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Gig Review: Opeth, Melbourne

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Opeth + Myridian
The Forum, Melbourne
7 May 2015
Review by Rod Whitfield
Photo by Wylie Burchall

One of my favourite bands on the planet at my favourite venue in Melbourne. Few things could be better. The Forum is a grand old dame, and its vaulted gothicness is ideal for a band like the mighty Swedes.

Opening proceedings however, was young Melbourne band Myridian. These guys slam out a very dark doomy death metal sound. I like the relatively simple, washy keyboard textures and the frontman has a very fierce, Akerfeldt inspired demonic howl on him.

The venue was almost completely packed for their set, which is fantastic for a relatively obscure local act. It’s possible they were very slightly overawed by the occasion, they didn’t appear to grasp the opportunity to impress a massive new audience with the hunger that they possibly may have. A little more intensity in the stage presence would have gone a long way. Especially from the drums, which is always the backbone of the vibe created by any rock or metal band.

Ultimately however, they deserved their spot on this most prestigious of bills, and did a solid job of warming the crowd for the illustrious headliners.

No band on the planet, that I’m aware of anyway, juxtaposes the soothing and the crushing to quite the extent that Opeth does. With the quite radical change in direction the band have gone through on their past two albums, the soothing side of Opeth is the dominant one now, but when the crush comes, it still comes with full force. It took until half way through the third tune to hear Akerfeldt’s patented death growls.

And that was going to be the question, how would the newer, more 70s prog rock inspired material sit alongside the older progressive death metal stuff. And the answer is, seamlessly. The very strong presence of the more mellow and soulful elements in Opeth’s music already assisted to make it so, and their set was possibly even more dynamic now than ever before. And that’s a massive call.

The setlist was very broad and varied, spanning virtually their entire 25 year history, and was a massive crowd pleaser. The crowd went nuts as Akerfeldt announced the next tune to be played or it recognised the opening strains of a song.

And speaking of the great frontman/guitarist, not only was he in typically excellent singing and playing form, he is a consummate entertainer, his between song banter as hilarious as always. After he has finished his career in rock and metal, stand up comedy awaits. Threatening the crowd with playing an Extreme song, and ribbing them about their name, reeling off what Sweden is famous for and playing the same two second long Napalm Death song five times had the hard bitten metal crowd rolling in the aisles. He even called himself ‘Crocodile Fuckin’ Dundee’ at one stage.

But of course, it’s the stunning music that you go to an Opeth show for. The band played for almost two hours, finished with the mighty The Grand Conjuration, left the stage briefly and came back on for just a single encore.

It’s just that that single encore happens to be almost 14 minutes long.

So do the maths, that is excellent value for money, and the crowd left the building deeply satisfied with the bang they got for their buck.

Bands like Opeth are true masters, and these masters are like a fine French wine in the manner in which they are aging. You may or may not like their new direction, but live they still rule.

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