Show Lineup: Zeal and Ardor, Mastodon, Opeth Genre(s): metal, death metal, progressive metal Venue: Mesa Amphitheatre
This show was the 12th date on Opeth and Mastodon's co headline tour through North America. Held at the Mesa Amphitheatre, the show started with Zeal and Ardor, then Mastodon played and the night finished with Opeth. The show started at about 5:45 which is a bit early for a metal show, but it was necessary because the outdoor venue had a 10pm curfew. The show initially was slated to start at 5:15, but I suspect they waited until the latest possible time to let people come from work and to let the sun go down a bit more.
As the last bit of the sun disappeared, Zeal and Ardor took the stage and played with great intensity. Their admittedly short set was very powerful and they utilized the time well, playing a good variety of songs to show off their musical diversity and prove their metal chops. I don't remember the specific order of songs, but they played several songs off the new album such as Gotterdammerung and Death to the Holy. They also included some staple older songs such as Ship on Fire and Gravedigger's Chant. As the opening band they didn't get too much time and they probably only played about 6 songs before they had to cede the stage to the next group. Despite the limited set, Zeal and Ardor greatly impressed me. The band played as a six piece, with a drummer, bassist, lead guitarist, two backing vocalists, and rhythm guitar covered by frontman and vocalist Manuel. Of great import was the inclusion of the two backing vocalists. These two guys filled in the chants and group vocals that are very prominent in the band's sound. The guitarist and bassist also had microphones and sung, so there was a five layer vocal attack that sounded excellent. I would even go as far to say that this live performance was better than any of the album versions due to this wall of sound vocal approach. The rest of the band was very good and I can't complain; the instrumentals sounded like the albums and were clean. The band was very professional and kept the set moving, pausing only occasionally for minimal stage banter. Overall a high quality set, I would highly recommend anyone see this band if you have the chance.
Mastodon was next and for their set the stage was expanded a bit so the band had more space, as well as large screens being activated. There was a massive screen behind the band that played very psychedelic video during the set. The animations that played were very complex and trippy, like something that would be on a Tool album cover. This added a lot to the performance and people really liked it; perhaps due to certain substances.
Mastodon played a healthy mix of classics and songs from their recent album. I will admit that I am not extremely familiar with Mastodon's catalog, so I could not recognize the majority of the songs. Of note that I can remember were songs Teardrinker and Skeleton of Splendor from the new album, and older songs such as Blood and Thunder. All the music was very good and the band played all the complex riffs with ease. The guitar playing was excellent and the solos were very fun to listen to. Great set which was enhanced by the cool visuals.
Lastly was Opeth, which is the group I was most excited to see. Opeth introduced the set with the opening track from the most recent album, which is an instrumental interlude song that played as the band walked on stage. The band then started with Heart in Hand which was sung completely in Swedish. This was a good opener as it was not too heavy but it had enough energy to hype the crowd up. The language barrier wasn't really an issue and it didn't seem to bother anyone. The band then further energized the crowd by playing Demon of the Fall. The audience loved it, myself included, and the band moved through some lighter music from the more recent albums. I was very interested to see what the band would choose for the setlist and I think they did a great job playing recent music and also catering to the old death metal fans such as myself. The band only played three songs with screaming vocals which were Demon of the Fall, The Drapery Falls, and Deliverance. The Drapery Falls punctuated the middle of the show and was followed with Windowpane and Sorceress. Deliverance closed the show which was not surprising. A part of me was worried that there would be no heavy songs, because Mikael is getting older and screaming vocals are taxing, so I am glad we got any heavy songs.
The band sounded very good, every part of the original songs was preserved and played with precision. Of note is that the drums were played by Finn Sami Karppinen after the recent announcement that Martin Axenrot would be departing the band. I am not familiar with Sami's own work but he provided quality drums to the band and he kept the playing very close to the original songs but occasionally interjected a new fill or the like to make it less sterile. Martin Lopez played the bass as well as ever and really made all the songs look easy. As you would expect, the guitar playing was awesome. Mikael and Fredrik had beautiful tones in all the songs; they moved through over 20 years of music very naturally. The vocals were about what I expected; Mikael did very well in clean vocals and the harsh vocals were good despite lacking some power. In general the band was excellent; the already great songs were played with expert precision. Mikael engaged in lots of banter with the audience and shook off plenty of heckling over song choices. I am very happy I got to see this show and I would implore readers to seek out these bands' shows.
Sidenote: sorry the photos are not great, I only took a few and didn't pay attention to them so they kinda look bad.
Reviewer Name: Nathaniel Smith Date of Review: 12-2-21