Usually, when I sit down to write a post-metal gig review, I’d be struggling to hold my neck up straight thanks to the after effects of headbanging. But now, quite surprisingly, I’ve watched Opeth and their sober, yet surreal concert has only caused a hangover with a less physical aftermath.
After bringing down Lamb of God to India for the first time in 2010, Overture scored again in 2012 with Opeth at Kingfisher Summer Storm 2012 in Palace Grounds, Bangalore. Honestly, like most other fans, I didn’t know what to expect from the gig. ‘Heritage’, though a brilliant album, stands apart from the rest of the band’s discography. Also, recent setlists gave me a feeling that Mikeal doesn’t growl anymore, so I went expecting a very mellow show. But what we eventually got was one hell of a surprise!
Gates opened at around 4PM, and the first band up was Theorized. It’s been a while since they played live, and a majority of their set was comprised of new songs. Any opening band faces a battle with the audience, a section of which always come only to watch the headliners. But frontman Madhav tackled the chants cleverly, and kept the show going. The band has gotten tighter, without doubt, but they should have included a mix of the older stuff, like “Venomous Tormentia” and “Blackout” along with the new tracks for audience recollection value. The band has also released t-shirts and special edition ‘False Hope of Tyranny’ CDs, which you can get here.
Eccentric Pendulum was up next, and kicked off their set with “Sepia Drown”. Unfortunately, they were missing one guitarist, so their sound lacked the fullness it usually has. But despite that, they were spot on. Their setlist mainly comprised of songs from ‘Winding the Optics’, which you can get here. The only drawback about both the Indian bands was that they were not loud enough on the P.A. We’ve seen this earlier at G.I.R. and many other gigs, so I’m hoping that the organizers and sound engineers responsible for this would make sure that this is not a recurring problem.
Maldivian heavy metal band Nothnegal took over the stage after Eccentric Pendulum. They were definitely the surprise of the evening, and were quite impressive. They were followed by the German Celtic metal act Suidakra, who were pretty mediocre, but had the crowd amazed because of their bagpiper! The mere inclusion of the folk element had the audience dancing (very unlike what you’d see at a metal gig) for their songs. They cashed in on the excitement and teased the crowd with the “Raining Blood” riff. The band even started off another of their own songs, and faltered majorly on stage less than a minute after they started. In short, Suidakra was just about average.
After a short and not-so-painful wait, Opeth came on stage at 8PM sharp. The lights were still on around the venue, and the very Indian classical sounding backing track started playing when they walked on stage. They kicked off the show with “The Devil’s Orchard”, the first single off ‘Heritage’. This led into “I feel the dark”, and it was only after these two songs that Mikael started the talking. He introduced the next track as one from the ‘Still Life’ album- the first record to feature bassist Martin Mendez. And that’s when the surprises began, with “Face of Melinda”. The entire audience was standing still, almost like they were mesmerized by Åkerfeldt’s voice, which sounds nothing short of heavenly live.
Mikael then went into his trademark rambles, and spoke of how he’d noticed that it was cool to have a moustache in India. He also mentioned how Mendez “is too chicken-shit to have only a moustache” and how he has a beard to cover up his double-chin! He introduced the next song as being a tribute to Ronnie James Dio, and that led into “Slither”- a track that he said was very typically influenced by hard rock and heavy metal.
No Opeth show is complete without Mikael’s jokes, and he continued to talk about how the band had been around for 22 years, and how he still looks like he’s 22- young and handsome. After that, it was time for “Credence” from ‘My Arms, Your Hearse’, followed by “To rid the disease” from ‘Damnation’. All through the show, Mikael was getting the crowd to shout out “Fuck you Mikael”, and he finally gave us a little reason to actually do so- He messed up the order of the songs! After saying how contrary to what people think, they still love death metal, and partly ruining the suspense about them playing some of the heavier stuff, he revealed that he had mixed things up a bit. So it was back to ‘Heritage’ with “Folklore”. But after that, they progressed into the heavier side of the set with “Heir Apparent”. Next, it was time for some ‘Ghost Reveries’ with “The baying of the hounds”.
Åkerfeldt then spoke of ‘Blackwater Park’ and introduced the song that was coming up as a hit single of sorts from the same record. They started off with “The Drapery Falls” which had the audience in frenzy. Ten minutes later, they said their ‘Thank you’s’ and went off-stage, only to come back for the final track, the encore. If you’d been to the previous gig at IIT Madras, you’d remember that they started off this song the same way, with the strumming that eventually led into “Deliverance”. Midway through this, they lost their timing a little bit, but jumped back on track and made it a mind-blowing end to a fantastic show.
Overall, I’d say that Summer Storm 2012 was very well organized, and it was nice to see how everything was on time and running smoothly. The only minor detail that had been missed out on was trash cans, the lack of which resulted in the venue becoming quite filthy by the end of the day. In terms of sound- as I mentioned earlier, Theorized and Eccentric Pendulum could have been louder. When Opeth started off, the volume was quite low, but it eventually picked up. There were complaints about how this gig wasn’t as loud as Metallica, but it would be unfair to compare the two. Opeth, as a band, is not as loud as Metallica, and their sound is all about concentrating on the finer details, like Axe’s jazz touches, Mendez’s bass licks and of course, Mikael’s voice. The setlist was packed with surprises, and most of the songs that they played were what we would have least expected them to! But I have no complaints. On the whole, however cliché it may sound, Kingfisher Summer Storm 2012 was an experience we will never forget.
Pictures by: Subhramani