The Heritage Hunter Tour brought three metal heavyweights back to Denver on Monday night. The sea of black shirts could be seen migrating down Colfax to the Fillmore Auditorium before the sun began to set. With a start time of 7:00pm printed on the tickets, those familiar with the Satanic stylings of Swedish revivalists Ghost made sure to arrive early for the ritual.
The five masked, hooded, nameless ghouls took the stage at exactly 7:30pm, followed moments later by the master of ceremonies, Papa Emeritus. Ghost are known as much for their costumes and stage presence as they are for their throwback, sing-along metal anthems. Having just witnessed a ritual back in January at Marquis Theatre, I think I’ll just refer to my previous words here…
I have seen quite a few ‘satanic’ bands in my time, but Ghost are something different. First off, I don’t believe they are Satanists. I believe it’s all part of the show. Just like GWAR arn’t really aliens and the dude from Dimmu isn’t really from Stars Wars, the costume and lyrical content remind me of a traveling art troupe. Erik Danielson covers himself in animal blood because he truly believes each show is a type of black mass, Ghost have Hollywood quality costumes and make-up because it’s a show. There is a big difference there. If you read interviews with Papa Emeritus, you realize there is a script. The idea is to spread the word of Satan through attractive means — spread it through entertainment. Their album cover is a rip-off of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and their message is around humankind’s obsession with the dark side of things — serial killers, war, black magic, etc. They are playing on those themes and creating an image that can appeal to the masses. But none of this would work if they didn’t have the musical skills to back it up…
Without the musical skills, Ghost would never have been invited to join the likes of Opeth and Mastodon on their dual-headlining tour, but what both those bands probably didn’t realize is that these cloaked Swedes would steal the show. Now, don’t get me wrong, Ghost were not the best band to take the stage Monday night, but they were the most exciting. They brought the audience something unique and unexpected. Where I doubt Opeth or Mastodon gained any new fans, I’m sure there were many people going home to download Opus Eponymous after the show. The large stage, lighting and sound really brought a new level of intensity to their set as well, blowing away even those of us who saw them just a few months ago. The ritual ended at 8:00pm on the dot, leaving us wanting more.
This would be my first time seeing Mastodon where they were not performing Crack The Skye in its entirety (which I saw three times), so I was pretty excited about their set. Being one of those on the positive side of The Hunter, I was really looking forward to some new material as well. But I will say, I was hoping they’d mix it up a bit more. After kicking things off with “Black Tongue”, we were treated to a dual-kick to the head with “Hand Of Stone” and “Crystal Skull” from Blood Mountain, but then it was 10 songs from their latest, with only “Crack The Skye” to break them up. I’m all for new material, but does it have to be all at once? That being said, “Aqua Dementia” and “Blood and Thunder” almost made me forget everything that came before, as the pit grew tentacles, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. “March of the Fire Ants” would have been a great closer, but after an hour and ten minutes, Mastodon were done. Brann Dailor came to the front of the stage to thank the audience (the first words spoken since the band took the stage) and that was that. It was an amazing set when it is comes to technical, ferocious metal music, but Mastodon could use a little more personality and a little more variety in their set.
Opeth were just in town in October. They played mostly their new (polarizing) album, Heritage, at the Ogden Theatre. I wasn’t a huge fan of the progressive (non-metal) sound of that album, but having never seen the band, and being prepared for a softer set, it ended up being on of my best live experiences of the year. When I heard they were coming back on the Heritage Hunter Tour, I figured this would be my opportunity to see the death metal side of this incredible band. Well, I was right and I was wrong.
The set started out with about 20 minutes of Heritage material. It was 420 all over again, as the majority of the crowd baked their skulls in clouds of smoke, but even dulled senses couldn’t make up for the mellow atmosphere Opeth was creating in a venue who just witnessed a skull smacking Mastodon set. People started talking amongst themselves while the band was in jeopardy of losing the already dwindling audience. As much as I was enjoying the new material, as well as the slow stuff from Damnation and Watershed, by the time we were halfway into “Folklore”, I was losing interest. It had already been a long night of music and I was just tired and a little bored. When Mikael joked about the altitude making him feel drunk, but promising to give at least 40%, we all laughed, but impatience for something headbang worthy started to take its toll. Most of us had already been to this show, at the Ogden late last year, we needed something else.
“If you’re not patient, I’m going to play the song Patience“
It was another jab at those who were visibly upset by all the new material, but for those of us who stuck around, we got our metal! The show closed with “Demon of the Fall” and “The Grand Conjuration”. It was my first time seeing the death metal side of Opeth. It was worth the wait. But in the end, it just made me hungry for more. When the show came to a close, I walked out to Colfax a satisfied man, but since then I can’t help thinking about how much better it could’ve been. With Ghost, Opeth and Mastodon, this show should have been beyond epic! Instead, it was just a good show by some great bands.
Con Clavi Con Dio
Hand of Stone
Dry Bone Valley
Octopus Has No Friends
Crack the Skye
All the Heavy Lifting
Curl of the Burl
Blood and Thunder
The Devil’s Orchard
I Feel the Dark
The Lines in My Hand
Demon of the Fall
The Grand Conjuration