A very impressive crowd gathered this evening at The Palace for a show from regular visitors to these shores, Sweden’s Opeth. It was heartening to see such a large crowd gathered for the opening act, Adelaide four piece Quiet Child. Apparently hand picked by Opeth themselves, the band played to a very appreciative crowd. Quiet Child specialise in what can best be described as a heavy groove that is great to get lost in. This is the type of band that truly rewards listening in the middle of the floor in a venue such as The Palace, in the comfortable knowledge that the crowd around you are there to listen and that you won’t get your teeth knocked out when a mosh suddenly breaks out. Featuring strong tracks such as “Discipline”, “Dark Heart Of Pleasure” and the epic “Flowers In The Middle Of The Road”, Quiet Child proved to be a great team up for the headline act.

Punctually arriving onstage at half past eight, Opeth, lead by the charismatic and utterly charming Mikael Ackerfeldt, proceeded to challenge the audience and really take them somewhere over the course of their stunning and impressive two hour set. Opening with the foreboding and killer track “The Devil’s Orchard” , off the band’s latest album, “Heritage”, the five piece took the audience on a hell of a musical journey during their set. Moving away from the death metal that has made the band their name and reputation, Ackerfeldt promised that tonight would be a very different Opeth show. He didn’t disappoint on that front.

There were some fans determined to start a mosh pit this evening. Their various attempts failed, as did other moments of hand clapping by the audience. This was so refreshing to see. Many heavy bands of late, in live shows, have been pandering offensively to their audience by encouraging hand clapping, arm waving and/or jumping up and down. Quite frankly, if you want to see and be part of that shit at a gig, go see Justin Bieber live. It has no place at a metal gig, as was proved beautifully by Opeth in tonight’s performance. The music the band create is far too intelligent for this kind of behaviour, which does have its place with other bands and strands of heavy music.

What is so compelling about Opeth in both recorded and live forms is the way that they move and transcend what is traditionally considered ‘metal’ or heavy music. Also, they way that the band push themselves and are never complacent or stagnate with the music that they create is to be admired. In that respect, they are wonderfully reminiscent of bands such as Hawkwind, King Crimson and early Pink Floyd in the way that they bend and shape sound and take it to new and unexplored waters.

One can hear everything from jazz to funk to traditional metal in Opeth’s sound. The joy is that it all sounds totally organic and natural and doesn’t reek of that ‘ooh, look at my record collection’ attitude and vibe. Ackerfeldt proved himself to be a very charming front man, with his candid attitude and self-effacing honesty. Here is a man truly out there with no safety net in what he does. At one point, he mentions that they get a lot of shit for the music they create, while at the same time many people appreciate and like what they do. It’s heartening to see a band refusing to play it safe in regards to what they do with music.

A major highlight this evening included a stunning version of “Face Of Melinda”, with it’s deceptive, almost jazz-like intro and totally unexpected crunch when the band kicks in full force. It also featured a mind blowing drum solo from Martin “Axe” Arenrot. There was a lowbrow but very funny running gag started by Ackerfeldt at his expense about how he ‘needed to take a shit’ before the band went on stage! This was indicative of the strong camaraderie, on both a personal and professional level between the band members.

Other high points musically included a great semi-acoustic version of “Closure” and “Throat Of Winter”,┬áthe song the band wrote for the Playstation game God Of War. Ackerfeldt, when strapping on the acoustic guitar, in the most polite way possible, told the audience to ‘shut the fuck up’, with a big smile on his face. Who says acoustic and heavy music are separate bedfellows? This is a man that truly loves what he does.

Tonight featured clean vocals and none of the lava gargling guttural vocals normally associated with death metal. It was a brave move of the band to not play some of their old material in this style and show that they are progressing and moving in different directions. Full credit to the crowd for supporting and embracing what the band are doing. This is a band that operate on their own terms, like when an audience member was told in no uncertain terms that Opeth aren’t a requests band when he shouted out a song title.

On tracks like “A Fair Judgement” and “Slither”, Opeth’s tribute to the late and great Ronnie James Dio, Opeth create a truly stunning sound live, perfectly suited to a venue such as The Palace. It is the type of sound that is great to get lost in and discover its complexity and form. All five members are incredible players, especially the beautiful sense of instinct and tone in their guitar sound, ably played by Ackfeldt and lead guitarist Fredrick Akkeson. An absolutely mighty version of “Hexomega” finished off the main set this evening, to a rapturous and ecstatic response from the gathered crowd.

The band finished off their highly impressive set this evening with “Folklore”. Having been a relative newcomer to Opeth this evening, this scribe is now well and truly a convert. This is the joy of seeing live music and discovering bands that impress you and make you want to explore more of their music. An excellent night from one of the bands at the absolute cutting edge of progressive heavy music at the moment.

– Neil Evans