Release Date: November 2nd, 2018
Released by: Nuclear Blast Records
Mikael Åkerfeldt – guitars, lead vocals
Martín Méndez – bass
Martin Axenrot – drums, percussion
Fredrik Åkesson – guitars, backing vocals
Joakim Svalberg – keyboards, synthesizers, piano, mellotron, backing vocals
01. Sorceress (live)
02. Ghost Of Perdition (live)
03. Demon Of The Fall (live)
04. The Wilde Flowers (live)
05. In My Time Of Need (live)
06. The Devil’s Orchard (live)
07. Cusp Of Eternity (live)
08. Heir Apparent (live)
09. Era (live)
10. Deliverance (live)
Live albums can be a bit hit and miss but occasionally you are provided with gems such as The Who: Live at Leeds, Jim Hendrix’s “Jimi Plays Monterey” or the more recent Phish: Live at Madison Square Garden. For their part, Opeth is no strangers to releasing live albums. This is their fourth in fact with Live at Red Rocks following 2003’s Lamentations: Live from Shepherds Bush, The Roundhouse Tapes from 2007 and In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall from 2010. In two of the previous live albums, Opeth has performed an album in its entirety, Damnation during the Lamentations recording and Blackwater Park in the Royal Albert Hall, alongside a variety from the back catalog but have instead stuck with just a broad career spanning jaunt this time around.
The concert at Red Rocks was performed in May 2017 during the tour for the album Sorceress. The choice of venue for making a live recording is certainly fitting for the grandiose scale of production that Opeth, having named this record the Garden of the Titans, aims to achieve. Married together are the incredible acoustics in the natural amphitheater, seating just 9,500 people, alongside a stunning visual setting which will make the DVD/Blue Ray versions of this one to look out for. For those interested Nuclear Blast have already released footage of the tracks Sorceress and Demon of the Fall to preview online.
Opening the set with the title track of their latest album Sorceress, Åkerfeldt and Co. are keen to show how much further they have traveled down the prog-rock road. Having veered slightly away from their origins in Death Metal during the Damnation album earlier in their career they have now cemented the change to prog, a change that had started in earnest with the album Heritage. I really like the new direction from the band but continuing on into Ghost of Perdition, from the album Ghost Reveries, and Demon of the Fall from My Arms, Your Hearse one can understand why the move away from Death Metal frustrated some early fans because they do it brilliantly. However, the dynamics that Opeth can now bring to a live setting are incredible, laid bare as they move back in the direction of influence from Queen and Pink Floyd on the tracks The Wilde Flowers and In My Time of Need.
Halfway through, having taken stock of what has been played and what is still to come, the fact that Opeth has neglected four of their first five albums for this live record, most of which they have live versions from previous anyway, still shows the confidence in their direction. The Drapery Falls from Blackwater Park and Face of Melinda from Still Life were played much more frequently on the tour as a whole but were omitted for this, preferring a snapshot of Opeth now. Instead, they march forth with The Devil’s Orchard and Cusp of Eternity, songs which are enveloped in the keyboard/mellotron/organ work of Joakim Svalberg, before we are led back to the heavier track Heir Apparent. Notably, the Watershed song is one of only two tracks played on the night, along with Demon of the Fall, not to be released as a single.
As they head towards the closing numbers Mikael Åkerfeldt introduces the song Era, from their latest album, as the first “cock-rock” song he has ever written. Deceptively beginning with a medieval-tinged piano piece, it then breaks out into a more intense rhythm, reminiscent of the beginning to The Song Remains the Same from Led Zeppelin. After acknowledging, but ultimately ignoring, the request of a fan intent on getting Free Bird from Lynyrd Skynyrd they bring the set to a close with the sprawling near fourteen-minute epic of Deliverance.
This release from Opeth, into theirs and the Red Rocks, live catalog, is further proof of how immense it can be when a band and venue compliment each other so well. It is a record that encapsulates everything that Opeth has been, is now and can possibly be in the future. A definite for fans and possibly one that could make the disparagers of the new direction think again.
Written by: Brendan O’Mahony