There are few bands that can withstand the fan backlash of a complete change in musical direction but Opeth seem to have emerged relatively unscathed after the release of their latest album “Heritage.” It’s clear leanings toward the prog greats of the seventies will undoubtedly have soured the taste in the most ardent of Opeth‘s heavier sound loving followers but the majority of fans hailed it as another Åkerfeldt inspired masterpiece.

So, this bring to their latest UK tour in support of “Heritage” and the opening night at Nottingham’s Rock City. The buzz in the crowd outside the venue was palpable with most of it centering on whether Opeth would dip into their back catalogue  and unleash a few face-melters or would the set be made up of mostly “Heritage” tracks. In a matter of minutes, we were all about to find out…

Unfortunately, whilst outside queuing to get in, and hearing the trepidation of many regarding the content of the set, Anathema were onstage doing their thing. Excellently, I presume, judging by the cacophony of cheers and shouts from the amassed crowd and the number of bows taken by the Anathema boys prior to leaving the stage. A shame really as I have never before seen them live…

The rush for bar and the jostle for favourable vantage points ensued before the lights dimmed and the Opeth boys sauntered to their positions, picked up their instruments and launched into ‘The Devil’s Orchard.’ First track down, the crowd still on tenterhooks… “will they play any heavy tracks?” … Well, they didn’t have to wait long to find out as Opeth reached into “Ghost Reveries” and pulled out ‘Ghost Of Perdition’ followed by ‘White Cluster’ from “Still Life”. The sigh of relief was almost audible except for the fact that the band had just begun ‘Hope Leaves’ from “Damnation”. So, it seemed the evening was going to be a catalogue spanning set with something to please everyone. Except Åkerfeldt, who with his  unique style of wit complained that they had chosen too many difficult tracks to play.

Following ‘Burden’ Åkerfeldt recanted a tale of a recent show in Birmingham where they saluted local heroes Napalm Death by playing a cover of “You Suffer,” culminating in the crowd being asked if they wanted to hear it? Of course, the answer was yes. With a turn and nod to Axe on drums they played ‘You Suffer’ in its entirety, not once but, in fact, twice! If you don’t know the track, go and search for it on YouTube…

The set proper continued with ‘Deliverance,’ swiftly followed by ‘Hessian Peel.’ The band now well and truly into their flow and the crowd lapping up every note and word, from the barrier to the balcony, which was closed but the brave few risked the wrath of security to score an ideal vantage point. It was once again back to “Heritage” with ‘Famine’ before the set was closed out by the excellent ‘Reverie/Harlequin Forest’ from the “Ghost Reveries” album.

Of course, the show wasn’t over and Opeth returned to the stage to deliver one final number. Ending the night a very real high was quintessential Opeth track… ‘Blackwater Park.’ A stunning track to end a night of sublime progressive/death metal with a little bit of grind and comedy thrown in too.

Opeth – Official Website

Photographs taken by Sean Larkin for the excellent Midlands Rocks. Reproduced with permission.