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CD 1: Great. CD 2: Greater. - 87%

CadenZ, May 8th, 2017

Mikael Åkerfeldt is one of the most gifted songwriters ever to emerge in rock music. Now you know. And yes, I’m including legends such as John Lennon, Tony Iommi, Bob Dylan and Spartacus of Skull and Bones in that category. His genius lies in creating not only riffs and melodies that still decades after you initially heard them haunt your brain and make you wanna mosh and groove at the same time, but he also has a perfect sense for composing and arranging these bits and parts into larger bits (songs, and ultimately, albums) that are greater than the sum of their parts (and bits). Opeth’s music has always been striving to push their boundaries forward, so to label them as progressive as most people do, is completely correct. Contrast, conviction and condom-free sex are three more alliterative and descriptive terms that fit like a glove. In short, Iron Mike’s a bad-ass composer.

In 2010, Opeth celebrated their 20th anniversary. Amazing how time flies. Seems like just yesterday when I sat in my room at my parents’ house, decorated with Metallica, King Diamond and Pavel Bure posters, and discovered Opeth’s just-released sophomore effort “Morningrise” (1996). I’d gotten hold of it in way of an ancient ritual nowadays forgotten to Man – the tape trade. Jesus. I’m getting fucking old. Anyway, our heroes chose to arrange five special gigs at different locations around the world for the grand occasion, and this album is a documentation of the one played at the legendary Royal Albert Hall in London, UK. And a magnificent gig it is.

The concert consists of two different sets commemorating the band’s history, with a short intermission in between. The first set offers Opeth’s 2001 breakthrough album “Blackwater Park” in its entirety, while the second set features one song each from every other Opeth album, in chronological order.

The “BP” disc holds none of Åkerfeldt’s stand-upish speeches but is played through without pauses, as close to the original as possible. This is one of the small setbacks of the record – many tracks are mere carbon copies of their original album shapes, and there are no “wow, I didn’t think you could do that!” moments. The live setting gives the songs, of course, a little bit of extra energy and edge, but especially this first disc feels…not redundant, absolutely not, but it certainly could’ve used some more refreshing details. The songs are still awesome deluxe of course, so it’s not like I’m not loving every second anyway. Especially “The Funeral Portrait” rendition kicks major goat ass.

The second CD has all the talk the first one hasn’t. Mike gives us a small historic essay on the band’s progress from the immature teenage mongrels they were in the 90’s to the immature 30-something mongrels they are now. Very entertaining. Some parts of the earlier songs have been seamlessly re-arranged to incorporate the articulate keyboard antics of Mr. Wiberg. Huge props to the hipster for having such a great voice too, laying out those backing vocal harmonies with style. These songs sound fresher somehow, and most of these I haven’t heard as live versions before. “The Moor” and “Harlequin Forest” are highlights, but I could really say that about every song on the disc.

What strikes me as a bit ironic is that the “weakest link” in terms of musicianship in Opeth is, nowadays, Åkerfeldt. Not that he is bad by any means, but all of his fellow band mates outshine him by far. Axenrot and Mendez are Mr. And Mrs. Stability and bring the chops as well, while Åkesson…Fred…dude…such a great guitarist. It’s a shame his jaw-dropping skills don’t get fully utilized, other than the solo spot he gets on Hope Leaves…which is a fucking guitorgasm. A classic blend of taste and technique make for a winning recipe. Åkerfeldt himself plays his stuff well and all, and his clean vocals are ace as they always are nowadays. His growls, though, seem kind of semi-weak on the Mike scale (meaning his usual self obliterates mountains, while now he merely causes massive rock slides.)

The production is very good, everything is clearly audible. How many post-gig corrections they have made I have no idea about, but it all sounds authentic enough to me. A small detail keeps bugging me, and it’s that Åkerfeldt’s guitar is mixed juuuust a little bit higher than Åkesson’s, which makes it all the more irritating as the six-strings are panned 100% left and right. I hope this wasn’t done on purpose.

Some people have criticized this release as pointless due to the other live DVD’s/albums, “Lamentations” (2003) and “The Roundhouse Tapes” (2007), Opeth have released during the last decade, but in my opinion, they all deserve to exist. Mostly because of the very varied set lists – not a single track is featured on more than one release, except of course the songs from “Blackwater Park” and “Damnation” (which was performed in its entirety on “Lamentations”) – but also because I’d rather have three Opeth live albums than just one to choose from. Why fucking whine, motherfuckers? Also, this release is the first live album with the whole new line-up.

Finally, please answer the $1,000,000 question: what makes you cringe the most on “In Live Concert”? If your answer is “the cover image”, congratulations! You haven’t won shit. As aesthetically horrible as the white frame is, I’m glad Opeth made this ballsy move and paid tribute to Deep Purple.

For any Opeth fan this is a must-buy, and for every one of you others: you have no taste whatsoever in music, and will probably die alone when your pathetic Opeth-free record shelf decides to crash on you as vengeance for you not being sensible enough to feed it with quality music. Unless, of course, you repent this instant and suck Iron Mike’s virtual dick with the vigor of a rabid poodle in heat. Meaning, buy this album. Whoever said you couldn’t argue about taste had clearly not heard Opeth.

It's fucking massive and shit - 98%

TheLiberation, May 14th, 2013

This glorious quote by Mikael Åkerfeldt, originally referring to the Royal Albert Hall, describes this DVD equally well. As part of Opeth's 20th anniversary, the band did a tour during which they played the entire Blackwater Park album (as the apparent fan favourite, personally I would have definitely chosen Still Life, but what can I do), as well as one song from each of the remaining albums, up to then latest Watershed. The whole setlist is a bit overwhelming, clocking at around 3 hours (!), and it's a pretty heavy dose of Opeth to take at once, but well, I regret nothing.

I generally enjoy good live DVDs or just audio live albums, as some songs just work better in a live setting, and it feels like a sort of a closer contact with the band (well of course, nothing can replace actually being at a concert, but this is the closest you can get to that). Also, the two previous Opeth DVDs, the atmospheric Lamentations and crazy Roundhouse Tapes were very enjoyable (the latter having a fair share of one-liners which entered my language to the misfortune of people who have to encounter me daily).

This, however, is possibly the best release of this type I've had a chance to encounter this far. Simply everything works here, and works incredibly well. There's nothing done at the expense of anything else, it appears like every single detail was taken care of. The whole band does a great job at performing the songs - both from a technical approach, it's just pure professionalism to the core, and also everyone does a pretty good job at being expressive and they're quite clearly getting into the music (also if the idea of a headbanging keyboardist sounds strange to you, Per Wiberg will destroy your world into pieces). It's also worth noting that this is the first Opeth live album with Fredrik Åkesson, and what can I say... He does a plain amazing job and it feels like if he's been a member of the band since forever. Then there's of course Mikael Åkerfeldt, and his ridiculous sense of humour; if you don't know what to expect, all I can say is, it's probably not going to be everyone's cup of tea (as his jokes are quite... heavy at times), but well, personally I was at a risk of dying of laughter multiple times. The biggest one was of course when the gem, or more like big fucking diamond, which you can see in the review title appeared. It will make more sense once you hear the whole context.

Anyway, a great band performance is one thing, but unfortunately there have been live albums where either the visual or the audio department screwed up, and guess what: this is not one of them. The cameras work just fine, being slower and more focused in softer sections, and switching rapidly (but not chaotically) between band members and angles during faster sections (there are also no weird ideas like zooming onto Mikael's nose on Lamentations). And then there's the mix, which is possibly one of the most important reasons why this is such a great release. Handled again by Jens Bogren, THIS ALBUM JUST SOUNDS FUCKING AWESOME.

Honestly, I've had cases of songs ending up sounding cooler and more energetic on a live album than on the original studio album, but I think it's like 1/3 of the songs here. Already the opener, The Leper Affinity, just kicks ass incredibly hard and sounds far more energetic than the album version. Same goes for several others, such as the title track of Blackwater Park (which in my opinion is a little overrated, but the live version implodes the universe), all three tracks from the first three albums (we'll get back to these in a moment), Wreath from Deliverance, and especially the final closing track The Lotus Eater, which is a rather weird and chaotic song on the album, and here it just sounds damn majestic. I remember being quite surprised why this song was picked as the closer and not Heir Apparent or Hex Omega, but well, I guess I got my answer.

And like I've mentioned, I think the songs that gain the most are the ones from the earliest albums. I have a massive sentiment for Orchid and Morningrise, and there's something incredibly charming about their raw sound, but as separate songs, honestly - both Forest of October and Advent gain enormously in these versions and can easily stand next to later, much more popular Opeth tracks. I was especially happy that Advent was picked for this show, as it's by far my favourite early Opeth track, and I think here it gets to shine in its full and unlimited glory.

The set as a whole is a fairly heavy one, and there are not that many calmer moments: pretty much the only properly "lighter" tracks here are Harvest, Patterns in the Ivy and Hope Leaves. Still, despite the chronological nature of the set, it flows very nicely, even though there is a fairly strong division between the first part, being the entire Blackwater Park album, and the second part, as during Blackwater Park there's nothing said by anyone in the band (except one comical "shh"), with minimal breaks between songs. But of course during the second part of the set, Mikael Åkerfeldt gets to spread his wings entirely and introduces every song with a little historical background and of course a fair share of absurdity.

Most tracks are also performed quite faithfully to the album versions, with the one exception of Harvest, which abandons the acoustic guitar of the original and is more keyboard-oriented with a touch of jazz. And pretty much all of the performances are perfect: I've already talked about Forest of October, Advent and April Ethereal above, but there's also the wonderful The Moor from Still Life which works perfectly and loses nothing of its atmosphere (even though the band decided to omit the subtle intro), Wreath which is even more crushing than on the album, and of course... The Funeral Portrait. It's honestly completely, utterly and absolutely beyond me why this song is normally almost never played live, as it's just catchy as hell and incredibly heavy, and I think the performance on this album proves my point. It has basically no competition among the heavier songs played here. The only complaint I could have is that occasionally Mikael's growls are not as varied as on the original versions, and this is the most obvious in Dirge For November, where I miss the deep, low growling style from the album. But well... it's a three hour show. What can I say?

As a whole, there's something magical about this album. Everything is incredibly professional from every possible perspective, but it's just so damn atmospheric. This is not anyone's one-man show (despite the obviously colourful personality of the frontman), this is a perfectly functioning band which knows how to do a great show, play music well, and create the dark, but poetic or even occasionally romantic feel of the original songs. I'd say this is the best of Opeth in a nutshell: if you're just getting into the band, this will guide you through their history and give you an idea how they have evolved and what they're capable of. If you've been a long-time fan and haven't watched or heard this yet, prepare to have your head exploded by 3 hours of pure, unlimited perfection. That is all.