Saturday, November 11, 2006

Opeth - Camden Roundhouse - 9th Nov 2006

A queue of vertical bodies trace the contours of Chalk Farm Road, curving around one obtuse angle, then another, a clear eagerness rising off the pates. Guys slouched, feeling the slight heaviness of prior alcohol consumption, brandishing unwashed Atheist t-shirts and talking about that time Nuclear Assault played a club nearby. Girls posed in the apparel of night-camouflage, harnessed by lace, awash with sultry gothic overtones, innate energies simmering just under the pale skin exterior, like a leather-studded cauldron imprinted with the icons of every beat blasted within a two mile radius.

This writhing line of subjects are waiting for the gates of the Camden Roundhouse to be unshackled and thrown open, giving them entrance to the venue hosting tonight’s gig, a duo of Opeth and special guests Paradise Lost. The Camden Roundhouse, nestled neatly north of the drug-addled high street of Camden in London’s north, recently refurbished, promises to be an exemplary terrain for the Swedish headliners. The preamble to the event made all the more electrifying with the news that the show is to be filmed for a possible DVD release. How those neck-hairs stood erect at the gospel!

With the chimes of 7pm oscillating between disparate inner-ears, the entrance was unblocked and in marched the hordes. Tripping over zealous youths mounting an attack on the merchandise stall, we punctured our way into the main arena, a mighty, circular room, already accumulating residents at both bar and stage.

A thirty minute period of pre-show set-up and galvanised anticipation and Paradise Lost hit the stage.

I’ll have to admit to not being too familiar with the British doom/goth band, the varied peaks and troughs of their career, from early-to-mid-90s acclaim to subsequent criticism in the following years concerning musical direction. However, this provided me the opportunity to sample their tonalities, and in a loud and social environment, hopefully resulting in being finally able to resist aligning them with My Dying Bride as one and the same.

Playing for approximately an hour, Paradise Lost enthusiastically strode atop the stage like the veterans they are (their debut album, the wittily titled Lost Paradise, was released in 1990). Animated and tight, they threw out their songs with little ostentatious bravura, allowing for the occasional word or two as a song intro. Pilfering knowledge from the head of my accomplice, I learned that much of the set was made up of early material – the aforementioned lauded music. A large emphasis on synth atmosphere and mid-paced riffery meant that the adrenaline glands of much of the audience remained restrained, heads contented in subdued nodding.

Course, most of these patrons are only here for one band.

A ten to fifteen minute gap between bands allowed for the outbreak of numerous chants of “Opeth, Opeth, Opeth…” An electrifying spectre was floating over the masses, causing expectations to reach an acme as the seconds cascaded away. And then, the quintet ambled up into the worshipping gaze of the few thousand fans.

The band flew straight into a rousing rendition of ‘When’. Its clean section segues replicated with full accuracy, and the bludgeoning force of an intense mid-section syncopation even more potent than the recorded original. Following its denouement, frontman Mikael Akerfeldt welcomed the anonymous fists and hairy spheres to the proceedings and then introduced the next track, the opener of last years Ghost Reveries, ‘Ghost of Perdition’. Those down-tuned weighty riffs and staccato-phrasing sure ignited much vacillation in the audience, but, alas, this was to be the only song from that most recent of Opeth albums, meaning that they were not to play what is undoubtedly the finest track on that album, ‘The Baying of the Hounds’.

Taking us on a trip through the entire discography of the band, Opeth regressed as far back as 95’s debut, the melodious Orchid. ‘Under a Weeping Moon’ was prefaced by some wonderful self-deprecatory commentary from Akerfeldt, something to the effect of: “the lyrics to this song are total black metal nonsense.” Ah, how they are, and how we laughed!

The performance of Morningrise’s ‘The Night and the Silent Water’ was also annotated by remarks expressing a droll self-deprecation: information on how lutes were to have played a part in the recording of said song, and how pretentious they once were. Obviously the highlight of this song was the amazing outro that builds up from an acoustic passage into a full-on density of heaviness, hypnotizing the aural passageways. This section, given the live treatment, exceeded even the high standard set down on the recording.

Still Life and Blackwater Park received recognition via a double bill of ‘Face of Melinda’ and 'Bleak', both maintaining the chaotic reverberations of the crowd. It may have been a freezing November eve outside, but inside the undulations and ululations of the closely-congregated bulk of humanity created a swelter, with an almost-visible heat dissipating into the dark void above the throng. In fact, clothed in a heavy winter coat, I was staring into the abyss of the broil at times; luckily a trio of peppy girls were frenetically headbanging in front of me, creating a very agreeable wind-tunnel effect. Worth all the strewn hair heaved at ones face in the world!

‘Windowpane’ eased things off slightly.

Seven minutes of reflective acoustic lament later and things were to accelerate once again. Unfortunately the next song was labelled as the final of the night, but nevertheless a barnstorming ‘Blackwater Park’ jettisoned out of the PA, giving everyone cue for the most uninhibited of bodily reaction imaginable.

As with convention, this was not actually the final moment of the gig, but simply the penultimate one. For the band returned for an encore after allowing a long enough period of time for another “Opeth” chant to commence. The closing song? As I interjected to a nearby citizen’s attempt to hypothesise the situation, it was very clearly going to be arch-fan favourite ‘Demon of the Fall’. And it was. And fair enough, it stands as a high watermark in the history of the band, and was the song that introduced me to the majesties of the Scandinavian fellows. Few better songs could have brought the evening to an end.

Two hours passed in what seemed like two minutes, a setlist of what couldn’t have been more than nine songs, and a downside to Opeth live that I had had an inkling about beforehand presents itself. With such lengthy compositions, Opeth can fill a two hour time allotment with ease, and without playing a hell of a lot of songs. It’ll always be an area of contention, but one can’t help but mourn the omission of certain songs, and I feel I’m perfectly in my right at complaining about the lack of songs from 2002’s Deliverance, i.e. a grand sum of none. Watching the title track and ‘Master’s Apprentice’ played in full-force on the Lamentations DVD beforehand, I was ensconced in eager anticipation for either of those songs, but sadly it was not to be. And such long, pummelling songs as those are, are perfect for the live setting. Well, maybe next time.

Slight gripes notwithstanding, it was an excellent show. Opeth show that they can effortlessly transpose their epic soundscapes into the world of stage-lighting and smoke-machines. And now I must go and rest my neck.


Blogger Agarves said...

Having seen Opeth, wait..., seven times live now? I've got to say soundwise this wasn't the best show ever. Peter's guitar was too quiet, so were the keyboards, Mikael's guitar was all over the place. Nevertheless, it was a dream setlist. True, songs from Deliverance were missing, but The Night And The Silent Water was a bliss.
As for Paradise Lost, who i didn't know that much beforehand really, i had the feeling they were a bit monotonous.
Neat review, cheers.

11:33 pm  

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