On a mild night in London town, Swedish death Metal masters Opeth are playing a venue with a history that would make even John Peel blush. The Roundhouse has provided the setting for some of London’s most famous gigs. From Jimi Hendrix to Pink Floyd, the founding fathers of rock all played here in yesteryear, and following a luxurious overhaul, the venue has reopened its doors once more in a quest to reclaim its former glories.
Speaking of revamps, tonight’s support act British industrial/goth legends Paradise Lost made quite an impressionable return last year with their eponymous tenth release, but tonight despite the best efforts of guitarist Aaron Aedy, they are struggling to make so much as a denton a rather hushed, half full roundhouse. To be fair, it might not all be the band’s fault. After all, London metal fans are used to dark, dingy venues like the Underworld; tonight they seem lost in a sense of awe and confusion as they walk into what feels suspiciously like a posh barn illuminated by flood lights, complete with food stalls that charge obscene prices for reheated slop.
Despite the support act dragging out tediously, they’ve barely left the stage and chants of “Opeth, Opeth!” fill the air as something resembling excitement spills into the atmosphere. However, when the Swedish quintet do take to the stage in the decidedly unpronounced way of ‘just wandering on’ a roar fills the room and the band strike into the first of many epic progressive metal masterpieces of the evening. Ghost of Perdition is the first to feature synchronised visuals on an enormous video back drop, supplementing the impact of the crushing tune.
The roundhouse may often be used as a theatre venue, but that is still no excuse for Michael Akerfeldt totally forgetting any lines for his mid betwixt song banter other than “We are from Sweden!”. Even the subtle variances of “Do you know where Stockholm is?” do little to hide the fact that this man is either totally off his face, or just not much of a talker; and I have just an inkling that shyness isn’t the issue this evening.
As if seeking to set up a contrast of extremes, when the meekest man in metal shuts up and plays the songs we’ve come to see, they are some of the very finest metallic constructions in existence. While material from Ghost Reveries goes down swimmingly, it is pre millennial favourites that really excite the crowd tonight, and by the time the visuals from the 1997’s Morningrise album have hit the huge back drop projection screen, the appreciation is deafening.
The trippy lava lamp lights are turned up to 11 for a psychedelic mellow moment from Damnation, which Michael informs us are “the songs that get us the chicks!” Even though he actually manages to swear a couple of times this evening, Mr Akerfeldt is a bit of an anomaly in Metal front men. He is perhaps the only Death Metal musician you could take home to meet your mum, safe in the knowledge he wouldn’t sacrifice the cat to Beelzebub.
However, for all they might lack in stereotypical charisma, Opeth make up for it tenfold with sprawling, brooding marathons that gently soothe and swiftly attack within seconds of each other. The Swedes might not be playing to a full house tonight, but nevertheless, they are most certainly oozing the same genius as some of the masters who’ve shared this stage in days gone by.