The weather in Kentucky, and Lexington in particular, has been diverse as of late. The same can be said about music in Lexington, as well. On May 5th, Buster’s had brought in Australian rockers Sick Puppies. On May 8th, Buster’s brought in two Swedish metal titans: Katatonia and Opeth! How could one miss an opportunity to see a show by a couple of heavy metal legends? I made the three-ish hour trek from my home to the venue to catch them.
These two bands hail from Sweden, a country that is becoming more known for their metal than their meatballs (for all of you foodies out there). Katatonia is touring behind their latest album, Dead End Kings, while Opeth is touring behind their album, Heritage.
As Katatonia took the stage, most of the concert-goers didn’t seem to have much of an idea of who they were. The audience acted almost complacent at the start, but it didn’t last too long. Slowly building the energy for the show, they began with the opener “Buildings”, from Dead End Kings. A strong way to set the tone, the crowd eventually fell into the groove of this heavy hitter. The band brought as much energy as they possibly could.
The thundering introduction to “Day and Then the Shade” brought the rest of the seemingly sleepy crowd to their feet. The sea of people started to swing, sway, and head bang as Katatonia hammered through “My Twin” and “Burn the Remembrance”.
Up next, “Soil’s Song”, brought out a new energy amongst the band and fans. The song has always been a fan favorite, and you could feel it in the room. With the next several songs, Katatonia had won over some new fans. “The Racing Heart”, “Lethean” and “The Longest Year” were piledrivers that went headfirst into these concertgoers. Interspersed between these, and the remaining songs of the set (“July”, “Dead Letters”, and “Forsaker”), Jonas Renske (vocals), made it a point to thank the audience and to thank Opeth for taking them out on tour, as well as hyping the crowd up for the main event!
A moment of hilarity occurred in between sets. As the stage and road crew were setting up Opeth’s remaining gear, the lights went out temporarily, which led to a majority of the crowd start in with cheers. These cheers occurred far before Opeth was set to take stage.
As Opeth took to the stage, they began with a little cut from Heritage, “The Devil’s Orchard”. The crowd erupted with energy and excitement, as Mikael Åkerfeldt (vocals, guitar) and Fredrik Åkesson (guitars) tear it up on guitar. The second song of the set was their first of three songs they played from Ghost Reveries. “Ghost of Perdition” not only had the audience begging for more, but outright DEMANDING it.
The deathly growls of “White Cluster” kicked the show up a notch. Rhythms beating into your chest, and growling riffs fretted across the room and could kick start your heart. Next, “Hope Leaves” created a distinct change of direction. A mostly acoustic based track, creates a melancholy, almost depressing mood. Mikael’s soft, clean singing voice is soothing, and somewhat deceiving compared to other songs in the set.
The second song from Ghost Reveries is “Atonement”. Martin Axenrot (drums) opens up the song with the intricate drum beat, while Jaokim Svalberg (keyboards, mellotron) and Martín Méndez (bass) pick up the complex rhythm. Mikael and Fredrik then enter with the guitar work, which is very reminiscent of 70’s progressive rock. As the band get into the song and play with incredible focus, the entire audience began to bob and sway along. Ending the song, Fredrik played what was seemingly a mostly improvised solo, to much fanfare.
“Deliverance” and “Hessian Peel” are 10+ minute epic songs that were played back-to-back. These songs contrast with each other. “Deliverance” has a heavy, more death metal sound, while “Hessian Peel” is more acoustic and progressive sounding. The dissonance and beauty of these songs clash with magnificent results. “Häxprocess” continues the progressive side, while fitting more into 70’s progressive rock than most of the metal of the night.
“Demon of the Fall” began with some rather hilarious banter from Mikael. The song is typically a heavy, death metal affair, but Mikael stopped and asked the audience, “Do you know what kind of guitar this is? How many strings?” A few moments after, someone answers that it’s a 12-string, and Mikael responds, “Yes, this has 12 strings. Fredrik’s only has 6!” in a mildly humiliating and playful fashion and proceeds to tell the audience to “Shut the fuck up! This song goes back to the Your Arms, My Hearse record.” This beautiful, acoustically rendered song was drastically different from the original version, but was totally worth hearing.
The final song of their main set was “Reverie/Harlequin Forest”. This is the third song of the night from Ghost Reveries. Pummeling your chest and head, this 11+ minute prog-metal fest of a song was met with excitement from the crowd, but nothing could truly prepare the crowd for what was coming next.
As the band returned to stage, Mikael asked the audience what song they were expecting for the encore. A variety of songs from their back catalog were mentioned, but the resounding answer was “Blackwater Park”. In response of the audience having spoiled the surprise, he exclaimed, “Three words: FUCK THE INTERNET!” Although he seemed slightly disappointed that the audience knew what was coming, the band was thoroughly enjoying themselves while playing. A great song to end the night from Opeth!
Nearly two decades worth of melodic death metal had shown their faces that night in Lexington. To witness one of my all-time favorite bands play some of my favorite tracks from my favorite album was a highlight. These guys can really tear it up on stage. To the members of Katatonia and Opeth, thanks for the amazing music and great show!