Opeth & Katatonia @ Rams Head Live 11-1-2011

I’ve seen Opeth live several times, and each time it has been completely different. The first time was at Jaxx, and it was a technical death metal set with a mix of clean and harsh vocals. The second time was at the 9:30 Club on the “Damnation” tour where there was no death metal and all clean vocals. Now, the third time, at Rams Head Live, it was all clean vocals with a mix of musical styles ranging from heavy to acoustic. Each time was great, but I think this latest was probably the best of the three.

Buke and I arrived around 3:30 as we were set up to do an Opeth interview at 4. We originally wrote questions that were geared toward Mikael, but several days before the show I found out we would be interviewing Opeth drummer Martin Axenrot. So we frantically wrote a new set of questions that would be more appropriate for Martin. We arrived and got in touch with the tour manager, who informed me that Martin was still asleep and asked if we wanted to interview someone else in the band. Luckily, I had the Mikael questions on my phone, so we asked for him and he was available.

I was hoping to have some time to get set up ahead of time, but as soon as we started setting up Mikael came in and sat down. We were told we had ten minutes. So Buke engaged Mikael in conversation while we frantically set up the video gear. Because I was trying to hurry I made a few set up mistakes and the camera wouldn’t turn on. It only took a minute to find and fix the problem, but I was embarrassed and felt the clock ticking as well.

I feel like I rushed through the questions hoping to get in as many as I could. I skipped a few lesser questions because I wanted to get in some of the later questions on the list. Buke added some improv questions as well. We ended up with about thirteen minutes of usable footage.

I’d like to thank Mikael for being a total gentleman and enduring with a smile what seemed to me like a bit of a Keystone Cops interview. He was very polite and friendly and talked with us more after the camera was off. He took a picture with us and then went on his way.

We couldn’t hang around in the venue so we left to take gear back to the car and go get something to eat before the show. We had purchased early entry tickets before the interview was scheduled, so we were able to get in and pick our spot for the show without issue. We took up residence on the upper level on the balcony nearest the stage. I regretted that I wouldn’t be able to get photos from different angles (because I’d never get the spot back once I left it) so we picked the best spot and stayed there. Our friend Greg arrived shortly before the show and hung out with us until the end of the show.

Katatonia was up first, and I was very excited to see them for the first time. They sounded great and played a great set. It was nice to go to a show that didn’t have five or more bands playing, just two good ones.

There’s been a lot of online complaining about this tour because Opeth haven’t been playing any of the old material that involves growling. And I’m sure a lot has been said about it in the Blabbermouth comments section. But like I said above, I think this was probably the best Opeth show I’ve ever seen. So quit your whining.

On “Heritage” the songs have a vintage sound quality to them, but they are still “heavy”, just not death metal heavy. Well, live the songs ran the gamut from being very heavy (with clean vocals of course) to clean songs and even acoustic. Whatever they played sounded amazing, and say what you will, but I still felt like I was at a metal show.

During the interview I asked Mikael about whether his not doing harsh vocals meant he wouldn’t be doing Bloodbath anymore. He gave a rather noncommittal response, saying Opeth is what he does creatively while Bloodbath is just something for fun. I hadn’t really expected to get a firm response to the question, but I was curious. So you can imagine how surprised we all were, when on this, the last show of the American tour, it wasn’t Opeth that came back out for the encore, but Bloodbath! I knew that Bloodbath contained members of both Opeth and Katatonia, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that the entire band is in either one or the other band. Looking back on it now, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it ahead of time.

The lights were off and the crowd was chanting “Opeth! Opeth!” Under cover of the dark, people came back on stage, but when the lights went back on, it was Bloodbath, not Opeth who stood before us. Let me just tell you, I got goosebumps. The crowd went absolutely ape-shit knowing what was about to happen. Mikael explained that since it was the last show of the tour they wanted to do something special for us. They proceeded to play “Soul Evisceration” and “Eaten.”

There had been some mosh pit action during both the Katatonia and Opeth sets, but now the floor became a swirling sea of bodies. Mikael’s clean voice is beautiful and amazing, but to be surprised with some full-on Bloodbath death vox at the end of the night was pure bliss. Up until that point I had been starting to tire from a long day, but I was suddenly pumped full of energy, which took quite awhile to come down.

What can I say? It was simply an incredible evening. Great music, friends, an interview, it was perfect.