Opeth, Sonisphere UK Saturn Stage, July 10 2011

For any prog metaller it doesn’t get much better than this.  The prospect of first seeing an excellent Mastodon performance and then Opeth just two-hours later is beyond sufficient – it’s excessive.

But who could complain when all things prog are usually executed in such a fashion? 

With this notion in mind, it was important that Opeth were given enough time to flourish on the Saturn Stage. But for some reason this wasn’t granted and the metal maestros had just 50-minutes – which by their standards, equalled in five-songs.  Not nearly enough for this master-class.

Opeth were far from obvious in their set-list choices.  The Grand Conjuration could hardly have been your first port of call in anticipating their opener, but it’s with great conviction that Opeth can pull it off.  With an unbelievable discography of material the four-piece could afford to take gambles wherever they wished and still be unaccountable to a negative reaction in the way that other bands would.

The acoustic introduction of Face Of Melinda from 1999’s Still Life revealed that mental boundaries are not an issue – they practise above many of their peers in this respect and manage to come out looking better for it.

Fortunately there was still some time for frontman and guitar wizard Mikael Akerfeldt to give fans an ounce of his clever wit alongside the Swedish band’s blinding performance.  Asking everyone in the audience to headbang when he says “now”, the crowd followed his lead despite not a sound resonating from the stage whatsoever.  The audience roared in approval when Akerfeldt asked whether they enjoyed it, to which the frontman quipped “Really?  Because it looked really f**king stupid from where I was standing!”

The Lotus Eater followed, and brought euphoria with it – a barrage of moshing riffs, precise clean singing and controlled low death grunts.  If anyone had their inhibitions about just how low Akerfeldt can go, then his showing here silenced any questions on the matter.

Fresh from last release Watershed, Hex Omega marked the end of what was possibly the performance of Sonisphere 2011.

Calum Robson