A Grand Conjuration of Metal in Columbus: Enslaved and Opeth

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1 Jun 2009, 5:11

Sat 23 May – Opeth, Enslaved

After seeing Opeth last fall, I was even more stoked to see them this time around, since they are touring with Norway's Enslaved, a progressive black metal band that I have never seen live. The timing was a mixed blessing coming over Memorial Day weekend, but the weather was great for a road trip for three dudes from Cleveland.

I had never been to the Newport Music Hall before. It's practically right on campus of The Ohio State University since it's on the east side of High Street (hadn't actually been anywhere in High Street since all those party road trips back in the undergrad days...) A beautiful Saturday night of a holiday weekend on High Street at Ohio State when classes aren't yet out? Well, that's a decent environment anyway! Add a show by two awesome bands and there really wasn't a better way to spend a Saturday. Maybe a little too fun in the opinion of some people, since a hellfire & brimstone street preacher began assailing us the moment the door of the hall opened.

It turns out that Newport's a grungy place like Cleveland's Agora, maybe a bit smaller, but with a full wrap-around balcony over the floor below. I wish I had known about that balcony before, because it provides sweet views of the stage from above if you're early enough to get a standing-room spot along the railing. I also didn't know the place was so camera-friendly. So, as it was, I ended up with just my phone for photos and videos. There's a stairway at the back of the floor directly opposite stage center, and we staked out a spot right at the top, so we got a view directly at the stage. A bit far back but above all the arms and fists, so the photos came out decent anyway. Videos on a cellphone just don't work, though, since the sound completely overwhelms the crappy little mic. I have five videos from the show, but didn't bother to post any since they're unintelligible.

Enslaved
I am aware that Enslaved's more recent material which they are now touring to support is not widely considered to be as strong as their Viking metal classics. It's true that they've moved away from their earlier black metal/Viking metal work toward a more straight prog metal style, especially on the last three albums. Some have accussed them of trying too much to emulate Opeth since they now mix in clean vocals and quiet interludes, but I think that alone does not make them copiers of Opeth. It's a finer distinction: Opeth mix such quieter moments more with death metal, while Enslaved mix them with black metal. Witness, for example: do you hear any blast beats in Opeth's music?

Regardless, in my always-open-minded approach to a band's evolution and evaluating each album of a band on its own merits, I think Enslaved continue to turn out excellent work. My sense is that the patience of most fans of their early works ran out with Below the Lights. So this show was probably a bit of a disappointment to those that may have come to hear early material, since only one song came from that album and nothing from anything prior. Frankly, though, I'm not sure that would have been a realistic expectation, considering they were an opening act and have been touring to support their newer style and works. Just not enough time for older stuff. I, too, would have loved to hear some of it, but did not expect to. So, they featured songs only from their four most recent albums, including selections also from Isa, Ruun, and Vertebrae.

To the best of my recollection, this was the setlist. I'm sure it was seven songs, though I may have a couple switched in order. This ran about 45 minutes:
To the Coast
Fusion of Sense and Earth
Ruun
As Fire Swept Clean the Earth
Ground
The Watcher
Isa

Here they are near the beginning of the set:



One semi-humorous footnote: Perhaps in an attempt to match the popular good-humored nature of Mikael Åkerfeldt when onstage, and also to take the piss out of their Swedish tourmates, Enslaved's leading man Grutle Kjellson told this groaner near the beginning of their set: "Why did the Swedes take a car door out into the desert? So in case it got too hot, they could roll down the window!" (followed appropriately by a rimshot from the drummer). Actually, what was weird was the fact that this came from such a (formerly) serious black metal artist.

Opeth
It's not really likely to top Mikael's stage presence, though. In fact, he's right up there with Geddy Lee and Eric Bloom among the best. (Must be a trait of progressive rock artists...) As usual, he introduced the show with, "This band is called Opeth. We come from Sweden, and we are the best band in the world. We are here to rock."

What a nice move to choose to wear a British Steel tee! Surely a nod to the fact that Priest are playing the entire album live on this summer's tour? I know Mikael doesn't consume alcohol while playing, but something I failed to notice previously: he even has a bottle holder on his mic stand so he can stay well-hyrdated throughout the entire show! How considerate of him to provide us with his finest mental acuity. (Others, however, not so much*)

We got an awesome two-hour set, touching on all albums except Orchid and Blackwater Park**. A bit of a bummer that they didn't play anything from the latter, and a bit surprising that they left of The Drapery Falls. But that was perhaps precisely the point, and I can't complain at all about the setlist, especially since I saw them perform that last time.

So here is the version of the setlist that we got:
Heir Apparent
Ghost of Perdition
Godhead's Lament
Wreath (Mikael: "Do you like death metal? We like death metal. we're going to play a death metal song...")
Karma
Hessian Peel
Closure - I'm not a big fan of the song (as I've said before, Damnation is only a personal one-hit wonder), but this was much more interesting because it was an extended jam.
The Night and the Silent Water
Lotus Eater

Encore:
This consisted of band introductions, a solo, and one more track. Of course, with Mikael, band introductions are not merely, "on (this instrument), let's hear it for (this guy)" We get the inside scoop! And of course, it's time for Mikael to abuse his mates...

"(Martin Mendez) thinks we should honor him with the title King of Bass Players!"

"On lead guitar we have a new kid on the block...His guitar is like an extension of his penis. And now he is going to jack off for you."

Fredrik Åkesson guitar solo

Mikael (responding to calls from the fans): "Who am I? GOD. I am God. You've all been blessed, by being in my presence. The people who take what I say seriously are in deep shit."

"We're gonna play one more song. To make it extra super-fuckin' heavy we tuned it down to Drop D tuning. If you're a nerd, you know what that means."
Demon of the Fall

A couple of my best shots:

Ghost of Perdition:


The Night and The Silent Water:


(One guy who knew enough that you can bring basically whatever camera you want and was standing just to my right got a fantastic zoomed shot of just Mikael, bathed in the blue spotlight during this song. If you know that guy (or ARE that guy), lemme know. I want that pic!)

All in all, yet another fantastic show by one of the most awesome bands to see live. Even if you're just a sorta fan, don't miss them when they come to town!

\m/ (ò_ó) \m/

*The only drawback to this show: the totally wasted asshole and his loud-mouthed, inconsiderate bitch of a girlfriend standing right the fuck next to us and punctuating every quiet interlude and stage banter moment by screeching "Opeth Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuules!" and "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" at nearly inhuman volume. Since Opeth offer a lot of such quite moments, they had ample opportunity to provide these "contributions." It was so bad that during one stage break, Mikael even looked DIRECTLY AT THEM and said, "Please, do me a favor. Shut the fuck up."

That drew a round of cascading roars down on their heads, but only made them all the more worse. KMV was a hair away from punching the guy in the mouth as they "discussed" the drawbacks of this kind of disruptive fun, KJV having already had a hard time getting pestered and doused in beer by "Doug", another drunk dumbass who swore he knew him from a local tattoo parlor. Meanwhile, I finally settled the issue by standing a fraction of an inch in front of his chick, keeping my arms constantly in the air, throwing the horns. Having the benefit of my geezer's earplugs in my ears, I couldn't be bothered by her intentionally trying to shriek directly in my ears. After I turned around and said, "What?!?!? I can't hear you with these earplugs!" she totally unironically howled, "You're RUINING the fucking concert!" and stormed off! Ah, what an inconsiderate dick, I am...

They eventually buggered off, only to go off and annoy the hell out of people in another area. One guy even mentions this on his youtube video of "The Night and The Silent Water" Watch here and listen for that prick at about the 5-minute mark:



**They have played The Leper Affinity at some shows this tour, but that's been in place of "Wreath", and then in that case you don't get anything from Deliverance. Of the two, I think I'd rather have "Wreath" and then you have one from each of that and Damnation, which seems an appropriate pairing.
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Comentarios

  • Lociferx

    Oh man I seriously thought someone was going to punch that chick in the jaw. I was standing right at the bottom of the stairs on the right the whole time and even I couldn't tolerate the shrieking. I don't understand how people think that could be a decent thing to do. I'd almost bet that the bitch didn't know anything about opeth and was trying to feign interest for her boyfriend, as any actual fan wouldn't be trying to cover their music with banshee like shrieks.

    1 Jun 2009, 12:13
  • Anjoli

    Thanks for a great review! Swedes and Norwegians are like siblings who don't get along too well. That story about the car door in the desert is in Sweden known as the Norwegian with the car door in the desert. They obviously have the same stories but the other way around. "What's the difference between Norway and outer space? There is still hope for intelligent life in outer space."

    1 Jun 2009, 12:28
  • kurashu

    I got the chance to see these guys in Memphis. It was fucking awesome other than the shit sound at the New Daisy. It treated Enslaved pretty well but Opeth took it on the nose. That and it didn't help that I started to get dehydrated and overheated. =/ I had to leave about 3/4 through their set. I do have to say that it was probably the best anniversary present I've ever received.

    2 Jun 2009, 3:27
  • sablespecter

    @Lociferx...damn right those fools don't know a damn thing about Opeth nor how to watch their show. They were just there to try and start shit with people, for sure. Despite them it was still an awesome show, like always. Nice avatar, BTW! @Jonas...while I was waiting in line to get in the door, I met a girl standing behind me who was from Stockholm. She was there with a guy who was an Opeth fan who had never seen them live. She was asking if they sing in Swedish or English, and we got to talking. She was asking because she was willing to translate but was hoping not to have to. So I told her about Enslaved opening for them, and asked if she could translate Norwegian in case they played any of their older songs in Norwegian. "Yeah, I could do that, too, but what a bore that would be. I did that at another show one time where a Norwegian band was playing and it was nothing but banal lyrics about blood, death, Satan, rar rar raaaar!" xD So I got the drift by a bit of the looking down the nose! @kurashu: That is indeed a fine present, but too bad for the bad venue. Fortunately we've got fairly good venues here in Cleveland and the cities around and I've not yet had an experience like that, even when crushed up against the front barrier at, say, a Lamb of God show. So call a mulligan on that and do Opeth again, maybe on a road trip. Consistently one of the best live shows!

    2 Jun 2009, 4:01
  • thejackyl

    I am beyond disappointed that I missed this tour. That said, the lack of Blackwater Park material and the short Enslaved set make me feel a LITTLE better. But not much.

    3 Jun 2009, 2:24
  • Anjoli

    Hilarious story about the Swedish chick outside the venue. "- I will go to a show where a Swedish band will play. You are from Sweden, will you join me? - Of course, I will at least understand what they are singing."

    4 Jun 2009, 6:16
  • redluke22

    "do you hear any blast beats in Opeth's music?" what about The Lotus Eater?

    5 Jun 2009, 2:40
  • kurashu

    @sablespecter: Oh, I'm not holding anything against Opeth or Enslaved. It was an awesome show. Enslaved should have played a longer set. Frankly, Enslaved didn't get even half the respect they deserved and Opeth's sound guys got a bigger reaction from the crowd during the sound check -- which was bullshit.

    5 Jun 2009, 12:56
  • sablespecter

    @Jonas: Yeah! The best part was the hint of the Swedish-Norwegian "sibling" rivalry I detected in her comment! :D @Alex: While there are a couple of instances of blast beats in "The Lotus Eater" they are fleeting. What am I saying is that Opeth's music is not driven by blast beat drumming. There may be an occasional insertion if it, but the drumming is really more varied and artistic as opposed to straightforward power. Which suits the songs of Opeth, which are complex and fluorished, rather than composed around the shock & awe of powerful black metal. @kurashu: Oh, Enslaved got the respect from me. I even indoctrinated my road trip buddies on the way down there since they had never heard them before. They were duly impressed from the live performance. The only downer was at the merch table: they were only selling the latest CD, and I was hoping to pick up some of their older CDs for that $10 price :(

    6 Jun 2009, 2:11
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