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Opeth, Paradise Lost, Tapping The Vein, others

(NOTICE- I wrote this review at a very bad time in my life. It's reflected in the writing. I've inclided it here because it's a gig review, but it's much more than that.)

In the last few gig reports I have written, I have skipped over the journey and focused solely on the destination. Since so very much of this experience was journey, I’m going to let you all read the very grim and gritty details of a bunch of Metalheads traveling long distances to different places to see a mighty tour. And this occurred not once but twice, all in the same weekend.

I got up on Friday morning and threw together the kit I had assembled for this adventure (which was essentially a change of clothes and some extra money) and headed off to work. After many drudging hours of listening to stupid people talk about stupid things, I grabbed my gear, hopped in my wife’s car, and headed to pick up Jon.

Jon knew we were going to this concert. Jon knew I would be at his house at 3:10. But was Jon ready? No. So I waited, time ticked away, and after a few minutes I snapped and told him we were leaving. So, he got ready and we left. The next destination was to pick up Gary in Burlington. The conversation on the way down between Jon and I consisted mostly of cops, since I was doing about 85-90 all the way.

Gary was expecting us at 4pm. We arrived at Gary’s house a bit late. And since we were a bit late, you would have thought that Gary would have been ready to go. Wrong. We wait around as Gary puts on his shoes, talks to a friend on the phone, Jon gets talking with a houseguest of Gary’s… it was not something that was making me feel very psyched at all. So I totally lost it, and screamed “OK, I’M GOING TO SEE OPETH, I’M LEAVING NOW, GOODBYE” and walked out. I was seriously leaving, and if they didn’t make the car, I was still going. You all might not believe me, but I’m telling you, I was northbound with or without them as it was getting late. Luckily, they both seemed to get the idea I wasn’t kidding and got in the car when I was coming back around.

But it’s still not over. 10 minutes later we had to get batteries for the CD player (it is an insert that plugs into a cassette slot on the car). I was once again cranking out about 80-90 mph, stressing about cops, being late, getting hassled at the Canadian border, etc. But somehow, I managed to avoid any of Vermont’s finest even thought I was flat out tunnel vision.

The Border was a bit weird. We pulled up, and there was no one there. I mean no one. There was a sign in the window that said “Please stay in your car, we will return shortly”.

This was a joke, right? Evidently, it wasn’t. We sat there at least 5 minutes until Le Controlle Guarde O Du Bord-daar came out and asked if we were US citizens. I said “yes”, he said, “have a good night”. Grrrrr….. Oh yeah, and 10 seconds later we had to stop to use the bathroom. I won’t say anything more about this except “Welcome To Canada, Gary!”

Ok, by now we were late. I meant really late. I like to get there when the doors open to mill about, have a beer, see who’s there, etc. At this rate, it was looking like we might miss some of the opening band. I was really hauling, and wasn’t really in a great mood at this point. I’m thinking about 100 different things, and suddenly Gary says, “You’re going to miss the exit!”. Sure enough, I was in the far left lane and the exit was very close. No way I was going to make it… unless… I threw everything to the Gods and just went for it. So I did. Gary and Jon are screaming at me “SKALK! NO!” but I blocked it all out. I focused on the exit, and I was either going to make that exit or die. Crossing 3 lanes of heavy traffic and missing the median divider at the exit by mere feet (keep in mind we are still doing like 75), I forced the car in and after a bit of stunt driving to get us to where were needed to be on the exit ramp, I smoothly transitioned us to the final part of the exit roundabout that got us to the bridge. It was sort of quiet in the car for a moment or two, and then I just started to laugh. I was laughing so hard I thought I was never going to stop. I guess NEXT time we got to a gig; we’ll be ON TIME, eh guys?

Alas, the trials that tested my patience were not over. Traffic was thick, and pedestrians in Montreal for some odd reason all appear to be suicidal. One almost got his wish. I did not slow down, and he did not speed up. How I didn’t hit him I don’t know, but I’ll bet the ass of his pants has road salt from the side of my car this morning. Again, Jon was the voice of reason and tried to calm me down. I’m willing to bet he drives us to the next gig.

And still more trials. We pulled into the same parking lot we always park in, and tonight they charged $10 instead of the usual $5 or $7. I got into an argument with the guy and told him that this was BS, and I was ready to peel out of there but Jon reminded me we were already late and offered to buy me a couple of beers to cover the parking. It wasn’t about paying me back; it was the principle of the thing. But I parked; we got out, and headed to the club.

I have never seen so many people outside Foufounes before in my life. This was insane. I mean I knew it was going to be packed, but not like this. This crowd could have easily filled the Medley, and probably the Spectrum. So we stand in line for a bit. I’m a foul-mouthed seething ball of angry Skalk, Gary is freezing, and Jon is very perceptive. He heads to the main door and asks if people with tickets and not doing coat check can front load. As it turns out, they could. Moments later I was inside the club with a beer in hand and calming down a little bit. And as if guided to us, Etienne and Melissa just popped up from nowhere! It was very cool to see them again, they are good friends and I do not see them as often as I wish I could. Melissa just got back from a year in Germany, and is leaving for Australia next month for 6 months. We all said hello and raised our beers in a few hails to good times past present and future.

I have to again comment on the crowd. It was absolutely jam-packed. This place had to be violating every occupancy and fire code in the book. This gig was way to big for this club. And it was obvious they were not prepared for such a turn out. Security was running around everywhere and seemed to be in almost as bad a mood as I was earlier. The overall atmosphere for me there was tense and annoying. I don’t mind crowds per se, but this was pushing my limits.

The line to get upstairs (to the stage area) seemed to take forever. And for good reason. Simply put, there was nowhere to go. The club was packed. We edged our way through the sea of people (and oddly, only 1 in 3 people looked like Metalheads, the rest were frat boy jocks or just “normals” out doing a bit of sightseeing at an Opeth gig) and we were split up almost instantly. The opening band started to play not more than 2 minutes after we got up to the stage area.

The opening band was Moonlyght, a local Montreal band. I have heard this band on CD and I liked them a lot. So it is there that I will start my tirade about giving opening bands enough time to do a decent sound check. No doubt that Moonlyght scrambled ass over teakettle to take this spot for the gig, as the notice on Lacuna Coils cancellation was very short. So they get there, set up, and had to of have been a total of 30 seconds worth of sound check before going on “live”. But thankfully the sound continued to improve as they played, and ultimately they wound up sounding great. Pity that it wasn’t until their last song. For those of you who do not know what Moonlyght sounds like, I think you can check them out on MP3, but I didn’t bother to look as I wrote this.

Moonlyghts set was very short, could not have been more than 20 or 25 minutes. And following them, the obligatory 15-20 minute pause as one band breaks down and the other sets up. Jon got me another beer and we moved to the right side of the club (you literally had to make a path, there was no “back of the club” where you could walk, it was wall to wall people) and waited for the next band to come up, which was Tapping The Vein.

Tapping The Vein has a totally stupid name, and other than their stupid name I knew nothing of them at all. I figured the way things were already going that night I would hate them. As soon as they came out on stage, I patted myself on the back for sniffing out yet another Metal posing “Made for MTV” bunch of Prog Rock weenies. And when they started to play, I was even further justified in my decision to strike them from memory for all time. But then something very odd happened. I was trying to hate them, and found that I actually LIKED them. Heather (the lead singer, who I meet later in this story) sang with such emotive conviction, such pure force…the rhythm and effects reminded me of some of the works by a “Metal version” of Bjork. Jaded and bitter Black Metal Warrior that I am, I was totally taken by Tapping The Vein. They played a good set, had decent stage presence, and overall, I enjoyed this part of the evening.

After Tapping The Vein, the pressing crowd became even more unbearable. My good mood from having seen Tapping The Vein play was short lived as the meatheads next to me decided to smoke about 6 lbs of weed and act like retards, and the music the DJ was playing between bands was pretty queer. I have a theory that the DJ at Foufounes doesn’t like Metalheads, because this happens at every Metal gig I go to there. And since the next band coming up was a main support band, the set-up took a very long time.

And that next band was Paradise Lost. I had heard this band only very recently, right before the gig. I didn’t like it, it sounded like a Cult clone. But I heard a lot of good stuff about this band’s past, and was hoping to see some of that surface. Not a chance. Stupid and clichéd rock star posturing, egotistical comments, and lame music was all on the set list for Paradise Lost this night. I got so sick of it I walked off the main floor and went to the upstairs bar just to get as far away from the noise as I could. The musical experience I was promised by so many people just didn’t pan out, evidently.

Now this gets a little weird here. Remember that Romanian roadie for Vader I told you about? He was at the club! Turns out he and his buddy just stayed in Montreal, they never hooked up with the Vader tour and decided to just stay in Montreal. So we threw back a few beers, and I also ran into Etienne and Melissa again and had a beer with them. But when Paradise Lost finished, I worked my way back downstairs and awaited the reason I came to this gig.

The crowd was insane. Chants of “O-PETH! O-PETH!” was almost nonstop, and every time a new roadie went up on the stage the crowd would just lose it totally and you could feel the very walls shake from the roars and applause. At one point Martin Lopez did come out and sit at his kit, he was working with a drum tech, apparently there was a problem they needed Martin to resolve. But I’ll tell you, when he came out, the explosion from the crowd was deafening.

Then the lights dropped, smoke blew everywhere, and the single revolving searchlights went in small circles over the crowd. The entire building was shaking from the stomping feet, clapping hands, and thunderous roaring of the crowd. Wordlessly, Opeth took the stage, one member at a time, and stated to play an open note… Akerfeldt was last. He didn’t address the crowd at all. He just grabbed his guitar and started to play. I’ll admit I didn’t recognize the first song. It was probably off the BWP album (which gets almost no spin time from me). But it was excellent. And the crowd’s approval was incredible. Akerfeldt just stood there, and I’ll tell you, the look on his face was one of incredulous shock. I expected a grim and dower visage, all moody and sullen or angry and vicious. Akerfeldt was actually smiling. Like huge ear-to-ear grin. Opeth didn’t do anything at all for maybe 1 or 2 minutes after the first song, they just stood and watched the crowd lose their minds. Finally, Akerfeldt said “Wow, thank you” which brought more explosive responses from the crowd. Finally, Akerfeldt said, “Wow, thank you very much. We have to move on”. Opeth played a very “light” set I thought, steering away from their more abrasive and hard songs in favor of their more melodic, although they did play “Advent” and “Demon Of The Fall” (and I’ll admit that Opeth drew a tear out of me during “Advent”. I could not believe I was hearing this live). Overall, I enjoyed it, but I felt it could have been more diverse.

I tried. I tried SO HARD to meet Akerfeldt. The massive press of bodies was too much. I never got closer than 20 feet, and the way things were in that club, it might as well had been 20 miles.

But I did get to meet Heather from Tapping The Vein. I told her that I loved her vocal styling, and that I was pretty surprised that I got so into her music. She was very psyched and I bought a CD. I told her that I’d see her the next night as well, as we were going to Worcester. She told me that if I showed up to make sure to stop by and say hi.

So all was very cool, I was over the “drive to the club” incidents. I was in a pretty good mood, and then… well, I’m not even going to get into what happened next. Suffice to say, it was a bad situation I made a lot worse by becoming Skalk Baresarkr and almost bringing the wrath of many peaople down upon the headss of my friends. When all the sums were added up, the night was not the best night out I had ever had. Bah.

But anyway, we eventually got out of the club, and I mean to tell you it was COLD! I don’t mean your average everyday cold. This was ADVANCED cold. It had to be –30 degrees, if not even colder. Now, I like the cold. It feels pure, clean, and natural. But this was like magical unnatural cold. It was a cold that went straight through your spirit. It was a cold that froze the marrow in your bones. And it was a cold that made about ¼ inch thick ice on the inside of the car. I couldn’t see anything, but I was in a violently dangerous mood so I just hammered my way out of Montreal. I know I cut a few cars off. They (evidently) were not cops, and no one died, so no worries, right?

So there we are, freezing in the car and headed back to VT with almost no gas in the car. I’m already totally insane, and I’m closing up inside myself badly. So what do Jon and Gary do to pass the time? They talked about extreme body modification techniques, like penal flaying, and castration-erotica. Neither of them have any idea even still how close I was to just stopping the car and killing them both. I guess if they read this, they’ll get a clue. Anyway, I didn’t really enjoy the ride back. But at least US Customs wasn’t a bunch of dicks.

So we drop off Gary, then I dropped off Jon, and headed home. I was surly, drunk, tired, and very cold. I wasn’t into crashing at Jon’s place. I got home at about 4:30am, and slept until 10 or so. I hooked back up with Gary at 1pm in Middlesex, and this time the Mighty Metal Roadtrip Warriors consisted of Gary driving, Ryan in front (Ryan is a cool guy I have met a few times) and Donovan and me in the back. Destination- Worcester, MA. 4 ½ hours of fun fun fun… the first thing I did was warn the guys that I was in a pretty foul mood still from the night before. Ryan asked why, and Gary recounted the event, and I went off again. Fun way to start a 4.5 hour trip.

So I sat there in the back with my hat pulled low and my hoodie pulled lower, hoping to fall asleep and avoid the social interaction that is inevitable on such long trips. I made it about 40 miles before I remembered that these guys were my friends and that I was going to this to have fun, I was going to see Opeth again and there was no way it could NOT be better than the night before. So I got talking with the guys on the way down, and things seemed ok.

After we got there (many rest area stops, cigarettes, and CDs on the stereo later) we still had like 2 hours before the show started (a major difference between going to gigs on a Saturday as opposed to a Friday) so we went to some mall in Worcester that was a waling distance from the Palladium. This turned out to be a huge mistake for me, as I was there less than 45 minutes and I totally lost my connection with this world totally. I was so disgusted with the filth that is humanity that I could not bear to see it any more. I ditched the guys and walked back to the Palladium and waited in line.

The doors opened early, and after getting checked for weapons and getting drink band fastened, I went inside and the first thing I did was order a double Yukon Jack and chased it with a Coors. After about 15 minutes I felt a very welcomed attitude adjustment and figured I’d meet some new people. I like talking to other Metalheads at gigs; they are usually the people in this world that I most identify with. I met a bunch of local guys who were pretty cool, and asked them if they knew who was opening. One guy said “Beyond The Embrace”. I just about blew a gasket. I don’t know if any of you know this band, but I have been listening to them for quite a while and I really like them. They are pure and true American Heavy Metal. Right then and there I knew coming to this gig was worth the trip and the aggravation up to that point.

A few minutes later the guys caught up with me and things were as they should be. We all stood around (always just left of center stage, about 20 feet back) and waited for Beyond The Embrace. They came on the stage and instantly launched into their aggressive but melodic brand of Metal. I loved it. Huge smiles all around from the guys I came with and the guys I just met.

Beyond The Embrace played for about 30 minutes, and sadly they skipped one of their most popular songs “The Riddle Of Steel”. I’d say about ½ the crowd was chanting for it, but since it is an instrumental I guess it wasn’t on the set list. Oh well.

Up next was Tapping The Vein. Once again, I was at a loss why I liked this as much as I did, but I did and that was all there was to it. Heather just rips me open with her singing style. But not everyone shared my opinion of Tapping The Vein. At least 3 or 4 beers were thrown at them, and before they went off stage it was obvious that no one in the band had any fun playing. Which really sucks.

Tapping The Vein left the stage after their set, and didn’t waste any time breaking down. One thing I will say about the Palladium, they can rip a set down in no time at all. If there was more than 10 minutes between bands, it was for dramatic effect.

Next up was blah blah who cares, I don’t like Paradise Lost. I bailed on them and went to the back and talked to Heather at the concessions table, and even got her “real” email address. She is very cool, and if they ever hit the “big time”, well, it’s where they belong, because they sure are not Metal.

After Paradise “whine because the crowd is booing you off the stage” Lost finally stopped playing, I went back down to the floor and man it was a flashback to Foufounes, it was so packed I really had to use some creative methods to even move through the crowd, let alone get to where I wanted to be. But get there I did. The mighty Opeth would soon appear and once again crush all who stood before them.

And time passed…

And passed…

And passed…

And I have to tell you, I got a bit tired of this. But eventually, Opeth did come out, and launched right into the same exact set they played the night before. And here I’m going to slam Akerfeldt pretty hard- he is a liar. Right before they played “Godheads Lament” he said “Ok, this next song we have never played live before”… and I was like “YOU PLAYED IT LAST NIGHT, ASSHOLE!” and of course I couldn’t be heard because the band was already playing. But Akerfeldt lost some major credibility and integrity points with me there. Not like he (or any of you) would actually care, but I do.

I still had a good time, and since I knew they were closing with “Demon Of The Fall” as their encore, I waited for it and really went off. One thing I will say for Opeth, they are showmen and they are incredible musical artists. I really enjoyed this, and the Palladium gig was so much better than the Foufounes one.

Once the gig was done, we headed out to the car (Ryan split a little earlier, and caught a train back to school) and after about 3 minutes realized that the heater in Gary’s car was not working. It was about –15 to –20 degrees. We had a 4.5 hour drive ahead of us.

I’m not going to go into the entire trip back, but suffice to say it was a very, very cold one. And here’s the kicker. We get back to Middlesex, and the battery on my wife’s car is dead. I mean like dead dead. We tried to jump it, but it hardly even sputtered. I was so cold that when I was working on the car I lost movement on some of the fingers on both my hands. I said “screw this just take me home”. So he did.

I got home at about 5:30am, was cold, angry, drunk, and tired. Flashbacks to the night before. I took off all my clothes, turned the heater up full blast, threw a lot of wood on the fire, and slept between the two.

The tally for my Opeth weekend- good bands, bad everything else. Final score = this weekend sucked. Maybe I'll change my mind later, but right now I’m not in the best of moods. If I am lucky, Surt will spread his fire soon.

Original post 01/19/03 by Skalk