Supports: The Vintage Caravan
Location: Berlin, Germany
By: Daniel Picón
Opeth is touring Europe to promote their new album “In Cauda Venenum” which was released on 27 September 2019, Opeth decided to release this record in two versions, a Swedish language and an English language one. So the question was, which language would they pick for the concert when they start playing their new songs.
The venue was “Huxleys Neue Welt” the city, Berlin. It’s my second time going to this venue and something that I had already realized the first time that I went there is that the nearby bars and convenience stores on that same street all play music from the band which is playing on that night. Please also note that the venue is between Kreuzberg and Neukölln which is at the heart of all things hip, döner kebab and urban grooviness, Berlin style. So arriving to the venue while listening to Opeth being blasted by the local businesses was an interesting way to get prepared for what was about to happen.
The Vintage Caravan was the warm up band for this tour, it was my first time seeing them and I was positively amazed, not sure if it’s because they are a trio, but the Icelanders were reminiscent of 1974’s Rush, and to clarify, that’s before Neil Peart arrived to the scene and things got all poetic and full of odd time signatures. That being said, they rocked hard, soft and several gradients in between as well, they had a blues oriented jammy garage rock vibe to them which they pulled off very well. I must also add that there is some serious cowbell action utilized within this part of the show, more cowbell never hurt no one.
Opeth followed and opened with “Svekets Prins” So yes they went Swedish on us, which I agree was the best decision, Mikael Åkerfeldt (Vocalist/Guitarist) came on stage looking like he came straight out of a 70s Lynyrd Skynyrd themed Halloween party, it was entertaining to say the least.
Opeth stopped growling/screaming some time ago at least within their records, the last album where they had these death metal elements was in Watershed (2008), ever since then they got cleaner and their prog sound started to gravitate more towards the style of bands like Camel or Yes. Their last album is just a step further in that direction. In their concerts they still play some of the growly tunes because well, they have to please the fans to some extent. But I personally like how they curated the set list. Starting with a song with clean vocals in Swedish that could’ve come out in the late 70s and then following up with “The Leper Affinity” which introduces Mikael’s screaming just so the crowd remembers where Opeth actually came from, talk about dynamics.
An interesting song that was thrown into the mix was “Nepenthe” from the record “Heritage” which seems to be one of the talent-showcasing numbers and it definitely showed how skillful Fredrik Åkesson (Lead guitarist) is at laying down lengthy intricate guitar solos against complicated rhythmic sections.
One of the highlights for me was “Moon above, sun below” which is an excellent track from “Pale communion” that shows Mikael pushing his vocal capacity, this song is full of ups and downs, beginnings and ends and interesting transitions that serve as a playground for the lights and video projections to get creative, and in this case, creative they got.
As soon as Mikael starts introducing the following song which will be from the record “Damnation” the crowd got very agitated without even knowing which song was about to go down. Since“Damnation” is one of their least metal records to date, I can assume that most people prefer Opeth’s softer side, I will include myself in that group. As they started playing “Hope leaves” I noticed I could hear the voices of the crowd singing along and so much that they started to overpower Mikael’s voice.
Listening to “Allting tar slut” live was definitely epic, as soon as they got to the closing section of the song, the planet earth was projected onto the back of the stage and the lights went brighter so even the crowd could see each other, it gave a larger than life feeling, this was perhaps my favorite moment of the whole concert. When listening to the record before I did not pay much attention to this song, but after this night I’ll always remember this moment and appreciate the song differently. It also was quite surprising to hear Fredrik’s voice isolated, specifically in the verse where Mikael and Fredrik have a question/response vocal part, not only he can shred but the man can sing!
Towards the end of the show they were taking song requests, in most cases they played the first couple of seconds of the requested song, either exaggerating a certain element of the song to make it funny or embracing how much they don’t remember the song, this caused a couple of laughs, but the interaction between the crowd and the band was great. If you have ever been to an Opeth show you should already know that Mikael is quite a casual standup comic, most of his fans know that throwing random comments or questions at him is the best way to trigger his comedic side, this night was no different from any other, every couple of songs he would make some funny remarks, a memorable one was after playing an attempt of “Face of Melinda” which was ended abruptly by saying he doesn’t remember the lyrics followed by “We’re here for you… and for the money…”
They decided to end the show with “Deliverance” which is a song that most older fans would consider a classic and a proper ender, even though it’s a harder song with death metal vocals, it truly embraces the overall sound of Opeth, it shows all of their sides. Unfortunately the growls were either lost in the mix or Mikael is losing touch with his aggressive side, that not only goes for this song but for all the songs that had growling or screaming in them. Mid-song Martin Mendez (Bassist) which apart from Mikael, is the longest serving member of Opeth came down from his quiet hidden corner and came to the front of the stage, to which the crowd cheered and reacted very positively. This reaction led me to understand how much fans follow Opeth. You can’t not love Martin Mendez, but how they gave love to the bass player was quite remarkable, often times at least in metal, bass players are not as appreciated as other members in the band.
Overall great experience, an awesome set list which truly represented the bipolar character of this band’s musical offering.