SMG Review: Opeth Live at the Mayan!

They are Swedish, they are Metal and they ROCK!

Have you ever gone to see a band perform live and left the show feeling totally inspired and alive to the point that you just wanna rush home, pick up your axe and get lost in the power of expression? We’ll last night I had that experience when I went to see Opeth live at The Mayan in downtown LA. Now for those of you that are not familiar with Opeth they are primarily known as a death metal band hailing from Stockholm Sweden with a back catalog that consists of ten studio albums, three live albums, two box sets, and three video albums. Although fairly unknown in the US until they released their 2005 album Ghost Reveries, which marked the band’s debut on Roadrunner Records, the band has been crafting some of the most enchanting melodies and musical precision not often found in the world of death metal. With three albums under their belt now since joining the Roadrunner family, people are starting to take notice that Opeth is more than just chug chug guitars and guttural screams and I think it’s high time for our minions here at SMG to discover the beauty of this incredible group.

The band is currently touring in support of their latest (and impressive tenth) studio album Heritage which is a step in a different direction for Opeth. Different because it is an album hailing the roots and well… heritage of the bands musical influences. This record is a blend of classic tones interlaced with a ménage of jazz, progressive rock, and classically infused melodies (and entirely clean vocals for the first time ever on an Opeth record) that make this a great introduction to the incredible musicianship of the group. Mainman Mikael Akerfeldt has always been the primary songwriter and never fails to assemble the finest musicians Europe has to offer. With this album and lineup he has created a masterpiece that any fan of true musicianship should add to their collection.

Now on to the show! I’ve seen Opeth at least a half-dozen times over the past few years and I’m sure I’ll be seeing them for years to come because they are just one of those groups that sucks you in when you see them live. Aside from Akerfeldt’s humor and wit (which is worth the price of admission alone) the flawless precision of each member leaves you breathless. Charging right in with cuts from the latest record Akerfelt alongside guitarist Fredrik Åkesson (formerly of Arch Enemy) I was again awestruck how these two make every note on the guitar sing out as if it has its own voice. The vibrato, the tones, the note choices, all beckoned back to the days of the predecessors they attribute their acumen to like Ritchie Blackmore, Frank Moreno, and Yngwie Malmsteen (which newly acquired keyboardist Joakim Svalberg use to play for). After a few numbers off the new record, the band offered a debut performance of the first single off their last album Watershed entitled Porcelain Heart (see below) complete with a Jazz inspired, blast beat infused drum solo by Martin Axenrot. Then they broke out the acoustics (or as Dethklok would say “Grandpas Guitars”) and played a few obscure songs from their catalog which included a beautifully executed version of Pyre which is a bonus track found on the extended edition of the new heritage record. With floydlike depth and harmonic highs they transitioned back to the progressive essence rounding out the night with a few more tunes before heading off stage to enjoy a couple of drinks (a couple meaning 12 drinks precisely Akerfelt said repeatedly throughout the bands set). The Mayan was the perfect venue for this show as the stage, props, lighting, and backdrops toting the bands signature O logo design fit perfectly in the rooms decor in a way that would make one think they brought the stage with them.

I highly recommend RUSHING to your local record store (if you can find one) or log on to iTunes and buy Heritage and then next time Opeth rolls through your town make it a point to go see them! Be warned though, the music may just take your breath away so be prepared!


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