The release of a live album is always a key move in any successful band's career. It often serves as validation of the band in question's artistic capabilities, their repertoire with the fans, and their onstage "aura". Sweden's OPETH certainly excells in all the above categories so it was only a matter of time before they unleashed their first offiicial live album. It may have taken them 17 years to do so but hey - whoever said the climb to world domination was going to be easy?!
So yes, OPETH are now bona fide Rock stars ('Metal stars' just doesn't sound right, does it?), and with the album title being an obvious play on a certain UK band's cult demo, this live set definitely had a lot riding on it. We all know that Mikael Akerfeldt and co. are no slouches and they have the advantage of being able to cull material from a highly varied, highly impressive back catalogue that most bands could only ever dream of attaining. With the exception of "Deliverance" each of their albums is represented on here, with the early Blackened Death Metal of "Orchid" melding perfectly with the more serene pieces from later works such as "Morningrise" and "Damnation". I would've loved to hear "Black Rose Immortal" on here but I suppose its absence is justified by its monolithic duration. But all in all the set list hits the spot, if you aks me, and the whole concert serves as a fitting and super-charged retrospective of one of extreme Metal's key bands.
Sound-wise this album is PERFECT in every sense of the word, with just the right balance between Mikael's vocals, the guitars, bass, drums and ethereal keyboard flurries. A warm room-y atmosphere hangs over the entire mix, and as expected the crowd responds with maniacal glee as the band churns out classic after classic onstage. Oh, and I also have to comment on Mikael's vocals, whic are quite a bit more extreme (growl-wise of course) than on recent studio outings. His dry humour and onstage banter will take a bit getting used to, but I couldn't help but laugh when he told the crowd to "shut the fuck up" while he was addressing them. Told you they were Rock stars... The songs just meld into each other effortlessly and the level of energy is constantly turned up to 11, not to mention the overall tightness of the execution. Clearly a showcase of a band in top form if you ask me.
Overall this is just a very satisfying album to listen to, especially on Sunday afternoons. It's bothy dreamy and supercharged at the same time and with a crystal clear sound, you simply cannot lose with this disc. Or this band for that matter. Oh, and please do take a few minutes to drool over the classy cover art and lay-out. It'll be interesting to hear how the upcoming full-length will turn out, now that both Peter Lindgren and Martin Lopez are no longer part of the fold. But if they can manage to conjure up the kind of magic on display here then y'all better hold on to your socks, wigs, jaws and whetever else you feel might be blown away.
Crank this one up LOUD!
(Online January 28, 2008)