The Ryman Auditorium was rumbling the Tuesday night of November 23rd, as Opeth, Mastodon and Zeal & Ardor rocked the legendary Nashville venue. This particular evening felt as if Christmas had come early for local metalheads, as three of the greatest names in heavy music took the stage. The night began with Zeal & Ardor and it really seemed if they were playing as if they had something to prove. With one of the most unique sounds in music, they are known for their neck-breaking mix of black metal and ritualistic chants. Sharing the stage with greats like Opeth and Mastodon certainly brought out their very best, as Manuel and company showed they could easily headline on any other night. They tore through an all too short set, but had one of the most electrified responses from the crowd all evening. It felt as if they crowd continued to scream “one more song!” well after the equipment had left the stage.
In my opinion, Zeal & Ardor is one of the most underrated bands and have yet to disappoint in the three times I have seen them perform.
Mastodon was up next and, to be perfectly honest, I have not had the chance to see this band since they performed at Ozzfest way back in 2005. The only thing I can remember from that performance is they didn’t play “March Of the Fire Ants” and I was upset. They are one of those bands that I sort of lost touch with over the years and, even though I know they have put out a lot of music, I simply stopped listening. It took about two songs to realize I had made a truly horrible mistake for far too long. The show was absolutely insane! Aside from all the lasers, smoke and psychedelic LED visuals, they played some of the tightest metal I have heard in a long time. You could tell these guys had been doing it for a while, as the band’s chemistry showed throughout the hour-long set. They rocked and they just knew it, continually egging the crowd into a frenzy. Drummer Brann Dailor grabbed the mic at the end of the set to let the crowd know how appreciative he was of their support. He also told the story of how his grandparents played the Ryman stage back in the 50s and how proud he was to be performing where they once had. It was truly a remarkable set from a band I wish I hadn’t been sleeping on for so long.
Opeth is one of my favorite bands and I am not ashamed to admit I have had the privilege of seeing them four times before Tuesday night… my all-time favorite show being The Fillmore in Detroit back in 2016. As Mikael Akerfeldt would indicate early in the night, this tour was the first without longtime drummer Martin Axenrot. It really wouldn’t make a bit of difference, as Opeth continues to function on a higher musical level than most bands. They are all exceptional musicians and even with a last-minute replacement, they were as tight and technically perfect as they always are. The highlights came from hits like “Demon of the fall”, “Windowpane” and “Sorceress”; they even opened the night performing a song entirely in their native Swedish, “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör”. I have often found that the saddest part of seeing this band live is knowing they need to stop playing eventually. It never feels as if they have enough time to play all the songs I would like to hear. Most Opeth shows are filled with the most beautiful metal on earth and a lot of dry humor. I honestly feel like Mikael could make a career in stand-up comedy if he wanted. The night concluded with the classic “Deliverance”, which Akerfeldt joked is Opeth’s equivalent to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. It was truly a night of musical perfection from three exceptionally talented metal bands.
Photograhy by Derek Jones