Opeth / High On Fire Centennial Hall, London ON September 21

Opeth / High On Fire Centennial Hall, London ON September 21
No fanfare. Zero theatrics. A barren stage except for the musicians, their instruments, amplification and a simple backdrop sporting their logo is all that Sweden’s Opeth (pictured) needed to entertain the nearly 900-strong crowd.

Opening the night with "Heir Apparent,” one of the standout tracks from this year’s impeccable Watershed release, it took the band a few songs to really get in sync with one another. By the time they dove into the set’s third song, "Serenity Painted Death,” the Swedish quintet were as unified a force as they have ever been. You can put a lot of that down to new drummer Martin Axelrot; Opeth were great before he joined, but with Axenrot’s addition they are now unstoppable. At least that was the case on this night.

Front-man Akerfeldt was strikingly polite and funny when he wasn’t crooning out melodies or barking out his guttural bellows. He teased the crowd, his band-mates and even himself in-between tunes. When requests were made for songs off the band’s first release, a half-kidding Akerfeldt tried to play introductory riffs to songs off Orchid before lambasting himself for having written such shoddy licks.

Instead, the band ripped into a picture-perfect rendition of Morningrise classic "The Night And The Silent Water” — all eleven minutes of it — without a complaint. This was an unforgettable performance.

Openers High On Fire were nothing to sneeze at either. After Nachtmystium dropped off the tour a few days earlier, the Oakland trio saw their nightly set times expanded to nearly a full hour, making every second count. Guitarist Matt Pike is still the man, pushing the band forward with his gut-churning riffs, and with former Zeke bassist Jeff Matz now fully integrated into the HoF line-up, the trio did their thing in pummelling fashion, interspersing older songs like "Baghdad” into the set list to prove they’re equally as deserving of the headline slot.