Opeth @ The Enmore Theatre (Sydney) - 23 Nov 2009

Two visits in the same tour? Not many bands can do that, Opeth can and did just that. They put on an excellent performance combining their brand of metal intertwined with some dry humour, which no doubt pleased the rabid crowd.

When it comes to Opeth touring the world, Australia has been a consistant stop, and the band has recieved a very healthy crowd response and attendance on all appearances. Coming towards the end of the touring cycle for their last release Watershed, the 2009 three-date stop on Australia's east coast is the first time Opeth have visited Australia twice within the same tour. Upon arriving inside Sydney's Enmore Theatre, you could feel the anticipation in the air from the many fans already inside.

Opening the proceedings were Melbourne's Contrive who are quite well known around Australia's metal circles, as the band's drummer Andrew Haug hosts a nationally syndicated radio metal show.  As previously announced before the tour, the band's setlist was going to be compromised of material from the upcoming sophmore release The Internal Dialogue due out in Early 2010 which has been mixed by the one and only Devin Townsend (which when announced got a nice pop from the crowd.)

Despite the mix being a bit muddy at times,  Contrive put on a solid performance and the new material sounded very promising. Some of it sounding like their already established material, mixed with influences of some of the bigger Australian bands like Cog - especially with the samples and electronica infused into it.

Frontman & Guitarist Paul Haug's vocals have only gotten better over time, especially his clean vocals, which sound quite like Fear Factory's Burton C Bell in his prime. Bassist Tim Stahlmann held the low end down while really getting into it, and drummer Andrew Haug laid down some solid beats on his kit, combining the traditional metal attack with some out-of-the-ordinary and complex patterns that are not typical of most metal compositions.

After Contrive finished their set, The Enmore started to really fill up with some rabid Opeth fans, most speculating as to what Opeth's setlist was going to be comprised. Many were just plain happy to see the band once again. Well after a brief change over period, the lights dropped to a massive cheer and walking out to the introduction piece which segued into their opening song Windowpane which sounded beautifully massive inside the Enmore's hallowed walls, and even, humorously, had a crowd surfer appear. In comparison to the previous stop on the Watershed tour, the set had been varied up a bit to include some lesser played cuts such as Reverie/Harlequin Forest, Hessian Peel,Hex Omega, April Ethereal and Face Of Melinda alongside more common played songs like Ghost Of Perdition, The Leper Affinity, The Lotus Eater and the closer in Deliverance.

Performance-wise, Opeth were flawless and precise, yet they seemed very relaxed up on stage and flowed through the songs with the greatest of ease.  The rhythm section of bassist Martin Mendez (who was once again buried behind a sea of his long hair) and drummer Martin Axenrot kept the engine moving along, and both got to solo respectively during the band introductions. Keyboardist/backing vocalist Per Wiberg laid down some textured keyboard passages, and added his own twist on the older material, which did not have much keyboard presence, while also harmonising vocally when needed. Guitarist Fredrik Akesson played perfectly and in my opinion has filled former guitarist Peter Lindgren's shoes and then some. He also got to show off his technical skills with a blistering guitar solo in the band introductions, alongside parodying a rock pose in the vein of The Scorpions' guitarist Rudolf Schenker (if the guitar had not humourously cut out to the amusement of band and crowd).  Frontman and guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt was his usual affable self on stage, delivering humour in his very dry delivery which got many of the crowd in stitches. When introducing the drummer Axenrot,  Akerfeldt dryly stated that Axe was  "raised on goat's milk, the blood of virgins and old man's cum" and that keyboardist Wiberg "is a Swedish hillbilly".

Vocally, I felt that Akerfeldt's growls lacked something on this performance, I could not put my finger on what it was. Nevertheless, his clean vocals sounded perfect.

Overall, Opeth put on another fine performance for their Sydney fans, who in turn gave the band a hearty response. The setlist was very good and the surprise additions were fresh ones although some fans would have preferred other tracks - but you can't please them all. They are winding up the Watershed tour to concentrate on their next release, and let's hope - and I am sure they will - grace our shores once again for a full-scale Australian tour.