I’m just back from seeing Swedish progressive metal band Opeth at the HMV Picture House on Lothian Road, Edinburgh. What a fabulous gig… but equally it was a very odd gig.
Except this evening they were more Swedish progressive band Opeth than Swedish progressive metal band. Which given the direction that their latest album Heritage took shouldn’t have come as any surprise, but it rather did, unfortunately.
It didn’t go unnoticed either. About an hour into the gig, a group of fans stood at the back and brayed “Play some f***ing METAL!” after every song.
After the gig I heard some folks referring to it as a ‘controversial’ Opeth gig. And in many ways it was. There to support Heritage, the band seemed to almost completely ignore their musical heritage in death metal. Not one song with death metal-style, gruff, vocals. Not one. Not even during the encore.
There were moments, if I’m honest, when I felt like I was in the Spinal Tap crowd witnessing the birth of Jazz Odyssey. I guess I wanted more energy from the stage, I wanted to feel immersed in the sound, to feel the power of the drums and overdriven guitars shaking my body.
But it was quieter, and more thoughtful; more Radio 4 than Planet Rock. Quite unexpected.
I often say that artists should be free to do what they like, to follow whichever musical path rocks their boat. Who am I to demand what they do, or play? So I can’t really complain: they played 90 minutes of their own material, drawn from quite a few albums from their back catalogue (each of which I have, and love). The set had integrity, it was played beautifully. I loved the music. I loved the performance. But I still left feeling disappointed.
I enjoyed it, but it felt… incomplete. It wasn’t the ‘dirge for November’ that I was anticipating.
All in all, though, that was the second best Opeth gig I’ve ever been to; I’ve been to two.