What a fitting venue for one of the most theatrical bands ever to tread the boards. When Opeth took the stage at the Forum Theatre in Melbourne, a full house was waiting in anticipation for the icons of Swedish progressive metal. Like children who have just discovered sweets for the first time, eyes lit up with excitement when Mikael Akerfeldt (vocals, guitar), Martin Axenrot (drums), Frederik Akesson (guitar), Joakim Svalberg (keyboards) and Martin Mendez (bass) appeared on the proverbial ‘dot’.
It’s impossible to predict what an Opeth show will hold, other than to say that it will satisfy; for each set is always as unpredictable as the rise and fall of the beats in their songs. After 25 years in the business, these guys know how to please their fans. Constructed to promote their 2014 album Pale Communion the set list included much of their new material, and certainly that was well received.
Pale Communion is Opeth’s eleventh studio album, and it brings together the best of all their musical styles. Neither purely melodic nor purely metal, songs meander along their own path, build to a crescendo and slowly settle into instrumental chords that would give any classical musician a rush.
With such mastery, you’d think Akerfeldt would be rightly superior and aloof, but no. If he wasn’t a musician he could well be a comedian who engages the crowd with self-depreciating humour. Recognising the punters’ loyalty and Melbourne’s ability to fill a fine venue like the Forum, Akerfeldt teased his adoring fans by asking them what was wrong because they were so quiet. It seemed as if the band’s genius had struck everyone dumb.
Working through both old and new material, Opeth did its utmost to please everyone who’d made his or her way to pay homage to a long-lived and much-loved figurehead. Even after a quarter of a century the vibrancy and passion of the band is very evident, and it seems that the music is still evolving into something even the band members don’t yet know about.
As with many of life’s experiences, we can certainly say that it’s the journey that’s important, and not reaching the often-elusive destination.
Review by Sharon Brookes, photos by Mandy Hall.