Opeth‘s Ghost Reveries as heavy metal album of the year, it doesn’t take a Mastermind contestant to figure out that the snotty-nosed ticket touts outside the Mean Fiddler are making a killing on this Indian summer’s eve.
Inside, it is heaving well before tonight’s support act – Extol – take to the stage, although it is with an air of suspicion that the masses await the arrival of this Norwegian act who fuse thrash, progressive metal and melody into an infectious package.
Extol tear into a painfully short set with Gloriana – an exemplary display of their recent album Blueprint‘s somewhat less thrashy sound compared to that of old. It is a brave move to start this way and is one that receives little favour from those who are new to the band.
However, once classics such as Paralysis have sufficiently demonstrated Extol’s extreme metal roots and given drummer David Husvik the opportunity to prick up many an ear in interest, the audience appear somewhat reassured to the extent that even the relatively soft newbie Pearl is given a substantial amount of praise from the gradually warming throng.
Perhaps this is due to the open-minded nature of Opeth fans, being prepared to accept something different and embrace it. Or perhaps it’s simply because Extol are a band of such quality that one can’t help but appreciate it.
Opeth open with a reworked version of 2002′s Deliverance and by doing so ease us into a schizophrenic evening of death metal blasts and acoustic, melody-fuelled ‘ballads’. The Baying Of The Hounds throws a bone to those chomping at the bit to kick off in the pit, while its neighbouring track on Ghost Reveries – Beneath the Mire – goes down like a true classic.
The Drapery Falls is a high point for the already enraptured crowd, and gets the entire venue singing out the tune-dripped, anthemic chorus, while the accompanying haunting acoustic verses provide the headbanging brigade with a much needed respite before the pace is once again picked up as The Grand Conjuration rings out.
Face Of Melinda gives frontman Mikael kerfeldt opportunity to showcase just how far his voice has come over the years, with the first three, mellower minutes of this number sounding even stronger than they do on disc. Meanwhile, the penultimate epic Blackwater Park is introduced by Opeth’s drummer, something that kerfeldt is quick to capitalise on with the tremendously quotable: “Yes my children, that is a four-four beat – AC/DC made a fortune from that!”
As Demon Of The Fall takes diehard fans back to 1998′s My Arms Your Hearse album for the final, mayhem-inducing few minutes of tonight’s proceedings, I’m left with the distinct impression that this bunch of laid-back Swedes should be headlining next door’s larger Astoria Theatre. If there is any justice in music, it’ll be sooner rather than later.