Released: 2007, Peaceville Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When Swedish critical and underground favorite Opeth released BLACKWATER PARK back in 2001, the cries of “sell-out” had already begun as the dark, dense sound of ORCHID and MORNINGRISE began to expand. Following that up with a pairing of a straight-forward progressive death metal and an all-acoustic album of seventies-influenced prog-rock, the band’s legion of devoted followers was once again up in arms. The final nail in the coffin was the band’s jump to Roadrunner Records as all hope would surely be lost with Opeth sharing label space with Slipknot.
Of course, none of these were assertions were true but the armchair critics who flame the Internet forums were given plenty of fodder to work with.
The latest “controversy” surrounding Opeth is the band’s choice to release a double CD only this time, the band dusted off some rarely-played early gems for THE ROUNDHOUSE TAPES, a one-off performance recorded in London, England on November 9th, 2006. It goes without saying that Opeth’s performance is flawless throughout. In fact, the band is so good, there is very little noticeable difference between the live versions presented here and the original studio versions. While it is a treat to hear “Under The Weeping Moon” and “Face of Melinda” live, is it worth sitting through Mikael Åkerfeldt’s between song banter when ORCHID and STILL LIFE are probably a click away on the iPod?
With little introduction and rousing fanfare, Opeth barrels into “When” from MY ARMS, YOUR HEARSE. The band wisely goes back and forth between the newer GHOST REVERIES material and the dusty nuggets from the old days to get the crowd wound up. “Bleak,” still an amazing song from BLACKWATER PARK, mixes perfectly with “Ghost of Perdition” showcasing mid- and late-period Opeth. Likewise, as Åkerfeldt pinpoints the “bad black metal lyrics” of “Under The Weeping Moon,” he later quips on the acoustic melodies of “Windowpane” as “the song that will get us chicks backstage.” These four tracks alone demonstrate the versatility and breadth of Opeth’s always interesting and ever-changing sound but with the ubiquitous “Demon of The Fall” on board, there remains a steady that fans both old and new can still relate to. Of note is that this is the final recorded performance of guitarist Peter Lindgren with the band. Even though Åkerfeldt pens all of Opeth’s music, Lindgren’s stoic stage presence and warm guitar tone will surely be missed.
Opeth announced that the DVD of THE ROUNDHOUSE TAPES will be out in September 2008, so this will have to tide fans over until then. If the scope of songs here isn’t enough, a nicely laid-out package should be enough to entice even the most miserly Opeth fan to shell out for both. THE ROUNDHOUSE TAPES is another in a consistent line of Opeth recordings and while this isn’t really a “must have” purchase unless you’re a completist, the song selection will serve as a great introduction to the band’s storied career.