Block 33, Thessaloniki, Greece

Third time to see Sweden’s onrising force Opeth in my life. I hadn’t seen them since 2004 on the tour for the ”Damnation” album, as their two previous albums ”Ghost Reveries” and ”Watershed” were not of my liking that much, mainly because I started thinking they kind of repeat themselves. This changed a lot inside me with their latest very different and full of quality album, called ”Heritage”. An album which dived a lot into the ’70s roots of the influences of mainman Mikael Akerfeldt. And guess what, it suited them perfect and they seem totally renewed, having nothing to prove. The opposite, not only they dared releasing such a mellow and completely non brutal release, but they showed that you can remain full of vision and adapt your material on stage, no matter how different the songs are from album to album.

Starting the show at half past nine sharp and ending twenty minutes after eleven, Opeth presented a very balanced set which included mainly acoustic and mellow tracks in the first hour and the more aggressive and brutal ones in the end. Starting with ”The Devil’s Orchard”, it is clear from the first second that the band has a truly enormous and crystal sound that makes things way better for the next 100+ minutes that follow. Mikael’s voice in tremendous shape, showing the improvement he’s done throughout the years in his clean vocals, as we all know that when it comes to growls, he’s one of the best on the Earth. The show continues with ”I Feel The Dark” again from ”Heritage” and when it comes to ”Face Of Melinda” from ”Still Life”, glorious memories of the past awaken to the old fans, in a really great anthem dedicated to true love.

Mikael tells us that the city of Thessaloniki is one of the most beautiful ones he’s ever visited and that Greece is his favorite place to tour over Europe. He also states that he’s a big fan of Vangelis Papathanasiou and Demis Roussos, especially for the Aphrodite’s Child days. ”Slither” follows and if one track deserves the title of the best of ”Heritage”, this is it undoubtedly. Excellent performance by the five gentlemen, with the rhythm section having a sound that everyone would be jealous of. Martin Mendez fills the gaps where guitars leave room and Martin Axenrot’s drums have a great ’70s sound, especially leaving a strange echo in each beat. When he decides to roll and smash his cymbals, he’s totally out of any question of competition, don’t forget he’s also the drummer of Bloodbath and Witchery after all. On the other side, guitarist Fredrik Akesson is calm and bangs his head relentlessly, even on the calm moments, and keyboardist Joakim Svalberg seems to be a perfect fit, don’t forget he had to replace the great Per Wiberg of Spiritual Beggars.

”Credence” from ”My Arms, Your Hearse” (an album recorded on Gothenburg, which Mikael called the anus of Sweden) is a hit under the belt, Opeth don’t play fair and they prove it with ”To Rid The Disease” from ”Damnation” and ”Folklore” from ”Heritage”. An hour has already passed and it’s about time for some heads to start rolling. ”Heir Apparent” and ”The Grand Conjuration” easily take the fans and put them into a maelstrom of progress and brutality. A cheerful Akerfeldt screams his guts out in total comfort and he changes vocals styles and chords more easily than you can imagine. ”The Drapery Falls” from the band’s magnum opus ”Blackwater Park” is the last track of the main set, having already reached eleven o’clock. It proved out not to be the last of the night, as they returned for an encore under the screams of the crowd.

There was no better way to end this show than playing ”Deliverance”, a track which demonstrates all the skills of Opeth in twelve minutes with one of the most characteristic parts in a metal song ever. This drum break originally played by Martin Lopez a few years ago, finds Martin Axenrot in a state where he doesn’t know what he hits and the final outcome is a really astonished crowd with jaws dropped on the floor and smiles painted on faces. Compared to the other two times I saw them, they were more focused, serious and concentrated. It seems that this ’70s aura has given them something of the great old bands, and they transmit it through their music and towards their fans. The renewed Opeth of 2011-12 are one of the best bands out there and I can surely tell it won’t take me another eight years to see them.

Report: Aggelos “Redneck” Katsouras.