Words: Alan Daly / Pics: Olga Kuzmenko (Olga Kuzmenko Photography)
It’s been a very “proggy” week in Dublin. First, there was Exivious and Textures in the Voodoo Lounge on Thursday, and now Enslaved and Opeth are set to play to a sold-out audience in the Academy. While progressive metal is not my usual cup of tea, it’s hard to resist the draw of the highly regarded Swedish quintet helmed by Mikael Åkerfeldt, and tonight’s show in Dublin, they’re first in five years, has been much anticipated by the Irish metal community for some time.
Rumours had been circulating that Enslaved would have a very short set tonight, but even then it comes as a shock to all when the Norwegians play just three songs in their thirty-minute slot. On top of this, all three are taken from their month-old album, simply titled E, resulting in some unhappy fans who were obviously hoping to hear older material from their quarter-century career. Having said that, ‘Storm Son’, ‘The River’s Mouth’ and ‘Sacred Horse’ seem to go down well with the bustling crowd who have about as much room to move as the band has onstage thanks to Opeth’s backline consuming most of the podium. Any disappointment in the short opening act is quickly forgotten however as the time for the headliner draws near.
Opening with the bass, keys and drums intro to ‘Sorceress’, the title track from the most recent Opeth release, Åkerfeldt and guitarist Fredrik Åkesson await their cue to join the stage and are welcomed by massive cheers. Immediately, the technical accuracy and ability of these musicians are evident, and the vocal performance is as impressive as ever, with Åkerfeldt swapping between clean and harsh singing effortlessly. The fanatic audience needs just a few notes to recognize the second track ‘Ghost of Perdition’, and as the night progresses, it becomes apparent that the crowd is more engaged by the older material than the newer. From the ten track setlist, nine of their twelve albums are represented, with something for everyone.
Åkerfeldt is quite chatty between tracks, whilst swapping guitars and tuning, making jokes and a subtle dig at the Belfast audience for talking among themselves during the quieter tracks at the Limelight show the previous night. The Dublin audience is the opposite, probably being the least animated crowd I have ever witnessed at a metal show, enjoying the performance calmly and peacefully, for the most part, obviously excluding the final two tracks ‘Blackwater Park’ and ‘Deliverance’ which spark some action from the pit.
It’s not hard to see why Opeth are so popular. They are extremely talented musicians and have produced epic orchestrations of progressive (death) metal. And tonight they have delivered the goods to a very satisfied Irish audience. Sadly, Åkerfeldt has stated that he plans to take a break from touring soon, and some have speculated that Opeth may focus on performing in the studio rather than on the road in the future, and with no tour dates scheduled beyond November, who knows when the next chance to see them will be.