Opeth, God Forbid, Nevermore at the Palladium
BY PHIL MCNAMARA
If you're playing in a hard aggressive rock band and hope to gain some notice outside of your hometown, you have several options. You can wait around a few years
for one of the remaining major labels to sign you and wait for them to open their deep pockets for a nice signing bonus, find a radio-friendly engineer that will compress your sound into an antiseptic Korn-like confection, and hire a hot director to make your MTV-ready rock video. If that doesn't sound like the most realistic way to make your rock dreams come true, you can do what most bands do, load all your equipment and clothes into a van, play every club in the country that will have you, and get your music to fans on a personal level.
The Swedish band Opeth, who bring their prog-metal to the Palladium this Friday, have chosen the latter option and are in the middle of their first North American tour, a whirlwind three dozen shows in six weeks, along with the hard-hitting Nevermore, Angel Dust, and God Forbid. Before the tour began, Opeth lead singer Mikael Aukerfeldt told the Phoenix, "When we go across the country I don't want to just hang out in the cities that we play in; I want to see the smaller towns and rural parts".
So far stretches of the tour have included the twelve-hour hike from Springfield, Virginia to Detroit, Michigan and the overnight hike they took from Cleveland, Ohio to Worcester last month to play the New England Metal and Hardcore Fest. "Well worth it," Ackerfeldt declared outside the Palladium after their set, "that's the largest audience that we've ever played for", he added, looking somewhat stunned.
For a band in the habit of playing on loud and heavy shows, Opeth has a surprising mix of diversity in their metal stew. Their latest record, Blackwater Park, starts off with the guttural "The Leper Affinity," which soon drifts into a harmony-filled acoustic part, a tight Rush-like technical jam, and a piano solo for the coda. Though fans and critics alike will appreciate the diversity of this music, at over 10 minutes, it's a little too long for radio, and not easily classified.
"I don't compare us with anyone else", lead singer Mikael Ackerfeldt (who founded the group in 1990 with guitarist Peter Lindgren) told the Phoenix. "There's no cool category for our sound, it's just different. We just accept that we're not going to be big because of our style and [the fact that] we don't have an image. We're happy to be able to play what we like to".
Going the unrepentant-artist route, it's taken them a decade to get their first US tour to happen, but the tour is already surpassing expectations. Their eight shows with Finland's Amorphis and current shows with Nevermore and God Forbid have been crowded with teens who were impressed by Opeth's sound. To the band's way of thinking, that's the only way that they're going to find new fans, "We haven't shot any videos because there's not much music on television in Sweden and we're not popular enough for MTV", Akerfeldt explains. So if you don't see them Friday night at The Palladium, you aren't going to see them at all.
On tour with Opeth are New Jersey metal-core innovators, God Forbid. The band's tight aggressive sound takes influence from the likes of Slayer, Pantera, and Morbid Angel. If you listen to their newly released Century Media debut, Determination, you'll hear thrashy metal with rebel undertones that still manages to keep its melodicism. If you look at their photo, you'll notice that four of the bands five members are black. Nonetheless, you won't hear any funky grooves or rhyming raps from this band and don't expect any tribal or reggae rhythms for their drummer Corey Pierce. Do expect a mix of breakneck speed metal, slow, pummeling riffs, guitar-shredding vengeance, and twisted harmonic progressions. Also, expect the big crazy pit that their live show inspires.
God Forbid initially gained the attention of metal fans with Reject the Sickness released on indie. 9 Volt Records. That record showed God Forbid to be a technically precise metal band with dynamic stylistic change-ups, that still maintained the anger and aggression of a hardcore band. Determination, recorded at Planet Z recording studios in nearby Hadley, Mass., with Doom Nation guitarist Zeuss, demonstrates the band's musical prowess while showcasing their tendency to go of the deep end into full blown chaos.
Headliners Nevermore have spent the last six years touring the country and the world to bring their complex brooding metal to the masses. The band formed in Seattle out of the remains of Sanctuary, initially favoring the guitar pyrotechnics of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Metal Church, their 1999 album, Dreaming Neon Black, shows the band easing off their aggressive pace, even adding acoustic parts. Some of this might be attributed to the departure of guitarist Pat O'Brien, who left the band to join Cannibal Corpse. Not missing a step, the band recruited ex-Forbidden guitarist Tim Calvert.
Don't miss your chance to get a good glimpse at what's happening in the metal underground when Nevermore, Opeth, God Forbid, and Angel Dust hit the stage at the Palladium this Friday night.
Phil McNamara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org