LIVE REVIEW: Opeth, SWG3, Glasgow, 31/10/2019
Growing old gracefully is something few bands manage. Opeth have managed it better than most, this second prog focused stage of the band’s career has split fans. Some hate it, some love it, some like bits of both. Having released their thirteenth studio album In Cauda Venenum back in September, we were expecting a trip down memory lane through their extensive back catalogue and their Glasgow show did not disappoint on this front.
Luckily for this evenings crowd, and there is a lot of them, Opeth also seem to like bits of both. There’s a nice, thoughtful ebb and flow to the band’s set as it shifts between the quirky, jazz-influenced fusion prog of more recent efforts and the cinematic, sweeping death metal symphonies of the bands past.
Truthfully – it is still those older tracks that remain the standouts. There’s something masterful about the blend of prog arrangements, delicate melodies and crushing heaviness. Harlequin Forest from the masterpiece Ghost Reveries and early career favourite The Leper Affinity are performed flawlessly, perfectly demonstrating why this band are so well revered.
The new tracks go some way to showing that as well to be fair. They’re intricate, interesting and incredible displays of musicianship but they’re the songs just don’t seem to burn with the spark the band’s pre-Heritage material does. Moon Above, Sun Below from the Pale Communion record being the one exception, bathed in all it’s progressive bluster and rich melodic beauty.
To be brutally honest, the most genuinely exciting and memorable part of the band post-Watershed is Mikael Akerfeldt’s bold choice in hats. Which is almost as bonkers as the death metal meets sea shanty meets Zappa highlight that is The Lotus Eater.
The only other slight flaw in the evening would be the band’s production. Though the stage set up and lighting lend a sense of 70s prog extravagance and charm, the visuals that are often displayed in the layered screens feels a bit like an early 00s Windows Media Player equaliser. A minor fly in an otherwise wonderfully soothing ointment.
Words and photos: Calum McMillan