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Yo(peth)/Whoa(peth), No(peth) Mo(peth) Slow(peth) Fo(peth) Sho(peth)

  • Kip Wingerschmidt

Opeth Katatonia 2013 NA Tour

Those of you who religiously follow my writings here on MetalMehNotSoGood should remember my review of an Opeth show from last year during their tour with Ghost and some lesser-known band named Mastodon.  At that time I unabashedly ripped on the band for playing such delicate lullabies that I nearly fell asleep while in the pit.  This was a tough conflict for me because I am such a longtime fan and really did enjoy their last album, Heritage, VERY much – the softer, gentler, groovier Opeth sounded fantastic on the studio recording.  But live the material didn’t translate nearly as well, a surprise to no one except for yours truly.

Apparently we are entering a new phase of the band (and/or my critical voice was heard), since at the band’s recent Music Hall of Williamsburg show in Brooklyn, Mikael & Co. only played one jam from Heritage (“Haxprocess”), opting to stick to more mid-career songs.  And the set was unmistakeably much more vibrant and well-received than the last time around; is this increased success coincidence?  Ish don’t think so.

The band’s set still had an oddly eclectic quality to it – song selection leaned most heavily on Ghost Reveries (I believe they played four songs from that one), but also incorporated some unexpected choices from Still Life and a couple older ones Mikael said they’ve never played in New York before.  Some superfans were pumped to hear a couple tunes they never do, but I still wanted more classics.  Hard to be disappointed though, as the current lineup continues to gel more and more every time, and when Opeth rocked the always-anthemic title track from Blackwater Park all seemed quite well in the world.

Naturally Mikael’s between-song banter was sterling, as per usual… topics ranged from Manowar to how Akerfeldt’s at-the-time illness affected his singing voice/song selections, to the influence his native land has had on our metal scene here in the States: “You should know where Gothenburg is because your entire American metal scene is based on it.”  While that is certainly debatable, it’s hard not to respect a Swede with some balls, especially one willing to proclaim such divisive statements that might get a man beaten in New York City.

Opener Katatonia set a fuzzy-feeling yet lukewarm tone for the night; clearly this is an extremely capable band with a distinctive sound, but for me, said sound sits in one general vicinity way too much….perhaps a consequence of being around for so long.  After thoroughly enjoying the first few songs, I felt like I was then given them again and again.  But I am hardly an expert; maybe better to follow the enthusiasm level of the long-haired Mexican man to my left who sang every word like his life depended on it.  Some bands require familiarity to dig on their live shows, and any band that has been successful since the early 90s deserves accolades simply for that.  Regardless I was glad to have seen this longstanding outfit.

On the whole, a splendiferous evening of sensual Swedish sounds…

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