Opeth and Mastodon, are two giants in the progressive music scene and have toured together over the years and across the world on a few occasions. When the bill was announced, it had me thrilled to catch them both in the same venue on the same night. I can’t get over the fact that two bands I rate highly are sharing the stage together.
Back in 2012 at the Myth these two were scheduled on the same bill to entertain fans of dark and heavy progressive music. During that show – the Atlanta based band, Mastodon, ripped through their set with much delight to the fans in attendance. It didn’t stop there though as it soon became a bonus performance and they played well over their established set time. This was all becuase Opeth’s frontman, Mikael Åkerfeldt, was unable to perform due to an accident on the bus shortly after they arrived at the venue. The details were limited, the disappointment was palpable and the concern grew. In the end Mastodon played an extended set and my excitement for this dual bill was squashed.
Finally, on May 1, 2022 that day arrived once again. These two are touring together across North America with a stop at the Myth nightclub in the Twin Cities. They’ve pulled this lineup before, but the timing and the location never worked in my favor.
Fans were working their way in to grab a spot at the Myth as a night of heavy music was quickly approaching. Opening the night up was Khemmis, a band that mixes heavy metal with a dash of doom. The fans that had packed in tightly across the front row barricade were certainly enjoying the performance from this Denver based band. After a few songs lead vocalist and guitarist, Phil Pendergast, asked if anyone had seen Khemmis before. A healthy dose of people answered with delight they had indeed seen them before. Pendergast then pointed out some of the familiar faces that he recognized in previous shows that took place in the area but then it began too many to mention. Khemmis set the tone for the night and had the crowd ready and eager for more after their brief 30 minute introductory set.
In a darkened room, the ominous sounds of a choir reverberated across the Myth as the mellotron began to play the opening segments of “Livets trädgård”. Orbs of light, akin to burning embers drifting off from a fire rose on the backdrop as the choral mellotron patch was played out and then faded to darkness as the mellotron dropped out. Scenes of Stockholm were on display as the Opeth members walked onto the stage to the delight of the roaring fans. The sounds of a pencil sketching was heard as the ornate Opeth “O” was drawn upon the screen before bursting into tiny fragments of light, dissolving into the darkness once again. The voice of a child spoke in Swedish with the translation “Because… if you stop thinking… you’re dead.”
The opening bars of “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör” played out as flames flickered on the screen behind the band. This is new territory for Opeth as they have created two versions of their new album, one in English as usual and another in Swedish. I absolutely love the fact that they’ve fully done an album in their native tongue. When Åkerfeldt and Dan Swanö created the song “Mordet Grotaan” under the moniker of Sörskogen, the Swedish language sung over that composition was lovely. Now we have a full album of Åkerfeldt signing the same for Opeth with their 2019 release In Cauda Venenum.
Åkerfeldt, as he is accustomed, spoke to the crowd with his deadpan sense of humor. As the crowd yelled and exclaimed their approval of the music Åkerfeldt said, “calm down guys, it’s a Sunday, it’s time to relax.” Åkerfeldt then said, “I haven’t hit my head yet so we’re in a pretty good spot.” These words were spoken as he pointed to the spot on his head where he needed a large gash to be sealed back up 10 years ago. He followed up by saying they haven’t actually played here before.
Opeth dug deep into their extensive catalog as the setlist featured one song from each album featuring from their most recent and all the way back to 2001’s Blackwater Park. However their 2008 album, Watershed was skipped over. It would have been nice to hear something off that album or if they’d have gone back one more album further and plucked out a song from Still Life. Although, a line must be drawn somewhere as they can’t perform endlessly into the night by playing copious amounts of 10 minute plus songs. It was great to be taken away to so many different eras of Opeth’s discography in one night. Fortunately for Opeth’s fans, Mikael’s injury from 10 years ago was not a factor and the night went off without a hitch.
Sanders spoke to the crowed and thanked them for always coming out to support them. Hinds shouts “Saint Paul!” as the crowd roars with approval. They always get a great crowd here to enjoy their music, even if it is just a few like those who first caught them many years ago at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. Sanders went on to say that “this next one “Skeleton Splendor”, it is a song of gratitude so we’d like to sing it for you.”
Much like how Opeth dug deep into their extensive list of songs so did Mastodon. It’s always a highlight for me when they play “The Czar” as it is such an epic piece that sounds great in a live setting. Newer songs like “Pushing The Tides” and “Gigantium” sounded so heavy as the dissonant distorted notes fight each other that you can feel it as the sound waves emanate from the speakers. Live music hits so many senses at once which is why its the best form for consumption.
After Mastodon played their final song, Dailor came out from behind the kit and walked out to center stage to thank the crowd for coming out and exclaimed how much they’ve missed being together with fans in spaces like this during the pandemic. It’s a been great to partake in such gatherings once again. Opeth and Mastodon, I’ve waited a decade for this show to come to fruition and it was well worth the wait.