LOS ANGELES, CA- Swedish Progressive metal band Opeth and Atlanta-based metal band Mastodon Co-headlined a long-awaited show at ACL Live on Friday, November 26th as part of their 2021 tour with support from Zeal & Ardor, an avant-garde Swiss/American metal project.
My first introduction to Opeth was as a teen in a new city, ready to start college and a set of identity discovery/ ideations. ‘Deliverance’, ‘Blackwater Park and ‘Damnation’ are some of the albums I played non-stop during that period, so this is a band I’ll always be excited to see and document.
Kicking off the evening was Zeal and Ardor. Their sophomore album, “Stranger Fruit”, was released through MKVA records (2018) and created a powerful symbiosis between traditional Afro-American and Christian genres like gospel, soul, and slave songs with Scandinavian black metal and folk. The 6 piece band set took to a new level of sensitivity, virtuosity, and cohesive stylistics that made a visibly great impression with the audience in spite of playing what felt like a relatively short set.
Without remembering the specific order the playlist consisted of: “Wake of a Nation”, “Church Burns”, “Götterdämmerung”, “Run”, “Gravedigger’s Chant”, “We Can’t Be Found”, “Death to the Holy”. Wrapping up songs from their first album ‘Devil Is Fine’ second release ‘Strangers Fruit’ and their 2020 EP ‘Wake of a Nation’.
Next up was Opeth. An instrumental interlude song from their latest release mysteriously set the atmosphere for the band positioning on stage, followed by “Heart in Hand” completely sung in Swedish. We were allowed to shoot only the first two songs, but I was confident each Opeth song would be like 10 minutes long!. Unfortunately, I was wrong and we had the shortest melodic ones, but it was still more than worth the experience to be up close in front of a band that has such relevance for me.
Frontman Mikael Akerfeldt acknowledged ‘Black Waterpark”s 20th anniversary while joking about how they were signed to British label Music For Nations and took a leap forward instead of being condemned after their first four albums met with a modest reception.
The setlist consisted of “Hjärtat vet vad”, “Demon of The Fall”, “Cusp of Eternity”, “Devils Orchard”, “Drapery Falls”, “Windowpane”, “Sorceress” and closed strongly with “Deliverance”. Precision, technical proficiency, melodic vocals, and a friendly atmosphere with lighthearted but intelligent jokes made it an absolutely memorable experience (even while wearing the most uncomfortable shoes I could find).
Mastodon’s set was pretty solid and featured a range of songs from their new album ‘Hushed and Grim”‘ released in October via Reprise Records. Lots of classics like “Mother Puncher”, “Megalodon”, and “The Czar” effectively tackled the staunch fans that filled the theater. While honestly not being the most conversant with Mastodon’s catalog, I could recognize several of the songs and enjoyed thoroughly the super well-crafted performance and they clearly delivered a world-class act that was loud, youthful, and engaging with lasers and psychedelic screens visual backdrops. A certainly impressive set for a first-timer like myself.
While this was possibly the drunkest audience (with several persons being ejected throughout the night), none seemed to have bad intentions. . Not like I’d put up with them, but there hasn’t been a large scale metal show on a venue with that capacity in Austin since the pandemic and everyone (including me) was excited beyond their physical limits. But drinks are expensive and I must babysit my gear and pay Austin rent. Reality check.
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