Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Saturday Night Prog Metal Awesomeness

Virgin Black
Live at Luna Park September 6

Man does my neck fucking hurt.

I'm ashamed to admit it but I got into Opeth just a little too late to make it to their last Sydney show (which was two years back now). Fortunately they returned this weekend past on tour for their superlative new album Watershed and my years of regret can finally be put behind me.

The openers were goth metallers Virgin Black, who I saw almost nothing of on account of being across the road drinking in the pub. By all accounts they were OK but nothing to slit one's wrists over missing. All I can say about them of my first hand experience is that they produced a hell of a mighty bass rumble during their last song while I was waiting in line for the coat check.

But as for Opeth...

Heir Apparent

I was 90% sure they would open with this track, as it seemed like such an obvious way to get around the cliché of opening with the first track off the new album by instead opening with the track that was almost going to be the first track off the new album and that still starts things off with the required kick in the face of metal brutality. Having seen Opeth live on DVD before I wasn't expecting too much of an energetic set from them but pleasingly they exceeded my expectations on this count and gave this song in particular the extra balls and energy that a good live performance requires.

Master's Apprentices

Then it was straight into an older but no less brutal kick in the face metal track. The audience responded most favourably to this not so old classic. To my approval I noticed that there wasn't any serious moshing going on, just jumping, fist pumping and head banging. Not that I have anything against moshing when it's appropriate for the music but there are too many fucking kids nowadays who'll start a moshpit for anything. It's fine when it's Rage Against the Machine, Slayer or Dillinger Escape Plan but for fucks sake why at MSI or Tool? I imagine these idiots at a Wiggles concert, dragging little kids out of the way to make a circle and going “Big Red Car! Fuck yearh lets go!”

The Baying Of The Hounds

Mikael introduced this one by saying “All the tracks on this album except one are about the devil. This one is about dogs.” The first of his infamously dopey stage banter, which we got a lot of. To be honest I mostly found him pretty funny, in a characteristically literal Western European kind of way.

Anywho, the start of this song was killer and had a huge bouncing mosh pit going.

Serenity Painted Death

I'm not a huge fan of Still Life, and Mikael introduced this one by saying that none of them liked playing this particular song that much (the only member who did was their old drummer) which vindicates my opinion a little. I actually made a bathroom dash during this track, which for some reason I always feel a little ashamed of doing during a concert, but at least it gave me a chance to notice the light show they had going, which was projected back out over the audience rather than being focused on the band. Very cool!

To Rid The Disease

The obligatory acoustic track off Damnation. Some of the kids seemed pretty impatient with it but I really enjoyed it. It was good to see that Opeth genuinely are as comfortable with the mellow stuff as the heavy songs in a live setting, but this was the only track in that vein for the night. It's a pity because I would have liked to hear 'Face Of Melinda' or 'Coil' as well.

The Lotus Eater

This was a new song that I had been really looking forward to. Unfortunately this was one of the first times they'd played it live and while it was tight technically it didn't come together quite as well as it could of. I was of course still really pleased to hear it but was actually a little disappointed by the lack of audience response to the wacky boogie breakdown.


This is one of my favourite Opeth tracks and it went off, except for an unfortunate five minutes of downtime in the middle where Mikael's guitar cut out. (“At least now you know that we play everything you hear!” was his response.) The band stalled for time by resorting to the stereotypical metal cliché of the wank drum solo, which was followed by a wank guitar solo from new guitarist Fredrik Akesson and for good measure a wank keyboard solo too. Say what you like about the new guys but they sure as fucking hell have chops.

The Night and the Silent Water

Mikael introduced this one as being written about his grandfather who passed away. The audience responded with the perfect sitcom “Awwwww” sound effect. This one went off pretty awesomely too, but not as awesome as...


I might be a totally predictable fanboy but I fucking love this song. That legendary outro was more brutal than my best expectations. The new drummer, Ax, may not have put as much of a syncopated snap into that classic riff as Lopez used to but man did he smash the shit out of it. It was awesome.

Demon Of The Fall

And they finished the main set with the other song that they're obliged to play every night for the rest of their lives. It was good too. They also said that they hoped to come back again next year, here's hoping!

The Drapery Falls

This song was the encore. Mikael apologised for taking a while to come back out, “Mendez had to go to the bathroom”. This track is a little mellower and made a very nice moody end to the night.

To be honest I kept my expectations tempered for this one, based on the slightly unenergetic vibe of Opeth's live albums and my reasoning that the music is fairly cerebral and not ideal metal concert material. Fortunately and to my delight my expectations were well exceeded. They brought the rock and then some and it was enhanced by one of the best metal concert audiences I've ever seen. Despite the presence of quite a few kids the audience was mostly mature, appreciative and didn't smell too bad. I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that Opeth do come back next year!

The wank solos:

To Rid The Disease (Sydneysiders still can't clap in time):

The breakdown of Master's Apprentices. Sideways and wobbly but good sound quality:

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ambient Metal Roundup Part 1

So I've picked up a shitload of new music recently and this is mostly the fault of the fine mp3 blogs Invisible Oranges and I'm The Most Important Person In The Fucking World. Both of these sites have been dishing out a decent dose post/ambient metal in recent weeks and I'll make a start on writing about some of it in this post.

Ambient metal may well sound like an oxymoron and it could be argued that some of this stuff isn't truly metal. I certainly wouldn't say so but the guy who tried to tell me on Saturday night that metal was by definition 'dumb' (and that henceforth Isis and Dillinger Escape Plan aren't actually metal bands) probably would. In any case there's a definite subgenre out there that takes distorted metalish guitars and the general feeling of heaviness associated with metal, and uses them to create long instrumental tracks with structures better described as soundscapes than songs.

We'll start out with Breatherman by Ocoai, the least ambient of all the albums in this post. They still comfortably sit within the genre described above as their songs are fairly long and sans vocals, but compared to the other bands I'm about to describe they still have some inclination towards providing melodies and riffs. These guys are pretty upbeat for a metal band too, which is a refreshing change and they keep this mood without skimping on the heaviness. For all their chiming piano solos, melancholy trumpet noodling and their slow pace Ocoai still make sure they bust out a huge lumbering monster of a guitar riff every now and again. They may not be as heavy as some but their more relaxed, spacious and positive atmosphere makes a pleasing alternative to the more downbeat and oppressive likes of Isis and Rosetta.

Fitting far more easily into the ambient metal genre are The Angelic Process and their album Weighing Souls With Sand. This record totally eschews the standard metal repertoire of riffs, solos and screaming in favour of a heavy chug and a haze of ambient distortion accompanied by distant vocals that has as much in common with industrial as metal. The outcome is (perhaps a little surprisingly) a very beautiful, soothing sort of music with a mood not dissimilar to that of Wolves In The Throne Room. It's a very good album, but sadly there won't be any more like it since one of the principal members of the band passed away earlier this year.

Lastly we have the self titled album by asbestoscape. This is some seriously great stuff, although I'm not sure if I'd call it either metal or ambient. It certainly sounds unique and doesn't fit into any preconceived genres, a very pleasing quality in an age where it often feels as though there is nothing new under the sun. Absestoscape's songs are (relatively) short and based around simple repetitive buzzsaw guitar riffs, backed by droning bass and processed drumming that ranges from the straightforward to IDM influenced glitch. Yet from these simple elements we get some remarkably catchy and engaging tunes. It's smart, unique and fun music, I highly recommend it to pretty much anyone.

There'll probably be a part two to this post in a couple of weeks but odds are that it might wait a while since fucking awesome concert season kicks off with Opeth this Saturday!