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Live Reviews

Opeth in NYC: Progressive Rock or Jazz Metal?

By Published: October 25, 2008

"Hope Leaves" is a more conventional song, written in one main verse section that is repeated before an instrumental end section, instead of many different sections. One of the main features was a stunning fluid solo by Akesson to finish the piece, ala Mick Taylor of the early '70s Rolling Stones—but it was the opportunity also for more Akerfeldt jokes after the song. "I [...] love Frederick too," he said. And then, as if as an afterthought: "And If you don't like Frederick (delivered in a quasi—Monty Python announcer voice), ... you're a bitch!"

It was also time to "introduce" relatively new drummer Martin Axenrot (who joined in 2006): "Yes, there he is," said Akerfeldt as Axenrot waved to the crowd somewhat shyly with both hands raised outward: "... the Buddy Rich of death metal!" Buddy Rich? The breadth of Akerfeldt's interests and influences was probably well illustrated right there.

Opeth's latest album is Watershed (Roadrunner, 2008): the album entered the Billboard Top 200 at number 23, and the opening song was from it. Akerfeldt introduced the album: "... and we'd like to play a song from that very album right now!" More hilarity from the crowd at this comical statement.

"Yeah, you sound excited," continued Akerfeldt like a stand-up comedian playing the crowd. "Let's see if we can play this one—it starts something like this". Akerfeldt began crooning a medieval sounding chant—like melody accapella. Then the band came in.

Later in the gig somebody threw a coin on stage. "Yeah thanks, a coin. Great," Akerfeldt lamented. He struck a funky chord. "For that, I'm going to play the Doobie Brothers!" He strummed a few funk-like chord rhythms, before finishing up: "It would have been ugly!"

The next track was from the band's second album Morningrise (Candlelight, 1996). Akerfeldt: "It was (pauses for effect) ... 'minstrel' metal (emphasis on both words)". He has said that when the band recorded the album he visualised the music as being played by lutes, and band members brought in chess sets to play between takes! The excellent and descriptive "The Night And The Silent Water" was the song in question. The whole introductory sound of the guitars and their parts evoked the title. Classical! [A blog read by this writer fascinatingly claims that at one point a fan (apparently overheard by the blogger, who was at the gig) said "Did you hear that passage into the diminished seventh. That was incredible!"]

As Opeth songs are usually at least seven or eight minutes in length, after only a relatively few atmospheric and drama-filled tracks the end of the gig was fast approaching! (The concert was ten songs, over about one hour forty minutes).

A more straight-forward traditional dark metal Opeth favorite, "Demon Of The Fall"—"A different type of 'Fall,'" said Akerfeldt—ended the main part of the gig. The band then returned to play many fans' favorite Opeth number, the typically multipart "The Drapery Falls"—from the Blackwater Park album (Koch, 2001)—as an encore. And then the curtain (metaphorically) fell on a brilliant and entertaining occasion, an Opeth gig at the Nokia.

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