Tonight saw the return to Belfast of one of Metal’s most respected bands, Opeth. The Swedish quintet had not graced a stage in Belfast in quite a while. It was obvious by the sold out crowd that tonight would be cherished by one and all who attended. As I approached the venue, the queue stretched down the street and around the corner, a sight to see and one reserved for Rock and Metal royalty only.
Enslaved were tonight’s support, and it was obvious by the roar as they graced the stage that quite a few in the crowd were here for the Norwegian Progressive Metal group. As they ripped open tonight’s performance, I could see as I scanned the room that more than a few were already into it, heads banging and fists pumping to the heavy pounding riff as it blasted through the speakers, the crowd chanting as the double bass of the drum shook the very floor we stood on. As the night drew on the crowd rallied behind Enslaved and they won over a swelling crowd inside the Limelight. By the time the guys left the stage to rapturous applause, they knew they had made their mark.
But tonight was about one thing, the arrival once again of Opeth on a modest Belfast stage and ‘Sorceress World Tour.’ As the lights dimmed and the roar of the crowd announced the band’s entry to the stage, the guys immediately laid into ‘ Sorceress.’ Now we had been told by the door staff that we were only allowed to shoot two songs. I was a little taken back at first, but when he explained each song was around 7 plus minutes it kind of made sense.
Opeth are a quandary for many; their fusion between so many musical styles either takes your breath away or leaves you gasping for air. Pretty much each song played this evening takes you on a musical journey, from growling fury to melodic melancholy within a few bars. The guys switch guitars and from song to song go from clean almost acoustic sounding rhythms to a pounding double bass driven frenzy. One thing you cannot argue about however is the musicianship on display. Front man Mikael Åkerfeldt can switch from melodic clean-sounding vocals to a growling intensity to match the furore on stage in an instant.
Across the set you get a variety of some of the best Opeth numbers to date, a succession of styles from Jazz influenced numbers to funky rhythms and of course intense pounding Metal to boot. One of the biggest roars of the night is held for ‘Window Pane,’ which with its melodic intro and a beautiful soulful guitar solo showcasing Åkerfeldt’s touch and tone. As they introduce ‘Hex Process’ Åkerfeldt announces “We’re gonna play you a very weird song.” He was not wrong, from a flute sounding intro of a medieval number and the chaos within, to it ending with a beautiful guitar solo with Åkerfeldt bathed in light from behind. As he stepped up to the mic he says, “Weird, huh?”
The guys step things up with ‘Hessian Peel’ with its Jazz Fusion feel and banging double bass. As I scan the room I see bodies coming towards us crowd surfing their way to the front. The crowd has gobbled up everything put in front of them by this crazy quintet, but for sure they saved the best for last. As Åkerfeldt announces “We have got time for just one more, we’re going to play you one more epic masterpiece,” the night is wrapped up with a fan favourite ‘Deliverance’ and it is a beast of a number! Thumping double bass sporadic riffs, growls from the depths of hell and frantic crazy and beautiful rhythm patterns just envelope you in its majesty! It’s hard to comprehend how such a voice comes from such a softly spoken man, but here I am witnessing it for myself. Screaming guitars, a crowd that has lost its mind in the behemoth sounding riffs like a machine gun going off just provide a finale worthy of the band itself.
Never mind one more epic masterpiece, tonight was a master class of epic proportions. Hopefully Belfast will not have to wait as long again for their return, but if they do it will certainly be worth it.
‘Demon of the Fall’