within%20temptation%20-%20tivoli%20april%2005%20frame%20home.jpg about%20-%20jpg.jpg reviews%20-%20jpg.jpg interviews%20-%20jpg.jpg gigs%20-%20jpg.jpg opeth_nottingham_nov2008001002.jpg
With a sold-out Damnation festival taking place in Leeds tonight, including headline act Carcass with what has been advertised as the last ever live performance of their ephemeral reunion (although at the time of writing, there are now rumours of a new album), I am not surprised to find Rock City under half full as The Ocean commence playing around 6:45. Either that, or their early time-slot has yet to see the venue fill out - time would tell, I guess. In fact, I am still backstage nearing the end of an interview with Cynic frontman Paul Masvidal as I hear the musically ethereal intro of 'Calymmian' being played upstairs. Running to the guestlist window, I discover that all photopasses have yet to be delivered out front, so unpack my camera gear in preparation as I wait. A couple of minutes later, the passes arrive, so rush into the photopit for the second half of 'Calymmian'. With a strict "first two songs" limit for photographers during all bands' sets, it is understandable that the standard "first three" has been reduced this evening considering the lengthy prog compositions on offer, although with members of The Ocean perpetually backlit throughout their half hour on stage, good quality photos become a distinct challenge! That said, the backlighting does provide an atmospherically visual ambiance for those watching, although far removed from reports I've previously read of the supplementary visuals deployed during The Ocean's own headline shows. Tonight, then, is primarily about the music which, at least in my opinion, is strong enough on its own merits with or without visual aids. Upon first hearing the band's 2007 release 'Precambrian', one of the most musically accomplished, sublime pieces of art I've had the pleasure of experiencing during the past decade, I've been eager to catch them live and tonight, albeit playing only a short set, they don't disappoint. I am most impressed by the band's stylistic fusions with their masterful ability to switch between crushingly heavy passages and sections of affectively captivating music while perpetuating compositional relevance. Opening number 'Calymmian' epitomises this and is testament to guitarist Robin Staps' talent as an adept composer of genuinely, rather than generically, progressive music. Second song aired tonight, 'Orosirian', continues the Proterozoic thematic as frontman Mike Pilat convincingly growls his way through the track's initial quasi-doom heaviness before this gives way to its ambient mid-section with concomitant clean vocals. The clean singing oozes pure emotive essence and is in harmonious unison with the music, proving Pilat has a wider vocal range beyond the growls. Remaining lively in their performance for the duration of their short set, the moderately sized crowd in Rock City react energetically and Staps often jumps off the stage to stand against the security barrier, playing guitar in the faces of those watching as if he wants to reciprocate in a more somatic sense with such positive crowd reactions. Concluding with 'The City in the Sea' from 2005's 'Aeolian', they exit the stage to widespread applause and cheers. The Ocean are labelled by many as experimental post-metal, and for those who feel the tendency to categorise their musical tastes, this is perhaps an apposite description. However, for me, it's just fucking great music, and here's hoping they return to UK shores imminently for a full headline show. Anyone into metal....no, I'll rephrase that...anyone into music, go check out The Ocean immediately if you've yet to do so for you will not be disappointed.
Saturday 22nd November 2008
Rock City in Nottingham, UK
And so onto the majesty that is Cynic. Having seen them with their hour and a half headline set at the Dutch ProgPower festival last month, tonight's main support slot on Opeth's tour was always going to be inevitably much shorter. With a noticeably larger crowd now gathered in Rock City, Cynic appear to rapturously loud cheers from an audience where many of whom would perhaps be witnessing the technical metal maestros in action for the first time tonight since their unexpected reunion. And a number of 'Focus' era fans are present as evidenced by the constant shouts to play older material, plus when frontman Paul Masvidal asks if anyone has the 'Focus' album, this engenders a wide display of hands. As with the recent ProgPower show, tonight, the juxtaposition of 1993 tracks such as 'Veil of Maya' and 'How Could I' with contemporary songs from eagerly anticipated new album 'Traced In Air' highlights a progressive maturity in Masvidal's compositional expertise. The likes of 'Evolutionary Sleeper' and set closer 'Integral Birth' succeed in combining technical progression with a greater sensibility for overall structure whilst preserving the subtle complexities of their idiomatic metal-jazz fusion. If John McLaughlin ever tried his hand at metal, then perhaps it would result in something akin to the jazz stylistics of material from 'Traced In Air' for once again, after fifteen years of waiting, Cynic have extended the boundaries of what constitutes progressive music. And they make it look all so easy live, with Masvidal's laid-back presence almost at odds with his virtuoso abilities as a musician while co-founding member, drummer Sean Reinert, proves once again tonight why he is widely regarded as one of technical metal's most skilled sticksmen. I could ramble on for a long time, trying to convey in words the awesomeness of Cynic at Rock City this evening, but only two will suffice - fucking brilliant!
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Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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As Opeth emerge on stage, I myself emerge from an interview backstage with The Ocean just in time to catch the opening bars of 'Heir Apparent'. Rock City is considerably fuller now so it transpires, after all, that many have prioritised an evening of progressive music in Nottingham over the Damnation festival. With photographers only permitted access to the photopit for the first two songs this evening, one can always rest assured that with the Swedish prog-metallers, this will invariably equate to at least twenty minutes of music, an observation confirmed by the ten-plus minute second track 'The Grand Conjuration'! And what strikes me more tonight than any other time of seeing Opeth live is their onstage energy, as they perform with a dynamic enthusiasm I haven't seen in their show for many years. It appears the 'Watershed' incarnation of the band is living up to that album title's definition, defined as such by "a point in time marking an important transition between two phases of an activity". A band rejuvenated it would seem as Mikael Åkerfeldt and his current entourage of talented musicians play with renewed vigour to an audience that laps up their prog-metal discharge. It is therefore with regret that I miss the second half of their set as I'm invited backstage by Paul Masvidal for a photoshoot with Cynic. However, what I hear from Cynic's dressing room, both music-wise and crowd reactions, Opeth are on devastatingly fine form, although the muffled tones of 'Deliverance', 'Demon of the Fall' and encore 'The Drapery Falls' make me wish I'm amongst the crowd. Despite recent lineup changes during the past couple of years, the Swedes are indubitably a band in their prime.
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