You couldn’t get better Swedish excellence on one stage than this – both Opeth and Katatonia in one night. Literally, all this show was missing was a set from In Flames… and ABBA. It was a sold-out show in Rams Head Live, Baltimore as people came in droves to see their favorite Nordic acts in the flesh.

Katatonia made a creepy entrance with a haunting intro which led into “Leaders”, one of their more aggressive songs and definitely a great choice for an opener. They played a number of songs from their 2009 album Night Is The New Day, crowd favorites such as “Forsaker”, “Day And Then The Shade” and “Liberation”. “My Twin” and “Soil’s Song” from the 2006 album The Great Cold Distance also made it to the set list, the former of which vocalist Jonas dedicated to guitarist Per.

I had interviewed guitarist Anders only a couple of hours before that, where drummer Daniel and bassist Niklas were sitting on either side of him completely drained, exhausted from touring, yet when they were onstage, there was just so much energy. Getting a glimpse of things behind the scenes definitely increases one’s appreciation for the effort an artiste puts into a live performance. Musically, everything was ON POINT – a magnificent appetizer for the main act, Opeth.

The Seinfeld theme song playing as Opeth took to the stage, leaving the crowd in fits (funnyman/vocalist Mikael’s idea, perhaps?). They opened with their first single off the Heritage album, “The Devil’s Orchard”; “Nepenthe” was also played most fabulously. Mikael admitted outright that “Slither” was basically a Rainbow ripoff before the band dived into the song. As the brains behind most of the band’s musical genius, Mikael sure knew how to entertain the crowd, constantly telling jokes, even tossing a bra around onstage with the other band members.

One of the best moments of the show was Martin Axenrot’s drum solo in the middle of the song “Porcelain Heart” (a masterpiece from Watershed that they usually never play live). Even all the Opeth band members watched him as he tore the drums apart, cementing in my mind that he is indeed the best drummer in the world, for me at least. As they exited the stage, guitarist Fredrik handing me his beer before leaving too (!!), the crowd was left nourished with the artistic fruits of the band (a reference to the album cover artwork).

Mikael and Axe returned, with Anders and Per of Katatonia, for two songs with Bloodbath. People went absolutely wild for “Eaten”, a fascinating song about eating humans. It only goes to show that people still thirst for the heaviness that was lacking on Opeth’s Heritage, which was more classic, folk-sy, psychedelic – perhaps a clue for them in their next effort?

Check out the song: “The Devil’s Orchard”