a good year apart from each other due to major label buggering about, the juxtaposition here demonstrating exactly why they were intended for one full listen. Opeth's full range of emotions are expertly conveyed during this 15 minutes and done no further harm by excellent new track 'Heir Apparent', which fully whets the appetite for new album 'Watershed'. The best saved for last may be clich├ęd, but in the hands of this band and a captivating version of 'The Drapery Falls' - where it all started for me - it's simply the natural climax. The mournful opening, building to sweeping peaks and soul-searching nadirs, perfectly captures the essence of the band in one final hurrah.

Then they're gone, leaving only the prospect of a new album well over a month away and the hope of finally seeing an 'Evening with....' tour later in the year, so that we can simply revel in their atmosphere without distraction. A stunning set from a band that could interchange almost all the songs ten times and still not disappoint. Now where do I sign up for that autumn tour.......?


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Now playing: Katatonia - Consternation
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