a review by the Crow.
On Saturday, the 19th of November, commuters on a double-decker bus heading into Wembley were gravely confused as they witnessed a crow and a swan travelling along with them, talking about the world and its mysteries (or lack thereof, for we see all).
That crow was, of course, yours truly, and the swan in question was our guest-reviewer, the Swan(!). And we were on our way to attend an Opeth gig.
I’m what one could call a “recovering metalhead”, but when it comes to Opeth, as I’ve said before, things are different. For a better understanding of what I think of Opeth and what my connection is to them, please click through to my review of the band’s latest album: Sorceress.
While this isn’t a team review (such as my prior collaborations with the Raven), the Swan(!)’s input will be added here and there; however, while we both had a great night out, there’s a little backstory to clear up, first.
While the Swan(!) has long admired Opeth, he wasn’t much familiar with some of their previous work. Therefore, I’d leant him some of my albums a few weeks before the gig. Missing in the loan were the albums Damnation and Deliverance, which I’d either assumed the Swan(!) had already listened to, or simply forgot to give to him. This caused a slight issue, which I’ll get to when it becomes relevant.
With that all said and done with, let’s go over the night’s events:
This was my first time inside Wembley Arena. Although a local bird, I’d never set foot in it, or ever even perched on it. At a glance, it’s nothing particularly special – it’s pretty darn ugly, as a matter fact. However, the actual performance area is pretty alright. For the event, as Åkerfeldt pointed out after the opening song, the stage had been moved closer to the seating area – a decision which made the gig more “intimate”.
In reality, it was due to the venue not being sold out. It’s a damn shame, especially considering that this is Opeth we’re talking about.
Overall, it’s your standard venue, but I had a feeling that the sound in the venue wasn’t exactly top-notch. I have little to go on, though, this being my first visit and whatnot.
Somehow, we walked into the event just as the Opening Act was finishing up (we’d expected things to begin at 1930, like the tickets said, but no, things actually started at 1900).
Of the two songs we heard in full, the first wasn’t really all that good, but the second one, from the band’s upcoming “yet-to-be-titled album” was absolutely amazing.
I’m very interested in tracking down that album when it comes out.
FEATURE ACT RECAP/Opeth
After what seemed like forever setting up (forty or so minutes past Anathema), the lights finally dimmed, the stage lit up in red, and low-register melodies started wafting across from the stage. Méndez, Åkesson, Axenrot, and Svalberg took the stage, and they began to play a slightly-extended intro to Sorceress (of course they’d open with it). When uncle Mikael, appeared after “standing over there” awhile, nonchalant as anything, cheers went up all around.
Us Opeth fans sure do worship our hero.
The performance of Sorceress was nothing but solid. While the new album might not be for everyone, Sorceress at least is one of the songs which retains a link to Opeth’s past. The ‘evil peacock intensifies’ moments were certainly epic, with said peacock staring out at us from the broken up displays at the back.
I wonder if that evil peacock’s ever going to drop by The Corvid Review, might be an interesting bird…
Over the last few years, during the period of my “recovery”, and not having seen any of Opeth’s recent performances, I was beginning to wonder if, with the band taking a new direction and whatnot, if Åkerfeldt was beginning to lose touch with the heavier side of things. Would his death vocals be the same? Would the heavier stuff not sound right any longer? Well, imagine my excitement when the next song turned out to be Ghost of Perdition. And it was… perfect.
After the first song, uncle Mikael addressed the crowd. One of my favourite things about Opeth performances is our little “chats” with the man. He let us know that the band was called Opeth, and that if they seemed a little blasé, it was because they were very tired, and that they were a bit grumpy (at which point the Swan(!) offered uncle Mikael some tea at the top of his voice – hilarity!). Åkerfeldt let the crowd know that they had “a long-ish set for” us. One of the songs, he said, was to be performed for the third time… ever. But then he reassured us that “it’s a shit song, doesn’t matter”.
Following up from Ghost of Perdition, we were treated to an older favourite: Demon of the Fall, from My Arms, Your Hearse. This song near blew the roof off’f the arena, but strangely enough, it was just the beginning of an exceptionally heavy night.
To soothe the palate a little, the band followed up with The Wilde Flowers from their latest album. It’s a lovely song, that the band seamlessly transitioned into, following our little “chat”.
Face of Melinda dropped next. The song is undeniably one of Opeth’s most easy-to-access for “normal people” as the Swan(!) calls them (i.e.: non-metalheads). Taken from the album Still Life, the song is about our hero and poor, poor Melinda. Heart-wrenching, really. Aching; without even knowing the lyrics (the only parts of the song first time listeners seem to be able to pick up are the praises of Melinda; e.g.: “maiden fair/Face of Melinda ‘neath blackened hair“, etc. with the big exception being the “No joy would flicker in her eyes“). At the end, uncle Mikael commended the “dance thing down there in the pit”, since there were “a lot of ladies” in the venue, and we might “you know…”, since that’s how his dad picked up girls in the 60s.
After all this talk of “exceptional electric boogie”, the band transitioned straight into Cusp of Eternity, from Pale Communion. It was a slightly heavier, slightly more aggressive version, and the energy certainly reached across the arena. It was just after the rush from the song that I had a funny thought. Perhaps its the unity of headbangers which makes outsiders view fans of metal as loose cultists. Unlike with fans of other music, headbangers have a sort of unspoken common language that’s channelled through their bodies. We’re in sync. The band is the otherworldly presence, and we’re just really doing a faster version of head-down, body-spastic channelling energy from them ritual. I mean, I know everyone knows that, but it was a funny thought nonetheless. Great energy to carry from the songs on either end of it.
The The Drapery Falls came across next, and as classics go, the performance was a perfect rendition of the song. And yes, we were all happy, just like Martin Méndez. Uncle Mikael tells us that the band’s reached that point in their career where they all hate each other and have “stopped talking to each other” until they see each other on stage. But he’s only joking, they’re going to go out to the pub later (at which point, we asked for the band to come over to our local as loud as we could; as did everyone else).
Åkerfeldt warned us next that the upcoming song would possibly not “come across in this room”, since it was so “fucking heavy”, even though at the end we’d probably say, at the end: “ah, it wasn’t that heavy”. And cue Heir Apparent. Again: perfect.
The final song of the first set was prefixed by the announcement that to tie everything together (“artistically”) after it was done with, there would be some mysterious sounds, and that the band would disappear suddenly, even though they’d really be “standing over there”. And that the band would come back on and play and “play a bunch of songs”, since they’re one of those bands who play a “bunch of songs”. And then, after a feint, The Grand Conjuration hits, which had to be the Swan(!)’s favourite moment of the night.
And then, the band disappeared (or at least we thought so). As the Swan(!) and I joined everyone outside for what we’d assumed was a break, the band played Windowpane. F*** our lives. Of all the songs we could’ve missed, it had to be Windowpane.
Oh well, we caught the tail end of it, rushing back when we realised what was going on, and it was lush.
Now at this point, I should clear up what I said earlier. Like a muppet (possibly), I didn’t hand the Swan(!) either of Damnation or Deliverance, and that somewhat affected his experience at the event. Sadly, he didn’t recognise any of the songs that came on from here on out.
After Windowpane, Death Whispered a Lullaby came on, and it was at this point that the crowd was in for an easy listening experience for some time.Obviously, Opeth was sticking to Damnation for the time being.
Before the next song came on, uncle Mikael spoke a little about the recording of Damnation, which in his words, was recorded back-to-back with Deliverance in the “anus of Sweden: Gothenburg”. Now, this crow has stayed up many a night on end, and he would never admit to uncle Mikael’s admission about the s***.
In My Time of Need was the next song which came on, and is there any doubt that Opeth would not render this song in all its glory?
After a few more feints, some git in the crowd requested Opeth play Wonderwall, to which uncle Mikael replied: “That band, I always thought they were horrible. …going to kick my ass if they see me.” After some tinkering with the equipment, a few riffs from Metallica, and some random dry jokes, the band seamlessly dropped Closure upon us.
And from there, we transition to the “slightly heavier sounds”. Deliverance was now upon us.
Now, the next song we should’ve recognised as an “Opeth song, but really [they] should pay some royalties to Morbid Angel”. It happens to be the first Opeth song that I learned the lyrics to, and quoted in both my final A-level painting, and an erstwhile novel-project from years ago: Master’s Apprentices! It’s been a while since I heard this song, and it’s as lush as ever. Uncle Mikael transitions between the vocal styles on display seamlessly, and it is just perfect.
Now that it’s “quite fun playing those old songs”, we come to our surprise for the night. The song uncle Mikael “hated”, “a piece of shit song”, “for some fucking reason”. But it turns out it’s “fucking fun” to play for them. And for the third time ever, and only to be played one more time after the night, which uncle Mikael doesn’t “know the lyrics for”, but “since it’s kind of gravelly vocals, [we] probably won’t hear it”. And, what song is it? What song is it?! It’s By the Pain I See in Others! And what a rendition it was!
The night finished off with a brutal delivery of Deliverance. Before the song, we were told that this would be the last one, and the members of the band were introduced: Méndez, Åkesson, Svalberg, and the Axe on drums. The frontman’s name is Mikael, and he knows we fucking love him.
What a finish, though! I’d told the Swan(!) that Deliverance takes its time coming to a close, and what a close it was! I apologise if the fancrow in me has been showing, but Opeth’s just that fucking awesome.
What a great night. Can’t wait to see them again!
FULL SETLIST RECAP
Ghost of Perdition (Ghost Reveries)
Demon of the Fall (My Arms, Your Hearse)
The Wilde Flowers (Sorceress)
Face of Melinda (Still Life)
The Drapery Falls (Blackwater Park)
Cusp of Eternity (Pale Communion)
Heir Apparent (Watershed)
The Grand Conjuration (Ghost Reveries)
DAMNATION & DELIVERANCE
Death Whispered a Lullaby (Damnation)
In My Time of Need (Damnation)
Master’s Apprentices (Deliverance)
By the Pain I See in Others (Deliverance)
CHARACTERS AND OTHER ANIMALS
As with all gigs, this one came with its own cast of characters. Apart from our animals friends dotted around the standing area, there were some individuals who caught our eye. Prime amongst them were Chris(?), I believe, a metalhead through-and-through, who was going through everyone in his immediate vicinity and doing this ring-a-ring-a-roses-style dance thingie. Mad fun. Guy was having the time of his life. And so were we. For the first time in years, I let rip and gave in to the old metalhead heart in me. Excellent stuff.
A strange thing I noticed while taking a look around was that the seating area immediately facing the stage was quite mum. I mean, the short video I took of them is something out of a horror movie. Apart from the few slightly bobbing their heads, they all come off as puppets with blank stares. Not so sure what in the heck was going on there.
This crow also witnessed his first chick dancing nightclub-style-at-a-metal-gig on the night.
The most negative character on the night was this Polish git right at the back who kept booing and screaming “Sorceress, crap!/New songs, shit!/etc.” during the mellow moments. How the drunken dickhead didn’t get a socking is beyond me. You tend to get a few idiots, though, so I’ll let it slide.
What an epic night it was. While I’m obviously biased, the event was undoubtedly an amazing one. I might’ve not been to gigs in years, but this performance was surely a standout.
The photo below is one I snapped of some members of the crew while they were setting up. These guys and their colleagues are the people behind the scenes which help make the magic happen. I felt it was only right to include them in this post.
Some of the funnier moments from the night apart from the Swan(!)’s offer of tea were his constant trying to outdo the cries of “I love you!” from the crowd, the elbow-lock dancie-thing, and the dry humour from uncle Mikael.
Shame on you, Brent Council (pls don’t hate me, for this crow is a local!), for setting the dB limit at 2300 so harsh. I’m sure us fans would gladly chip in and pay for the fine, as extortionate as it might be. This is Opeth, this is extraordinary, you should prostrate yourselves at the band’s feet.
Of course, it’s all in jest, but oh, what I’d have done to have Opeth stay on longer!
Here are some quotes from the Swan(!) about the night:
Thought I would hear more recognisable songs, but only one. Still a great show, though!
Mikael still has that heavy side to him and the eye candy in the crowd’s good to look at!
Welp, until we hear more from our non-passerine, we’ll leave it at that.
All in all, it was a great show.
Tonight, Opeth’s played in Paris, as they will tomorrow. Paris is a lucky city.
Here, have a look at the official poster before I deliver my fancrow rating: