Opeth & Anathema
@ Wembley Arena, London
19th November 2016
Review by Nathan Slack
Photography by Inty Malcolm
It’s a chilly and rather grim evening in November that progressive death metal heavy weights Opeth take to the ample stage of SSE’s Wembley Area. On the back of their newest album release, Sorceress and the remastering of arguably their most popular albums, Damnation and Deliverance, Opeth have a treat in store for their ever faithful English fans and promise to pretty much play both albums in their entirety if Wembley website is anything to go by.
The Swedish rockers have some big boots to fill playing this venue and upon arrival I expect hordes of moshers and metal heads cascading down Wembley Parks steps, giddy with anticipation at tonight’s bill. Sadly all I’m treated with is the rain and some hopeful looking tout’s
Rewind to March of this year and Nuclear Blast announces the bands small U.K. Tour and their forthcoming 12th studio album and I’m totally surprised at the choice of venue, which to be honest is usually reserved for more mainstream and vastly more popular bands than Opeth and their support Anathema. I think to myself, can a metal band that isn’t Iron Maiden or Marilyn Manson, in their day, really pull off playing here.
Slightly cold up here in the nose bleeds I have to admit and really wish I was down in standing just for the warmth of bodies, and then I realise that it’s not a full capacity Wembley arena at all but a smaller version. With a stroke of genius and having moved the stage to the half way point the events organisers have engineered the most “intimate” gig Wembley Arena has ever witnessed.
Some slight confusion as to when the Liverpool lot, Anathema are to take to the stage, as Twitter said 7pm sharp but the ticket, 7:30. Luckily I’m seated in my shiny plastic seat with an overpriced beer as they skip on the stage at 6:55.
Having pretty much abandoned their metal sound years ago, Anathema still manage to connect with metal fans and invoke powerful emotions from their fans with their symphonic sounds and catchy melodies. So it’s no surprise that Nuclear Blast picked them to support Opeth, who over the years have become progressively…..well…
They have stuck to their guns and so are likely bedfellows. They sound nice enough and have some great tunes to toss at the ever growing crowd as they mix male lead with female vocals but other than a few pockets of exuberant fans, most seem to stand with their arms crossed and are wondering when some actual metal is going to be played.
Maybe they were totally lost on me but after about half their set, I’ve lost my initial interest and I’m just waiting for decent riff or a kick drum. Melodious….but death metal or progressive they are not. Shame really as their first two or three songs sounded genuinely great.
On to Opeth and after their opening track, album title track, Sorceress I start to breath a sigh of relief…I hear some metal….all is well. It’s a good start and some overly excited people start the smallest mosh pit in the world. Ghosts of Perdition, one of my personal favourites, is next up and I have to admit that at this point I’m totally sold.
Who cares that the standing area seems half full and you could swing a cat around your head and not hit anyone but apparently it’s “sold out” so your pushed to watch a longish metal set in a really uncomfortable seat, but I digress.
This tune really sounded perfect live and made me shiver with anticipation at hearing Damnation and Deliverance later on in the show…or maybe it was because I was cold as I had unwisely wore my cut off jeans thinking I was hard or something.
Yes, I’m so metal sitting here in my patch jacket and shorts, buurhh!
We are then treated to a variety of songs from their back catalogue as well as newer opus’s from Sorceress and before I know it, that’s an hour and a half in already. Opeth have barely moved on set in that time and I marvel at how Mikael Akerfeldt’s vocals can switch from beautiful harmony to a deep death metal growl seemingly without any effort at all.
The band exit for a brief break before coming back to shouts and cheers. They steam forward with tracks from Damnation ever aware that they will get fined if they go over….and he needs his cocaine.
But it’s the album Deliverance that most are here to hear live, me included. Mikael tells us a bit about this period in the bands career and how it was one of the worst times he can remember, writing all night and recording all day, a period that produced some of their best work in my opinion but caused them such mental and psychical torment. He seems to look back on this time with mixed feelings but admits he wrote some great metal tunes.
Masters Apprentices is sublime and we hear By the Pain I See in Others is only going to be played once more…ever. I’m totally chuffed to catch that but everyone is anticipating one more song and there it was…their very last tune before saying goodbye for another year…Deliverance!
Up in my seat I head banged like you wouldn’t believe a dude in a small uncomfortable seat could, I rocked and air drummed and death growled along with everyone else… and it was glorious.
A perfect end to a flawless performance. Not overly exciting but that’s Opeth but well worth coming out into the rain and cold. Till next time.
- Ghost of Perdition
- Demon of the Fall
- The Wilde Flowers
- Face of Melinda
- Cusp of Eternity
- The Drapery Falls
- Heir Apparent
- The Grand Conjuration
- Death Whispered a Lullaby
- In My Time of Need
- Master’s Apprentices
- By the Pain I See in Others