It wasn't quite a full house on the opening night of Opeth's UK tour, however it was a good turn out for a death metal band on a cold Sunday evening in Nottingham. Opeth fans are a different breed than your normal metal fans, for a start their average age is slightly older than the audience you'd find at a 'Bullet for my Valentine' gig. Secondly, most of them are either musicians themselves, or just have a love of intricate, well-conceived heavy music. The expectations were high as Mikael and his crew arrived on stage, slightly later than scheduled I should add, and crashed straight into 'Ghost of Perdition'.
Because of the nature of Opeth's music, the crowd on the whole stood still, appreciating the metal master class. At most heavy metal shows, there is a writhing of bodies coupled with the ever-present mosh pit, however, apart from the occasional throwing of bodies, there was just a regular nodding of heads as the fans soaked up the diverse music. And thus is one of Opeth's strengths, their style of brutal Death Metal, and the ability to switch to subtle majestic acoustic passages in the blink of a beat, demonstrates not only the atmosphere of the piece, but also their skills as songwriters and musicians.
Their performance was fairly subdued, except for Martin Mendez who's bass guitar head swaying became hypnotic. To be in the crowd's face telling them to rock and how much they DO rock, isn't Opeth's style. Mikael's between song banter, was dry and amusing, announcing they were cock rock death metal, a cross between Morbid Angel and Whitesnake. The guy is so polite you can't help but like him, and it was quite refreshing to see a band deliver the goods and get such a positive reaction without resorting to the usual, "Let's go fuckin' crazy!!' 'When' from My Arms Your Hearse was chocked out with precision and 'The Baying of the Hounds' sounded even more epic than it does on disc. It was 'The Grand Conjuration' that was the highlight of the set however, with its perfect mix of light and dark atmospherics.
The only thing to let the performance down was the poor sound mixing. The bass although boomy, was far too loud drowning out the guitars and vocals at times. Mikael's growling went mostly unheard and some of the solos were on the quiet side. On a positive note, the bass had a tone that vibrated your whole being, shook your very frame and perhaps in emergencies could help resuscitate a cardiac arrest victim. The keyboards were perfect and understated as they are on Opeth's recordings, the distorted Hammond organ sound was so gritty it was almost peeling the black paint off the back wall.
After Ninety-five minutes coupled with the late start, it was getting dangerously close to curfew time, which only allowed for one more song. The awesome Deliverance followed to the biggest cheer of the night and the set ended with its mind blowing final three minutes. Nine songs covered one hundred and ten minutes, which showcased all the aspects of the band's music. This wasn't a show for those people with only a three-minute musical attention span, it was a gig for music lovers. Let's hope Road Runner records, having already cut 'The Grand Conjuration' to a friendly five minutes, and shot a video containing a snake and a scantily clad woman, don't ruin such a class act. An act that is a shining beacon in the overflowing mire that is modern metal.