On a hot and abnormally humid Friday evening a big crowd gathered at the stately if somewhat sweaty Thebarton Theatre for the return of death-metal-turned-prog-rock heroes Opeth. First up though were the five bearded gentlemen comprising Caligula’s Horse. (http://caligulashorse.com/) The Brisbane outfit turned in a fine set of their immaculately crafted and finely honed heavy prog, drawn largely from their 2015 album ‘Bloom’.

Complex yet catchy melodies characterise the Caligula’s Horse sound. The music ebbs and flows with delicate mellow passages seamlessly giving way to crushing riffs and searing, but concise guitar solos, all topped off by Jim Grey’s soaring and emotive vocals.

While their thirty-minute set didn’t allow them to fully stretch out, Caligula’s Horse did more than enough to whet the appetite of the many punters already in attendance, ahead of a return visit in the company of Sleepmakeswaves on 6 April at the Governor Hindmarsh.

After a short interval and with the crowd at fever pitch, the headliners took to the stage and kicked into the title track of last year’s pure-prog masterwork ‘Sorceress’. Crowd favourite Ghost of Perdition was next up and thereafter we were treated to an expansive set drawn from right across Opeth’s storied career. Older songs such as Demon of the Fall and Face of Melinda sat comfortably alongside new material, while still demonstrating the growth, evolution and sheer variety in Opeth’s music over the years.

The Wilde Flowers, also from the new album, was another standout for me, taking on a whole new level of energy and menace. Following a lengthy and tongue-in-cheek explanation of song structures from main-man Mikael Akerfeldt, In My Time of Need from the ‘Damnation’ album allowed the crowd to mellow out somewhat before being bombarded by the bombastic, keyboard-heavy The Devil’s Orchard. Akerfeldt was his usual wryly amusing self between songs, and the whole band seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves throughout, with the crowd very much responding in kind.

A stunning run-through of The Drapery Falls brought the main set to a close, and on a night of epic songs this was the possibly most epic of all. Until the encore that is, when Opeth somehow upped the ante again with an amazing version of Deliverance to cap off a wonderful evening of deep and dark heavy music.

As I pondered their performance afterwards over a quiet pint of ‘Leafy Team Oz’ hop flower IPA at the nearby Wheatsheaf Hotel, I was struck by the fact that despite being twelve studio albums and over twenty-five years into their career, Opeth’s creativity and popularity show no signs of slowing down. Which is a great credit to them (and Akerfeldt in particular) and to their many and varied fans.

Jimmy Mac