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Opeth, Enslaved - May 5, 2009 - Mr. Smalls Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

By: David E. Gehlke

Guess you call this a “dream bill” or a very good one, at that. The combo of Opeth and Enslaved is one that progressive metal dreams are made of, perhaps. Last time we’ll use “dream” in this review. Promise. As the only two bands on the bill, it was a practical guarantee that both would impress, and they did, even in spite of Mr. Smalls’ inconsistent sound maneuverings.

’Twas a sold-out gig, on a Tuesday in Pittsburgh, no less. Interesting…the Haunted were here two weeks ago (on a Tuesday) and reports were less than enthusiastic in regards to the turn-out. Not sure how that happens, but it’s a pretty safe assumption that Opeth is much bigger than the Haunted on North American shores at this point in their respective careers. Whenever a show does sell out in Pittsburgh, it’s usually cause for celebration or the need for some more arm room – it’s tough being packed into a venue like sardines, especially for someone like yours truly who needs his space in which to rock.

Enslaved got things underway nicely, opening with “To the Coast.” It took some time for the throng to get used to Enslaved’s spacey Nord-prog stylings, even as the strains of the awesome “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” and bombastic “Ground” shook the building to its core. Due to the cavernous nature of Mr. Smalls, Enslaved’s sound seemed to get sucked into the ceiling somewhere. Nothing sounded as warm or as intense as it does on disc, but the band has morphed into a strong, entertaining live act, particularly lead guitarist Ice Dale, who doled out some groovy Pink Floyd-inspired solos throughout.

Considering the Swedes were in Pittsburgh almost to the same date last year, it was no surprise the crowd ate up every well-placed and harmonious note from Opeth. The addition of guitarist Frederick Akesson has been pure gold, giving mainmain/guitarist/singer Mikael Akerfeldt some much-needed space to sing and hold down the rhythms. “Heir Apparent” kicked things off in a crushing fashion, heading right into “Ghost of Perdition.” The band sounded massive.

Kudos for the inclusion of “Godhead’s Lament” and “Credence,” two of the more unheralded jams in the Opeth catalog, especially “Godhead’s.” Akerfeldt was his usual jovial self, cracking jokes about his Conan the Barbarian t-shirt and how he loves to “play in this church.” Mr. Smalls is a converted church, obviously. No “Demon of the Fall” tonight, but it was cool they saved “The Lotus Eater” and “Deliverance” for last, which still has one of the best endings to a metal song, ever.

Not much to complain about here. Opeth continue to be a marvel and as their catalog grows, so does the need to see them. Bring Katatonia next time, too.


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