Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Opeth - Katatonia -- Ram's Head Baltimore - Nov 1 2011

Katatonia - It is a reunion of sorts for me tonight. In early 2008, I flew to Stockholm to board the Melloboat and enjoy a two night cruise to Helsinki with lots of great music. I would not have gone, were it not for the reforming of Comus for their first show in 35 years, but it also introduced me to two metal bands, both of whom are finishing a tour together in Baltimore tonight. Sweden's Katatonia impressed me then with stylish vocals set to quality northern metal. Within a few songs tonight, the style seems to have shifted a bit more psychedelic. There are nice dark undercurrents in the music with the vocals still front and center. The guitars seem a bit muddier and more compressed than they would have been designed, but I am in a back corner and I am thinking the sound is not too hot in some portions of this venue. The set is going over well and the crowd is probably pretty sharp for this billing. Since it was the last show of the tour, they ran through crew credits and then had some fun changing things around a bit with a different vocalist singing death metal tunes from 1993 and thereabouts. The set began early tonight and gave them 56 minutes to show their present direction as well as some old classics. They are clearly in that ever expanding camp of metal bands that have feet firmly planted in other related genres.

Opeth - Speaking of related genres... Opeth have long been one of the finest compositional bands in the metal field and have used folk elements and progressive moves for many years. I was curious to see how the crowd would react to the brand new material which is as progressive as it gets with arguably no metal in any of the songs. They begin with the newer material which goes over well from what I can hear. The fascinating thing was that when they dug out lots of cuts from older albums, they chose the most progressive or folk oriented cuts. The demon voice did not appear in the nearly two hour set (I did not stay for encores, so perhaps Mikael summoned up the beast). There was some back and forth with the crowd, with Mikael Akefeldt coming up with the better punchlines or just telling them to shut up. But the humor was good and I did not sense that too many people were disappointed. The acoustic guitars made a long appearance, but the crowd stayed with it the whole way. And ultimately the set was quite rewarding. I think I enjoyed the sharper contrasts I saw in the last tour a bit more, but I think what I really enjoyed more was the stronger sound at the 9:30 Club, as the sound was again too compressed from where I was standing. Late in the set, the crowd clapped along with a conga bit without any encouragement from the stage. That felt good, as the crowd indeed proved itself sharp and willing to follow this extremely and versatile band in whatever direction they wish to go. There is so much skill here, that I would not dream of jumping ship. If anything, I will settle in for an even longer voyage.

Quote of the Day: I paraphrase Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt as he spoke about eye contact he does from the stage and how as a fan he always felt he was being looked at by the band...  "I was in a club watching Dee Snider with his SMFs band and there were only a few people there, but they were all about five meters in front of me as I stood in the back leaning against the wall. Dee Snider then looks at me and says 'You motherfucker, why aren't you having a good time like the rest of them.'"


Anonymous said...

FYI - the encore was a brief 2-song Bloodbath set (Mikael on death vox + Katatonia band). I think this was a special treat, since it was the last show of the tour. -WD

David Hintz said...

Thanks for the update! I am sure you were right. I was reading some other show reviews and they encored with new material and did not do any Bloodbath material as some were hoping for. Last shows do have their fun moments.