Concert Review: Opeth and In Flames at The Palladium in Worcester, MA
Reviewed by: B. Cross
Photos by: Matt Lambert
The “Communion of Sirens” tour – a double bill featuring two of Sweden’s greatest heavy metal exports – makes for some strange bedfellows. Their country of origin aside, Opeth and In Flames couldn’t be more different; the former plays progressive metal, the latter a blend of alternative and metalcore. But both share some death metal roots, and they also are known for having a single record that heralded a notable shift in their sound. With In Flames, it was 2001’s Reroute to Remain that morphed their sound from melodic death metal into metalcore, while Opeth’s Heritage in 2011 brought their 1970s progressive rock influence completely to the forefront, ditching the death growls in the process. Both bands have recorded further material since then, expanding their catalog and musical horizons without ignoring their previous work. Sure, some “true” fans may have written them off, but that’s their loss, if the densely crowded venue was any indication. Thus, the two Swedish heavyweights were a surprisingly natural fit to tour together, and they descended upon the Palladium in Worcester for their last US show before heading north.
Red Fang opened with their chunky Sabbath-meets-stoner riffs, with tracks like the galloping “Blood Like Cream” rounded out by fuzzier fare. The Portland metallers’ sound was razor sharp from the get-go, reflecting their tight playing style as well as the skill of the soundboard operator. Come on, we’ve all been to gigs where the guy behind the audio board takes a few songs to get the mix just right, if at all. Not so with Red Fang’s set; from the first note, the audio was perfect and packed a wallop.
With fog shrouding the stage, In Flames appeared amongst a simple but effective lightshow. The floor was jam-packed with fans, and the mosh pit churned to life almost immediately. As the album Siren Charms was only released a few months back, In Flames naturally got things started with the record’s first two cuts, “In Plain View” and Everything’s Gone.” Newer songs mixed with the old, of course, and notable performances included classic Reroute songs like “Trigger” and “Cloud Connected.” Frontman Anders Fridén offered a bit of witty banter between songs, and deserves tremendous respect for admonishing suggesting that people put down their goddamned cellphones and actually watch the show they paid for. In Flames’ laser-focused playing and crunchy guitar assault made for a solid set, leaving behind shouts of triumph from the crowd.
The crowd actually thinned out a bit as Opeth took to the stage, because apparently some fans had no clue what they’d be missing. As with In Flames, Opeth also played the opening duo off their latest record: “Eternal Rains Will Come” and “Cusp of Eternity” from Pale Communion. This showcased their astounding songwriting skill and musicianship right off the bat, with airy melodies effortlessly flowing around heavier riffs. When Opeth came to town on the Heritage tour a few years ago, they only played songs that did not feature any growling vocals, eliciting howls of “Play death metal!” from angsty drunken fools in the crowd. Thankfully, there were no such complaints this time around. First of all, a few death-growl songs from the past were back in rotation, like the excellent “The Moor” and “The Drapery Falls.” But much more importantly, most fans had finally understood the newer material for the fantastic master classes in songcrafting that they are. (The grumpy holdouts just stayed home to “be true” or whatever.) Though Opeth’s set list was maybe half the number of songs that In Flames played, their songs tend to have a much longer running time. This was especially evident as they closed with the epic “Deliverance.” The back half of that song in particular is simply stunning; Opeth does more with a single note than most bands struggle to do with tens.
“Communion of Sirens” was a fine match for metal fans of all stripes. The tour is making its way through Canada as we speak, so quit waiting around and find ’em at the nearest venue!