OPETH, Kavarna Rock Fest, 16.07.2011.

Hello Prog Sphere readers, I’m here with my first review for this site, and although I haven’t even heard a single entire King Crimson album in my life, I hope that I am still worthy enough to try to present you all the greatness that Opeth bestowed upon us this warm July night. Opeth were part of the lineup of the now traditional Kavarna Rock Fest that takes place in the small city of Kavarna, located on the Black Sea shore. 2011 marked the sixth edition of this fine festival. Each year, the organizers try to have some concept for the lineup. This one was based around the darker and slower side of the metal spectrum, so besides Opeth we saw Katatonia, Tiamat, Paradise Lost, Moonspell and Lake of Tears (Sonata Arctica and Arch Enemy, who were also included in the festival, were the obvious exceptions to that rule). What I really dig about this fest is that there are only 4 (on last day just 3) bands per day so you are not witnessing some 40-minute fest gig but instead every band has time to perform a full 1.5 hour set replete with encores, so one can rightfully say that each group played a full concert. The festival is located at Kavarna Stadium and every day had roughly 5-6000 visitors who were more than willing to strengthen the atmosphere for each and every band for the entire festival. Opeth was the headliner of the second day and the apex of that night which started with modern British metallers Sylosis. Tiamat and Moonspell followed with furious gigs of their own which really took us back to the golden nineties. Especially after Moonspell’s vintage set it was truly hard to keep up the momentum they had created, so a heavy burden was placed upon Opeth…

Photo source: http://www.kaliakrarockfest.com

But I will now return to that warm night, on to my perfect position some 15 meters in front of the stage, and try to picture the show for you. To tell you straight away, the show was pure magic – Opeth recreated all the emotions that run through their albums and transferred them into a live setting so effortlessly that I still have a hard time talking about it. Even the environment was perfect: a cozy summer breeze, a full moon on a clear sky, and in front of me a giant stage blessed with crystal clear sound. All of this promised a lot and when the godly Swedes kicked off the show with “The Grand Conjuration” I was struck with awe. Even though the song is probably my least favourite one from this band, I immediately immersed myself  in the sea of sound and noticed right from the start how perfect the quality was. I know that I’ve mentioned this a couple of times but I simply have to point out that Opeth sounded impeccable. Almost as if they were playing a CD straight from the best stereo system on the planet.

Right after “The Grand Conjuration”, Opeth went into “Face of Melinda“ and from there you just have to notice the grandness of Opeth: not many bands will throw in a “ballad“ so early in their set without losing the momentum of the show, but the atmosphere that erupted on “The Grand Conjuration“ stayed at the same level, just a little quieter. I think that I should mention here that the new guy in the band on keyboards, Joakim Svalberg, fits in the band already with his vintage look and Hammond set. His great backing vocals and stage persona tells me that Mikael definitely made the right choice.

After “Face of Melinda“ it was nigh time for Mr. Mikael to speak to audience.Some people complained about how much he talked on stage, but I would take his funny ramblings over “I am a true artist but you wouldn’t understand it anyway” attitude that so many big bands have. Mikael shows us that he’s just a regular dude with a golden gift for music.

So after some “Smoke on the water“ and Judas Priest riffs and a singalong spiced with jokes it was time for “The Lotus Eater“ from maybe my favourite Opeth album “Watershed“ where Axe shined with his blast beats, and showed that despite his ecclecticity he is primarily a metal drummer.

Then we were treated with a speech from Mikael about his experiences with ballads in his early teens so it was clear that something from “Damnation” (“pussy magnet album” in his words) was about to show up. “In My Time of Need” made the hair on my balls stand tight and it was at that point that I realised the magic that was happening: the whole stadium was silent and woven in pure trance but when Mikael signaled for “no one would ask me to stay“ everyone sang the line. The band and crowd became one… What a wonderful moment.

Up next it was time to get heavy again with “Master’s Apprentices“. This piece provoked some massive headbanging from the crowd with its monstrous riffs.

“Drapery falls“ was next, and it simply swallowed me into its epicness with Fredrik blazing on his guitar.

The end was reserved for “the song that is one of our favourites“ in Mikael’s words: “Hex Omega“. This was another chance for Joakim to shine.

At this point the official part of the concert was over, but the massive roar from the crowd got the band back on stage quickly and then followed one of the funniest moments that I have ever seen in live setting: Mikael invited people to headbang for 30 seconds without music. I though it was hilarious, but you can look it up on youtube to see for yourself. After that we got a proper soundtrack for their headbanging as “Deliverance” was chosen to finish us off and pull the last atoms of strength from our bodies. What a perfect ending.

All in all, Opeth was on the highest possible level that night and I will even say that they were the best band of the entire festival, followed closely by Moonspell. I have finally seen them live and now all that is left for me is to wait for “Heritage” to see if they will have the album of the year yet again.

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