Sunday, May 12, 2013

Clash Of Cultures: When A Middle-Aged Clergy Spouse Goes To A Death Metal Concert

Last night I drove down to Joliet and saw the Swedish band Opeth.  First, let me just say that this was the first concert I've been to in a while where I wasn't close to the average age of those in attendance.  Despite being around for over 20 years, Opeth still draws a young crowd.  There were folks my age and older, but most of those at the show were in their late teens through early 20's.  Which made me wonder what the hell I was doing there.  Rock, especially heavy metal, is for young folks.
The band is the brain-child of the very talented Mikael Akerfeldt.  At first, there didn't seem much to differentiate Opeth from the run-of-the-mill Swedish metal band.  Death metal was a variant popular in that country; with an emphasis on the futility of life, the lyrics are delivered in a growl the fans call "Death Grunt".  It became apparent pretty quickly, however, that Akerfeldt was emphasizing melody in a way you don't normally find in metal, with it's preference for rhythm.  Akerfeldt gained a big following among fans in his native Sweden, across Europe, and especially among fellow musicians.

The past few years, the band has moved beyond simple metal arrangements, with Akerfeldt singing in a clear baritone.  The band even released an all-acoustic record, Damnation, which was a big risk.
Their last recording, Heritage, has the feel of a jazz fusion record.  There's nary a grunt nor growl to be heard, as the band moves through a variety of instrumental, time-signature, and key changes in a more low-key way.

Which doesn't mean they don't shred concrete.  Last night was almost "The Many Moods of Opeth", even performing a very early, very heavy song, "Demon Of The Fall" with Akerfeldt and lead guitar player Frederik Akesson playing acoustic guitar and Akerfeldt singing clear a melody that lurked underneath the growl and pulsing rhythm of the original.  Still, when push came to shove, they had the crowd screaming and banging heads.

Which brings me to this odd juxtaposition.  Here I am, a middle-aged father of two, married to a United Methodist minister, pressed up against the security barrier in front of the stage, everyone around me screaming, rocking, head-banging, and singing along as Mikael sings the key-line of the opening number, "The Devil's Orchard": God is dead.  Was I in the right place?

The night made it clear that, indeed, I was.  Setting cares and fears to one side for a couple hours, losing oneself in the power and joy of a concert experience; letting the music be the guide to how I felt and reacted, this is a nice moment of freedom.  It would be easy to focus on a line like the one above and think, "Blasphemy!"  Since there's more going on than outrage for it's own sake, why not take it on its own terms, and enjoy the moment?

Besides, I might really be to old next time around.  Best to get a concert experience like this under my belt while I still can.

Virtual Tin Cup

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