The Fillmore was home to a buffet of metal on Monday night — at its best, a sampling of across-the-board choices and, at the low end, a schizophrenic mess. The veteran band Opeth headlined and, for the better part of its set, didn’t even play metal, per se. Frontman Mikael Åkerfeld and his crew belted out a first-half full of recent numbers, many of which have thick roots in progressive rock. Singing the Nietzschean refrain of “God is dead” from “The Devil’s Orchard” off of the Swedish band’s recent release, “Heritage,” Opeth sounded more Yes than Iron Maiden.
Still, it’s that heritage that binds them, donning Ozzy Osbourne and KISS shirts and Åkerfeld recalling anecdotes of popping on Scorpions records after dedicating “Slither” to Ronnie James Dio. “The Lines in My Hand,” another new one, approached the sound of the holiest of all the sinners, Black Sabbath. Favoring intricacy over quickness, Opeth couldn’t escape a relatively schlocky vibe. It would be impossible to think that the dyed-in-the-wool (and dyed-in-the-flesh) Opeth superfans weren’t disappointed by its soft (and cheesy) first movement. Apologizing for the ballad-heavy proceedings, Åkerfeld & Co. launched into a few growlers like “Demon of the Fall.” It was a 180-degree turn, but a bit too late.
Mastodon, by comparison, was heavier than an anvil. The Atlanta group played tunes from its most recent, “The Hunter,” dipping into melodic territory like “Dry Bone Valley” and “Octopus Has No Friends” before breaking out the electric lead single, “Curl of the Burl.” Mastodon’s musical prowess can’t be denied: every member plays lightning fast for most of its set, a veritable hand marathon basked in timed lights. The abrasive Brent Hinds is especially impressive on guitar, if not in his person-to-person relations. Still, Mastodon suffers from a similar dilemma as Opeth, presenting largely corny lyrics. Shouldn’t metal be held to same standard as rock ‘n’ roll? Just because of the bravado and speed behind the tunes, invoking Lucifer does not a great song make.
If you were looking for sympathy for the devil, you could have done worse than openers Ghost. The most interesting aspect of Monday night’s Heritage Hunter Tour, the Swedish band was a spectacle in every way possible. Draped in hoods, the band knocked out throwback metal while frontman Papa Emeritus held court as a satanic bishop, complete with a skeleton visage. It’s hard to tell if Ghost is being tongue-in-cheek or completely serious, but by the time the catchy “Ritual” was played, it would be hard to find anyone who cared.
Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.