If you are an OPETH fan dating back to its first five years of existence—a time when albums such as 1998's "My Arms, Your Hearse" were expansive magnum-force death metal opuses—you have likely come to grips with the fact that the group has steered towards what appears to be a permanent path of melodic prog-rock ambition. If you are the person that goes to OPETH shows and shouts "play some death metal!", you should probably just go ahead and click the "back" button or close the tab now.
If you have accepted OPETH's current musical direction, or are a recent convert, then the group's new live Blu-ray/DVD/album, "Garden of the Titans"—recorded during the band's 2017 American tour at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, just outside Denver, Colorado—is a strong crowd-pleasing state-of-the-union document. As the band was on tour supporting its 2016 record, "Sorceress", it should come as no surprise that songs from that record are the most heavily featured on its new live set. Three of the ten songs featured are from the group's latest studio record, with OPETH setting the stage for the ninety minutes that follow by launching straight into the groovy keyboard-laden opening of that record's title track. It is immediately evident that the group's modern material is tailor-made for a large outdoor venue such as Red Rocks. The more rock-oriented end of the band's later years material has a loose jazz-like pep, most notably on a mid-set performance of "The Devil's Orchard" from 2011's "Heritage". The energy is bolstered by an immersive sound mix, with band leader Mikael Åkerfeldt leading harmonized choruses that are simultaneously beautiful and haunting in the large venue environment.
Each of the group's albums from 2002's "Deliverance" forward are represented, with one track from each up until "Sorceress". That's not to say the set list doesn't have nods to OPETH's more overtly metallic past. A performance of "Ghost of Perdition" from 2005's "Ghost Reveries" showcases Åkerfeldt's potent ability to still hit the death growls that pepper the first half of his career; causing zero doubt that he could easily transition back if he wanted to return to a heavier direction on future records. A performance of "Demon of the Fall", from 1998's "My Arms, Your Hearse", is the lone representation of OPETH's early years. The song stands out as remarkably brutal as it did on record years ago, but the power of the song's composition within the context of the band's current live set shows that grand progressive ambitions were hard-coded into the OPETH blueprint from a very early stage.
The Blu-ray/DVD version of this set is on the higher-end of regular tour-stop releases. The Deka Brothers have directed videos from acts such as GOJIRA and CARPENTER BRUT. Ben and Julien Deka's background in narrative video shines through on its direction and editing of this set, giving a cinematic film-like feel to the proceedings. The natural beauty of the environment around Red Rocks Amphitheatre—a venue that is essentially carved into the side of a mountain range within the Colorado Rockies—is also given a spotlight to shine, as airborne drone cameras transmit sweeping views of the gorgeous vistas that surround the venue and Denver's city lights lurking miles away behind the stage. The only criticism of the production may be that The Deka Brothers are too in love with the venue's aesthetics, as there are multiple awkward cutaways from close-ups of Åkerfeldt mid-verse to yet another airborne drone shot.
"Garden of the Titans" does not document a particularly special event or notable festival appearance. It is however, one of the better produced entries in the "just-another-night-on-tour" genre of live-performance releases.