Opeth / High On Fire: Centennial Hall, London ON September 21

Review and Photo by:  Sean Palmerston

No fanfare. Zero theatrics. A barren stage except for the musicians, their instruments, amplification and a simple backdrop sporting their logo is all that Sweden’s Opeth (pictured) needed to entertain the nearly 900-strong crowd.

Opening the night with “Heir Apparent,” one of the standout tracks from this year’s impeccable Watershed release, it took the band a few songs to really get in sync with one another. By the time they dove into the set’s third song, “Serenity Painted Death,” the Swedish quintet were as unified a force as they have ever been. You can put a lot of that down to new drummer Martin Axelrot; Opeth were great before he joined, but with Axenrot’s addition they are now unstoppable. At least that was the case on this night.

Front-man Akerfeldt was strikingly polite and funny when he wasn’t crooning out melodies or barking out his guttural bellows. He teased the crowd, his band-mates and even himself in-between tunes. When requests were made for songs off the band’s first release, a half-kidding Akerfeldt tried to play introductory riffs to songs off Orchid before lambasting himself for having written such shoddy licks.

Instead, the band ripped into a picture-perfect rendition of Morningrise classic “The Night And The Silent Water” — all eleven minutes of it — without a complaint. This was an unforgettable performance.

Openers High On Fire were nothing to sneeze at either. After Nachtmystium dropped off the tour a few days earlier, the Oakland trio saw their nightly set times expanded to nearly a full hour, making every second count. Guitarist Matt Pike is still the man, pushing the band forward with his gut-churning riffs, and with former Zeke bassist Jeff Matz now fully integrated into the HoF line-up, the trio did their thing in pummelling fashion, interspersing older songs like “Baghdad” into the set list to prove they’re equally as deserving of the headline slot.

Originally published at exclaim.ca.

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.