Opeth & Fireball Ministry Live in Vancouver: October 14, 2005

Spread the metal:

Opeth & Fireball Ministry
Friday, October 14, 2005
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC  Canada


**Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland

The old adage goes “Third time’s a charm” and in Opeth’s case, it couldn’t be more true.  In Opeth’s first visit to Vancouver (read review here), the band was forced to play a mostly-acoustic set after drummer Martin Lopez had some personal issues that kept him back in Sweden.  At the eleventh hour, Gene Hoglan filled in for Lopez on two tracks but the abbreviated fifty-minute set left Opeth fans clamouring for the band’s next visit.  It would take a year and a half but, indeed, Opeth did return.  The only problem was that it was for the Sounds of The Underground tour (read review here), which allotted Opeth a mere forty minutes on stage.  Again, Hoglan replaced Lopez and the fans got a taste of what to expect for a full set but a mere seven weeks later, Opeth returned and gave starving fans what they have waited so long to experience.  With the strange pairing of Fireball Ministry, Vancouver was treated to an eclectic show of stoner/hard rock and ‘70s prog-influenced progressive death metal that brought out everyone from the younger denim-and-leather crowd to well-dressed, middle-aged couples. 

The California-based stoner quartet was an odd match with Opeth and many fans seemed indifferent to what they had to offer.  Having heard of them in name only, I wasn’t sure what to expect but the band’s sound can best be described as a mix of Motorhead, Nashville Pussy, Kyuss and High On Fire.  Vocalist James Rota is a wild-eyed Jack Black look-alike and his gruff, raspy vocals echo those of Blaine Cartwright and Lemmy, but the sludgy riffs and stoner rock pacing are more in tune with Kyuss/High on Fire than the breakneck pacing of either of those bands.  Lots of feedback and a bass-heavy bottom end (provided by Puny Human’s Jason Diamond, pinch-hitting for Johnny Chow, who is on diaper-duty with his newborn) matched up with sweaty, energetic performances from Rota and guitarist Emily Burton to provide a solid 45-minute set.  The only tracks I knew right away were the infectious “King” and the hook-filled “Flatline,” both from 2003’s THE SECOND GREAT AWAKENING.  The band’s new CD, THEIR ROCK IS NOT OUR ROCK, dropped four days after the show, but “Sundown” and “Save The Saved” are definitely worth checking out.  I can’t say I was either blown away or disappointed by Fireball Ministry’s set, and the pairing with Opeth couldn’t have been more of a mismatch, but they did manage to give me a good representation of their two most recent “sermons.” 

It Flies Again
He Who Kills
Save The Saved

Opeth’s new CD, THE GHOST REVERIES, could be their best yet.  There I said it.  The fur will surely fly at this statement, but anyone worth their mettle (metal?) cannot deny the fact that THE GHOST REVERIES is fit to stand alongside such classics as MY ARMS, YOUR HEARSE and BLACKWATER PARK, at times going above and beyond what is expected of the Swedish death metal band in terms of complex songwriting and experimentation.  My excitement for this show was moderately squelched after being unceremoniously ousted from the photo pit after only two songs (we were allotted three), however “The Baying of The Hounds”—a new track that is sure to become a classic—kicked things off and had me grinning from ear to ear.  The sold-out crowd was definitely on and eager to be treated to a “real” Opeth show.  Hoglan, along with fellow Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend, was on hand, but spent this show in the audience, as Martin Axenrot (Bloodbath, Witchery) filled in for the still-ailing Lopez, who was back home in Sweden being treated for a blood disease.  Bassist Martin Mendez, a hair-swirling delight to watch, is the polar opposite of guitarist Peter Lindgren, who must be one of metal’s most boring live musicians, as he remains totally expressionless and barely moves.  Per Wiberg, now an “official” member of the band, continues to defy the limits of the human neck muscles by headbanging even more than undisputed champion of keyboardist neck-wreckers, Type O Negative’s Josh Silver.  With his dry sense of humor, vocalist/guitarist, Mikael Akerfeldt, poked fun at Wiberg by referring to him as 70s prog-rock god, Keith Emerson, at one point.  Akerfeldt also made references to changing his name to that of POLICE ACADEMY star Steve Guttenberg and to Opeth’s music “making people horny” and again as being “cock rock.”  Akerfeldt’s ability to switch gears between brutal death vocals and a soaring clean vocal is not studio trickery either, as he proved during the spellbinding “In My Time of Need.”  Much to Akerfeldt’s delight, the crowd was engaged in a huge sing-along during the chorus was something to witness.  Likewise, “Deliverance” held the crowd captive after Akerfeldt announced that “this is the softest song we have ever written and it fucking sucks, but because we are Opeth, it is still pretty good.”  “The Grand Conjuration,” also from THE GHOST REVERIES, really shines in the live setting and this version trumped even that of the band’s Sounds of The Underground version which was stellar.  Set closer “Demon of The Fall” remains one of the bands most punishing tracks, especially when the chorus kicks in, driving the crowd into a frenzy. 

Rarities and surprises were abound as Opeth dusted off “The Moor” from 1999’s STILL LIFE and “When” from MY ARMS, YOUR HEARSE.  Unfortunately, the band still seems to inexplicably distance itself from their first two recordings—1995’s ORCHID and 1996’s MORNINGRISE—in their live sets.  Granted, it did take Opeth two hours to play the same number of songs as Fireball Ministry did in 45 minutes and no one can justifiably complain about the chosen setlist (okay…where was “The Drapery Falls”?!?!?), but Opeth certainly delivered the goods and blew Vancouver away…FINALLY!


The Baying of The Hounds
In My Time of Need
The Grand Conjuration
The Moor
Blackwater Park
Demon of The Fall

**Thanks to George at Century Media Records for Fireball Ministry photo approval and to Jamie at House of Blues Canada for the ticket and Opeth photo pass.

Opeth’s official website
Fireball Ministry’s official website