Opeth, Decapitated, Without Face, Wednesday 4th December 2002
Mean Fiddler, London, UK

By Charlie Farrell

Swedish masters play one-off UK date for Kerrang!

December brings the annual Kerang! K-fest here in London, during which the UK's most popular music publication promotes a series of events featuring the acts which it considers to have been the most significant of the year. These concerts traditionally take place at London's Astoria Theater or in the adjoining subterranean Mean Fiddler. On this occasion it was an opportunity to catch the now 'trendy' Swedish Progressive Death Metal merchants Opeth along with Polish act Decapitated and the now UK-based Hungarian Prog/Goth metal act Without Face.

Having already seen Opeth earlier in the year, I was actually much more interested in seeing Without Face, but with 3 bands set to play during the evening and the venue opening barely 15 minutes before the first band goes on-stage, it was always going to be a question of how quickly the venue's security staff could screen the punters for concealed food or drink. It wasn't fast enough as far as I was concerned and I was only able to catch two and a half of the Without Face's four song set.

The setlist was composed of two tracks from their aclaimed 2002 release Astronomicon and a further two from their debut album, available on Dark Symphonies, for reasons which had something to do with the backing track of samples and keybaords that they were using. All three musicians (guitar, bass and drums) impressed in playing a music that was much closer to progressive metal than that played by most bands of this ilk. Unfortunately twin vocalists Julie and András both failed to meet my expectations. After reading so many glowing reviews of Astronomicon, I was anticipating the pair being a top quality 'Beauty and the Beast' type pairing, but, perhaps for reasons of nerves, they failed to reach that standard. Nevertheless, there were enough positives in the music for me to want to revisit them again, very soon.

Brutal Polish-style Death Metal is not really my cup of tea, so it was with some trepidation that I prepared to watch Decapitated. A very youthful outfit, (all of the members are around 20 years old), with several disks behind them, they opened as they intended to go on, with bags of energy and aggression. While I couldn't name a single tune that they performed, I was impressed with their energy and the technique of the musicians who proved capable of producing some tasty riffs. The London audience was initially quite cold, but was gradully won over by the band's efforts and applauded them warmly as they completed the set with a Napalm Death cover.

While I am largely disinterested in the whole 'Progressive' Death Metal genre, I do find myself enjoying many sublime and highly progressive passages present in the music of Opeth, even if much of it is difficult for me to digest. After a long wait they finally came onstage and began with Godhead's Lament which, as is typical for this band, was a lengthy number featuring many time and mood changes during its passage. As the song came to a close, singer/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt explained that he was rather sick and that the band had come within a whisker of cancelling the show, apoligising in advance for any weaknesses in the performance.

The crowd screamed their support and then exploded with delight as Akerfeldt announced that the following number was to be Drapery Falls, a favourite of mine from the Steven Wilson produced Blackwater Park album. This, to me, is Opeth at their very best, mixing heavy dark passages with beautiful light ones during which the clean voice of Akerfeldt makes you wonder why he doesn't choose to sing like this all the time. The remainder of the set consisted of the debut live performances of Deliverance, the title track of the band’s new album and the doomy A Fair Judgement, a couple of tracks which I recognised from the Blackwater Park album and several older tunes.

There was, of course, the inevitable encore of Demon Of The Fall and despite the warm reaction from the crowd within the packed venue, one felt slightly guilty for dragging the band back on stage. Considering that the band weren’t very well at all, their performance was as committed as one might expect and it was only during the short chats between songs that you got the impression that Mikael was feeling at all under the weather.

The band’s popularity has certainly increased in the few years since they made their UK debut in front of less than 30 people at a pub in Higher Wycombe. The last couple of Steven Wilson produced disks appear to have widened their audience significantly to fans of other metal genres and to the more adventurous prog fans, and with both Kerrang! And Metal Hammer now taking an interest in the band, they could move up to even bigger halls during their upcoming spring tour.

Without Face:
Wierd Places
Hymn To The Night
Screaming Heartbeat
The Violin of Erich Zann

Godhead's Lament
The Drapery Falls
A Fair Judgement
Demon Of The Fall


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