Friday, January 11, 2008

This Is The Sound Of A Downtuned Guitar

Opeth – The Roundhouse Tapes

I was going to wait for Opeth's new live record to come out on DVD but restraint failed me and I grabbed the audio CD version. It turned out to be a wise choice, as the DVD has since been delayed until next September.

On paper at least, this album looks amazing. The setlist to the concert is like something from a wet dream; if you were to ask me to choose the best song off each Opeth album I would come up with almost exactly the same list (Opeth nerd note: I would actually replace 'Windowpane' with 'Closure' and include 'Deliverance').

Unfortunately as it turns out The Roundhouse Tapes is a bit superfluous. The songs are performed almost exactly the way they appear on the album, which is by no means a bad thing because the original version are awesome, but I was expecting little more. There are some differences of course. Per's keyboards are not present on the original versions of the older songs, and his work makes a nice addition to them. They have a new drummer, Martin Axenrot, who fits in well. His predecessor Martin Lopez will be much missed, with his jazzy take on death metal drumming, but Axenrot has his own style, one that makes me think a little of Josh Freese from A Perfect Circle and Nine Inch Nails with his huge sound and epic crashing fills.

In the technical arena all five band members deliver note perfect performances. Perhaps the most impressive instrument on stage is Mikael's voice, which surprises with its power both in clean and death metal mode, just as it did on their last live album Lamentations. We also get a lot of Mikael's intersong banter. He has a reputation for talking total crap at his concerts but I found most of what he said to be at least mildly amusing, “This song has some lyrics that are absolute black metal nonsense” made me laugh more than once.

I'm told that in person Opeth are a phenomenal band (and still not a day goes by that I don't kick myself for missing my chance to see them in 2006) but that doesn't really come through on this live album. Still, it's no bad thing to have alternate versions of nine of the best songs ever written sitting on my ipod.

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