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Live Reviews : Opeth & Circles @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 13/12/2019

By on December 14, 2019

Images: Cameron Stewart
Words: Mitch Booth

When Circles were announced as the opening band it seemed like a bit of an odd choice. Sure Opeth has gone prog but it’s a very different vein. In hindsight, however, after seeing how hard some of the grooves in the later era Opeth material hit live, it kind of made sense.

There’s always going to be a bit of a disconnected vibe when a band that thrives on energy are playing to a seated crowd but Circles went hard anyway. At roughly a decade old they’re as tight as can be and the Palais Theatre sound system (not always ideal for heavy shows) was in fine form. They simply sounded enormous; every riff vibrated through your body and the multitude of vocal harmonies soared over the top with great clarity. Circles played like they were in a packed venue with a mosh happening down the front and you can’t fault them for that.

Photo: Cameron Stewart

Lights dimmed and the chanting that begins their latest album, In Cauda Venenum, came over the speakers before one of the biggest rounds of applause I have heard in some time. Regardless of whether you’re pro or anti their cleaner trajectory, there’s something very special about watching a band as iconic as Opeth walk onto the stage. Opting for the Swedish versions of their new tracks, “Svekets prins” proved a perfect opener given how dynamic it is; gorgeous guitar solos, a quiet midsection between the big riffs, and probably some of the most well written vocal melodies in their discography.

Opeth is masters of their craft. Anybody who has seen them, or their live recordings, will testify to them pretty much being a flawless live band and this show was no different. A lot has been said over the years about Akerfeldt’s fading growls however launching into “The Leper Affinity” he still sounded superb; a little deeper and not as clear as his growls once were, but still as powerful. It was also the moment the crowd really got into it, you could feel the hype in the room.

Photo: Cameron Stewart

With an obvious focus on their new album, they’re touring on it after all, there were a few curveballs in the set too. Long tracks and a vast discography mean there’s only so much Opeth can fit in a set so hearing cuts like “Reverie/Harlequin Forest” and “Hope Leaves” were a pleasant surprise, likewise “The Lotus Eater” with Akerfeldt having a laugh about being told how wrong it was to have clean vocals over blast beats when he first wrote the song. “Sorceress” and “Deliverance” rounded out the encore which as a duo sum up their whole evolution in a neat little package.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is that Opeth have managed to put together a set where both extremes of their sound work together, with the exception of perhaps the mellow but jazzy “Nepenthe”, not a song anyone saw coming. Moments like the funky breakdown late in “The Lotus Eater” and the big riffs of “Svekets prins” meant that both eras blended together in what was a clearly well thought out setlist.

Now it’s just time to wait for the next tour.


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.