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Swedish progressive metal masters Opeth are no strangers to colossal live performances.
Following In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall (2010) and 2007’s The Roundhouse Tapes, Opeth are certainly also familiar with iconic live albums. So it is to be, that a majestic concert performed in May 2017 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado is to be released as Garden Of The Titans: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheater, Opeth’s latest live recording extravaganza.
Performed during Opeth’s world tour in the wake of the release of latest, twelfth album Sorceress , guitarist Fredrik Åkesson explains why the concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater was selected for filming Garden Of The Titans. “Its an amazing place”, says Åkesson describing the venue, “They found, apparently, dinosaur footprints over there…it was just a good opportunity, I think, the band hadn’t done a live DVD in a while, we don’t want to milk it too much, like with every studio album, but we have a pretty decent gap between the DVDs and also this DVD will be different from the other ones because they’re all recorded in the UK, and they’re indoors, and this one is outdoors, it’s a magnificent place, creates a lot of atmosphere. It’s very famous … there’s been a lot of shows there, The Beatles and The [Rolling] Stones played there, those guys from Metallica played there, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and the list goes on and on. But we figured this is a unique moment, so let’s do it. Let’s give it a shot. Because, we only have one shot, we recorded one gig with a camera crew and audio crew and all that you know, like throwing yourself off a cliff, “he laughs, “but yeah we thought it was a good idea and we’re happy about the result, its sounded good. The sound – we’re really happy with the sound, the mix, on the the CD as well, because its not only a DVD it’s a live album … I think actually some of the versions sound better of the live album, it has a raw energy, sounds more massive, with louder guitars. I hope people are going to dig it.”
A live version of a song can capture something unique. The live take of Sorceress of Garden Of The Titans is noticeably different from the studio recording. Åkesson reflects on how this transpired. “I think this came out …the way it came out” he explains, “we didn’t plan to play it any different but, I think the live version..it had to do with the sound as well…it’s a bit more of a beefier sound live than on the album actually, the drums are more prominent and louder, in your face and the guitars as well. We didn’t play it any differently, though we don’t use any machines or click tracks when we play live, so sometimes we have to rearrange some parts, like we wanted to have a guitar melody played on top of it, like on Sorceress we made Joakim [Svalberg, keyboard] play that…so sometimes we have to rearrange. It’s also that on the studio version its only Mikael singing and you have to bear with me singing a bit and Joakim [on the live version],” he laughs.
I enjoyed the entire show, and when that storm blew up, its was a lot of struggle to play as I mentioned, but the lightning trails that appeared…it was like going into battle or something like that, it was a very metal feeling.
Speaking of ‘beefier’ sound, one track that definitely comes through ‘heavier’ on this live cut is another track from Sorceress, The Wilde Flowers. “I think so too,” Åkesson agrees, and adds, “I’m happier with this mix than on the actual album, actually. We always have a lot of discussions when it comes to mixes, we had a lot of back and forth with the Sorceress album. It’s a good mix, a lot of stuff, but …I think this chose to balance the true elements more clearly.”
On The Wilde Flowers, Åkesson lets fly on some impressive soloing. On how tricky that was to recreate practically precisely live, Åkesson tells a tale of battling the tempests, “…It’s a long shreddy solo and I feared a little bit during that day because when we went on stage it was zero degrees cold. There was a storm blowing up, particularly when that song kicked in, and it was freezing cold for the fingers, especially when I want to play faster stuff, it was a bit of a, um, struggle, but it worked…it’s a lot of notes in a short time.“
Two enticing tracks from Garden Of The Titans have been released in the leadup to the album’s launch, the title track from Opeth’s most recent album, Sorceress, and the oldest song on the setlist, one of Opeth’s many resounding classics, Demon Of The Fall [from 1998’s My Arms Your Hearse]. Is there a reason for covering the time span 1998-2017/2018?
“Initally we always wanted to try to play one song from each album,” Åkesson explains, “apart from the latest ablum, in this case it was Sorceress, we were touring for the Sorceress album that’s why we played three songs from that album, but apart from that when we release a new album we want to do that, then we try to play a song from each album, but this particular show is only one hour, fifteen minutes, we usually play around two hours, so we didn’t have any more time to cover any more albums. But we did play songs from all the albums apart from Blackwater Park (2001), and the reason that is, is that the last live DVD (In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, 2010) we played Blackwater Park in its entirety. We wanted to have as many songs on this DVD as possible that haven’t been done before. Of course there are songs like Deliverance, which we will ninety-nine percent always play, and also Demon Of The Fall, we wanted to have some of that stuff too. Its getting more and more difficult too, as we have more and more albums, and of course the length of the songs, some songs are really long as well.”
Now preserved as an epic live CD/DVD, the concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater has also imprinted itself on Åkesson’s memory. Of that concert, Åkesson recalls some of the most profound moments upon one of the world’s most dramatic stages, “It was actually… watching the audience, it was a great audience, almost seven thousand people, and you have these gigantic cliffs on the side, that were lit up, just felt really great standing on the stage looking at that. Especially in the song In My Time Of Need, which is a ballad, that was a bit of a relaxing moment in between the other songs. Ah, I enjoyed the entire show, and when that storm blew up, its was a lot of struggle to play as I mentioned, but the lightning trails that appeared…it was like going into battle or something like that, it was a very metal feeling.