December 16, 2014 Opeth & In Flames astound The Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ 12-10-14
Communion of Sirens featuring Opeth and In Flames co-headlining, with support from Red Fang, immediately became considered one of the must-see Metal tours of 2014 upon its announcement in late August. With two of Sweden’s biggest Metal bands recently releasing new albums in 2014, for the first time in three years, the tour seemed to be an unlikely but compelling match North America could not wait to see. Kicking off December 3rd in Chicago, IL, the tour buses rolled into Tempe, AZ on Wednesday December 10th to perform at The Marquee Theatre. With a capacity crowd on hand, the tension was thick enough it could be cut with a knife as fans awaited the show to begin.
First up was Portland, Oregon based band Red Fang. Formed nearly a decade ago, Red Fang is a band which has defied genre and can best be described as heavy Rock-n-Roll. Appearing as a supporting act for Crowbar, Helmet, and The Dillinger Escape Plan among countless others, this band has made their rounds and then some, spreading the word of their brand of music. Perhaps their biggest dose of exposure to the mainstream came in 2011 with their appearance on Rockstar Energy Drinks Mayhem Festival supporting their second album Murder the Mountains. Breaking into the US Billboard 200 in 2013 with their third studio album Whales and Leeches, Red Fang are a force of nature which cannot be ignored. Rocking a set that featured songs such as “Crows in Swine,” “Blood like Cream,” and “Wires,” the band had a groove flowing like water. With raw vocals from Aaron Beam, thick slug-like rhythm guitars from Bryan Giles, with haunting melodic leads from David Sullivan, each song was brought to life full of texture and power the crowd dug deep into it. As their set concluded with “Prehistoric Dog” it was easy to see that this audience had discovered a new band to look further into. One would be remiss to not show up early to check these guys out.
Fresh off the release of their first album in three years, Siren Charms, In Flames are back with something to prove. Formed back in 1990 in Gothenburg, Sweden, the band has seen a steady progression in their sound, starting as one of the forefathers of Melodic Death Metal, then becoming the Alternative Metal leader they are today. Now eleven albums deep into their career, these veterans, quite honestly, should not have to bear a explanation for their experimentation with style and sound. Growth is essential for an artist, and In Flames come to this tour ready to show they are as strong as ever with their line-up of Anders Fridén (vocals), Björn Gelotte (guitar), Peter Iwers (bass), Daniel Svensson (drums), and Niclas Engelin (guitar).
Igniting chaos immediately on the floor, In Flames opened with new heavy hitters “In Plain View” and “Everything is Gone.” Possessing a fantastic stage presence, Fridén poured everything he had into each song as they went back to the Reroute to Remain era rattling out “Trigger” along with the mandatory “Cloud Connected.” With the band sounding tight and pitch-perfect, every note was spot on and Svensson’s hits were jolting. As they moved along in the set the audience seemed satisfied with the song selection, which heavily showcased tracks from the new album. With the signature guitar chops of Gelotte and moody vocals of Fridén, each new song such as “Paralyzed” and “Through Oblivion,” sounded electric live.
Kicking things up a notch and grabbing hold of the audience, classic track “Only For The Weak” had everybody moving along to the irresistible groove. Keeping the atmosphere light and loose, Fridén joked in-between songs and engaged in witty banter with fans. At one point he brought a female audience goer on stage to take photos and video of the crowd. No stranger to such antics, Fridén has been known to invite audience members on stage throughout the years and even has let a fan take lead vocals more than a few occasions. Certainly a personable character, it is these type of actions that make In Flames that much more inviting to their fans. Rounding out their set with juggernauts “Quiet Place,” “Mirrors of Truth,” “Deliver Us,” and “Take This Life,” the band successfully completed an hour long set that everyone enjoyed. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder; in this case it certainly has and America welcome back In Flames with open arms.
Closing out the night was none other than Stockholm, Sweden’s Opeth. Another band defying genre, Opeth has gone from Melodic Death Metal leaders to explorers into the world of Progressive Rock through the years. Becoming an unstoppable force for uniqueness amid a sea of generic swill, Opeth have been setting the rule-book ablaze with a uniquely progressive and exploratory furrow for nearly twenty-five years now. Certainly not a overnight transformation, songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt’s affection for the progressive side of music has been evident for a long time coming to the surface most with 2003’s Damnation. Always tinkering with what to do next, Åkerfeldt made a bold statement in 2011 with the Heritage album which featured strictly singing vocals. Something Opeth fans have become accustom to, and embraced, the band now return in 2014 with their eleventh studio record, Pale Communion. Considering their last tour on North American soil featured a set of all clean vocals, fans pondered what the band will do this time around and the anticipation ran extremely high in the moments before they took the stage.
Kicking off the set with “Eternal Rains Will Come” and “Cusp of Eternity” showed Opeth’s slightly jazzier, prog-influenced tone which is much askew from the band’s usual light/dark dynamic side, but the deep groove certainly had the fans’ heads spinning. Arguably at the height of his powers in terms of clean vocals, Åkerfeldt and the three-way vocal sections showcased guitarist Fredrik Åkesson and keyboardist Joakim Svalberg offering up some unbelievable harmonies. Amping up the audience and taking them back in time to Blackwater Park (2001) a solid, but what seemed to be slightly reserved rendition of “Drapery Falls” followed with the quintet unleashing the enchanting Still Life (1999) track “The Moor.” Showing their heart and soul to the audience, Opeth continued on, plowing through a set comprising much of their back catalogue, including a moody and atmospheric “Windowpane.” Going into “The Lotus Eater,” a mass hum-along began for the intro refrain which sent shivers down the spines of all. Thereafter an absolutely stonking, whiplash inducing Opeth style track “Deliverance” closed out the set.
For any other band, a seven song set would appear to be a tad short in the eyes of fans, but in Opeth’s case their pieces are more like epic tales with no track under six minutes long and most over ten minutes long. The band’s decision to balance out the heavier songs with the more mellow pieces this touring cycle was a wise decision and fans certainly appreciated the diversity. Opeth is a musical adventure not to be missed. Their ability to capture the tone and feel of each song is remarkable and a chance to see them share the stage with In Flames on tour is not to be missed.