By Michael Henningsen
Opeth rules. This is not a matter of opinion. Metal fan or not, you have to give it up for any band that has covered as much ground, with as much bold artistry and attention to detail, as this Swedish quintet without coming out the other end sounding like Sun Ra or Throbbing Gristle (no offense to either and props to both, by the way). Considering that Opeth has continually pushed the proverbial envelope despite ongoing major roster changes commands even deeper reverence.
In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall is simply an extraordinary triumph. Opeth, known far and wide for being in top form live, is note-perfect here through a complete rendering of 2001’s breakthrough Blackwater Park, along with a smattering of tracks from the rest of the band’s catalog spread across two DVDs. Bonus material includes some moderately engaging interview and documentary-style material, none of which is must-have.
Most noteworthy here is the revamped band: the first DVD appearances with Opeth’s longtime touring drummer Martin Axenrot (ex-Bloodbath, Witchery) and new guitarist Fredrik Akesson (ex-Arch Enemy). This latest lineup shift amounts to nothing short of an earth-shattering upgrade, as incomprehensible as that might sound to staunch acolytes of former drummer Martin Lopez and former guitarist Peter Lindgren. The performances here go beyond exceptional into a realm of on-stage chemistry that’s not often captured on film, or even necessarily in the live setting, period—one can almost feel the charge in the air.
Not that Akerfeldt has suddenly become the Sebastian Bach of prog/death stage banter. He hardly utters a word that isn’t growled or sung, in fact. But why bother opening the old cake hole if there’s no cake and no reason to bullshit the audience? Akerfeldt and Co. let the music do the talking (in wondrous 5.1 Dolby surround!) for roughly two of the finest hours you’ll spend gleefully away from family and in front of the idiot box this holiday season.
: None, none more black
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