Released: 2004, Koch
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
It’s hard to believe but it has been almost 10 years since Opeth unleashed their debut CD, ORCHID, on the metal world. They are one of the most innovative and original bands to come into metal in years and their fanbase is ever-growing. Why then has it taken so long to get not just a live recording out of them, but also a home video? LAMENTATIONS: LIVE AT SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE 2003 is the band’s first entry into the DVD market and it has generated mixed feelings. Despite having seven albums under the collective belts, the DVD ignores the band’s first 4 albums and takes all of its tracks from BLACKWATER PARK, DELIVERANCE and DAMNATION. In fact, the entire DAMNATION album is played in full. The two-hour show is divided into 2 sets: an acoustic set (the DAMNATION tracks) and a traditional death metal set (BLACKWATER PARK and DELIVERANCE tracks). The music on the DVD has been recorded and mixed by Andy Sneap, so it is top-notch. The audio mix is available in Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surround, while the video is beautifully presented in anamorphic widescreen. The packaging is well laid out with a booklet and cover art courtesy of Travis Smith, who also did the artwork on the last 3 Opeth releases. There is also a short essay written by Dom Lawson that is one big ass-kissing towards the band. There is also a 65-minute documentary entitled, “The Writing & Recording of DELIVERANCE and DAMNATION.”
The concert portion of the DVD is amazing to say the least. There are multiple cameras used and this is by no means a cheap production. The band is flawless whether it is acoustic or death tracks. Mikael Akerfeldt’s voice is exceptional in that he is able to go between the two styles rather easily. Martin Mendez thrashes about as he thumps away on his bass. Peter Lindgren may as well be frozen stiff with just his hands able to move because he barely moves on stage. He does not come from the Yngwie Malmsteen school of charismatic guitar playing, but he certainly does know his way around the instrument. Per Wiberg is also on stage playing keyboards and providing background vocals. Wiberg’s Deep Purple-like solo on “Death Whispered A Lullaby” is spot on and his presence is excellent on the rest of the songs, as well. The problem, as mentioned earlier, is the tracklisting. There is nothing from ORCHID, MORNINGRISE, MY ARMS, YOUR HEARSE or STILL LIFE. Rumor is that it was a label decision not to include the tracks from before Opeth was on Music For Nations. Still, the omission of tracks like “To Bid You Farewell,” “Face Of Melinda” and “Demon Of The Fall” is troubling. Hopefully, Opeth will release another DVD in the near future with a more encompassing selection of songs.
The documentary portion of the DVD is not the usual bonus material fluff. In fact, I would argue that the DVD is worth picking up just for the documentary! At 65 minutes, it covers the challenging recording process that the band faced during the DELIVERANCE/DAMNATION sessions. Recurring studio problems eventually reduce Akerfeldt to tears before the band relocates to the famed Studio Fredman to complete recording. To say the first studio is primitive is an understatement. The producer was nowhere to be found, equipment was subpar and the actual place looks like a cave inside. Once Steven Wilson takes over at Studio Fredman, the magic begins. Wilson, who plays with the prog metal outfit, Porcupine Tree, brought a new life to the band and even added harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards and a mellotron to the tracks. The studio footage is impressive. Seeing the band laying down tracks is very interesting. Akerfeldt is frequently strumming away on his guitar and even noodles on a 12-string acoustic. Akerfeldt’s vocals are also displayed as he lays down both clean and death vocals with ease. Martin Mendez struggles at some complex bass parts and Martin Lopez lays down some furious beats. What I found very interesting is that the band has not rehearsed before entering a studio since they recorded STILL LIFE. Everything is done once they have booked studio time. There is also an expose of the actual band members, their influences and how they came to be a part of Opeth. Also revealed in the documentary is that DAMNATION was a “one-off” project and that the band will return to the traditional Opeth sound. Akerfeldt even hints that the next Opeth record may deal with the occult.
The glaring omissions on the song selection keep this from being the definitive Opeth DVD but hopefully they will rectify that problem with a later release. That aside, I would say this DVD is worth the money. It has a low list price—$15 Canadian—and is an excellent addition to any metal fan’s collection.
KILLER KUTS: “Windowpane,” “In My Time Of Need,” “Hope Leaves,” “The Drapery Falls”