Opeth: an outsider’s concert review

It has been a busy month for me, concert-wise. I have gone to listen to some very different types of music and, generalist as I am when it concerns music, I have found something for myself from each of those styles and artists. However, in one aspect the concert today was totally different – I felt I had to write about it just to collect my thoughts and get a more defined picture of my experience. It was so multi-faceted as to make me avoid any comments about the concert in general to my friends on-site.

At first I want to say, I am sorry – I am not writing this post for your sake. I’m writing it for myself and only publishing it because it has a meaning for me. You, without the background knowledge, might not understand.


The first surprise of the concert was visual. I had come to enjoy the intricate graphics they promote their band with; admired the emotion, the harmony and artistic feeling of the eerie pictures. Even before the show started I was admiring the big O of Opeth that was trying to recreate the feeling in this “field” setting. How delicate and graceful the lines! How precise and perfectly balanced the motive! How hypnotising its design of spiral in the circle!

The O was later enhanced even further by the light show. At times the light made this background decoration glow as to reveal a rose in its design; at other times bringing out other lines and other connotations. The lightning was well-planned in more ways than this one – it was emphasising the right musicians at the right times, it was helping to convey the feeling the music was expressing.

But the visuals I have described this far were not a surprise for me. Knowing how little I know about this or any other band, it is strange to admit that all this was absolutely something I had expected from this band. It is exceptional that I had any expectations at all because mostly I don’t know more about a band than the music – and even then I have trouble naming the band or the names of the songs, and often I go to concerts without any other prior knowledge than the name and place can give. But these expectations I did have and these they fulfilled – as much as it was reasonable to expect in this rebuilt-factory setting. I imagined them playing in a gothic era church, one specific I like more than any other, one that is light and graceful despite the darkness of those long-gone times, and it might have been even more overwhelmingly “they”, but unfortunately these kinds of places don’t like these kinds of bands.

My real visual surprise was about the band members themselves – they looked just your average guys, nothing spectacular. I probably hadn’t seen any pictures of themselves. Or maybe they didn’t bring their stylist who has managed to create this imago of spectacular visual intricacy and precise dark feeling, but simple and everyday they looked in their simple T-shirts and a bit shy behind their jokes about being the Backstreets of Metal and a little bit distant when they communicated with the listeners. I am not a stylist, I don’t know what I expected in this regard. I don’t even condemn them for this. It just makes me feel like they are still hiding something while on stage or in their everyday life, not fully expressing the passion I feel in their music and see expressed in their ubiquitous graphics. Or maybe they feel that this is enough, this is where they draw the line – they express themselves in the music and this they give us, but they don’t want to give more than this, they want to keep their lives private. I don’t know that it is so (or is not), and it is a rare feeling about any band, but I feel like despite all they are already giving, they could give even more. And I would very much like to experience this part as well, this part that now is kept hidden inside them, at least for us.


I guess I have managed to scare away anyone who might have hoped for a melomaniac’s or metalhead’s review of the concert, and a good riddance, too. I know little about music, this genre or others, and lessĀ  still about this band. They will probably find reviews more to their liking in other blogs or environments. I can only share my outsider’s experience of a music I didn’t know just a few months ago.

That is, before I heard about Opeth coming here I had really listened to only one of their albums – Damnation. For a long time I was doubting whether to go or not to, because all I knew about their other albums was that “they are absolutely different”. I managed to get hold of two of them then, and reached two very opposite conclusions – at times I would hear them and decide that this is not my kind of music and so I shouldn’t go; at other times I would stop working because I heard something interesting in the music, and would think that I might like the band if I caught the feeling on the concert as well – and this no matter which of the albums was playing at the moment. This difference was in itself intriguing and that was my main reason for going to the concert at all. I hoped to get the answer, which is correct, there.

From all this you can imagine that I expected to feel little to no connection with their music on the concert. I knew I couldn’t name them as the player if I heard their song playing somewhere; likewise, I knew I most likely would recognize just one or two songs at the concert. And knowing that familiarity is mostly what creates the feeling “I like it!” I had very little to expect.

But this is where I was wrong. Maybe I had familiarised myself with their music enough or maybe I am right and they are masters of creating intuitive music that I connected with more on the concert than before. I just recently read about how the formula for creating enjoyable music is very simple: if a listener hears something he or she expects, it creates a positive emotion, and vice versa (I am sorry to have absorbed the knowledge and forgotten the source – please correct my ignorance in this if anyone can! I really don’t like to fail to give due credit…). That is the reason why simple rhythms and tunes go well with masses – they create a positive feeling because if it is simple then anyone can predict what comes next and gets a positive emotion from it. That is why only after getting aquainted with these can you really enjoy something more complex – it is harder to predict these more difficult rhythms and tunes. Practice is what makes the listener perfect.

I think that is what happened to me at this concert as well. Thanks to I., I have been indoctrinated to similar music in the last few years and I feel I have just reached a new level in recognizing the patterns in it. The surprise was that at this concert I felt with the songs as I would with more familiar bands, and I did feel the “Aha, I knew it was coming, I like it!” feeling. I even found where the “not my kind of music” part fit in the overall designs of the songs. And I saw how the Damnation album was not so much different than the others, not where it matters that is.

I would like to liken the music I heard and recognized at that concert to a piece of fine fabric, that has an intricate design embroidered into it. I see a seemingly random pattern that is a pattern nonetheless, giving the watcher an intense feeling that cannot be pinpointed. The pattern is obscured – and controversially also defined – by some coarse strands of dark colour. Most parts of the pattern are intricate and intervowen, delicate and graceful, but the coarse strands are these that make the first impression and give the best hints about the whole meaning.

Just like this imaginary embroidery, I heard the sweet and delicate on this concert alternating with roaring instruments. At times even the vocals degenerated into an instrument for me – but that is actually how I prefer my music at these times: abstract, wordless. I like the idea of using human voice as just another instrument – though I am not certain that this is what was planned by the band themselves in this occasion. For me the prevalence of other instruments certainly played a big part in how much I enjoyed the music altogether.

That is also how the music matches the graphics I mentioned earlier in this post. These so much convey the feeling I get from their songs that the surprise no. 1 was greater than the revealation of this more interesting music and more waiting for me in the future.

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