Another Planet Entertainment and the Fox Theater – Oakland are committed to producing safe events. All patrons attending events at the Fox Theater on or after 9/15 are required to show proof of full vaccination (must be 2 weeks past final dose). Per Alameda County, masks are also required. For more information, visit our Health & Safety page.
* Policy is subject to change
This event is all ages.
$59.50 – General Admission Floor
$59.50 – Reserved Balcony
$79.50 – Reserved Balcony
*plus applicable service fees
For an additional $60.00, you can opt in to upgrade your experience to include access to the exclusive Telegraph Room before, during and after the show! Please note all Telegraph Room upgrades are subject to availability.
Join us at The Den one hour before doors for food & drinks!
All doors & show times subject to change.
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Death is inevitable. Time is a precious, finite resource. Regret springs solely from our collective inability to square these two truths. A friend suddenly passes away and you’re left to think about all those times where you could have said how much you appreciate them and didn’t – because you figured there would always be a next time. A partnership collapses and you’re left to reflect on the moments you took for granted, the ways you could have been more present. A band lacks the foresight to predict that touring will cease to exist for two years and doesn’t leave it all on the stage that last night; or, think of the fan that doesn’t stick around for the encore because they wanted an extra half hour of sleep.
These concerns were not hypothetical for Mastodon. The core lineup has been in place for 21 years, an eternity in the highest echelons of metal, where even the most legendary band names eventually become brands staffed by a rotating cast of hired guns. And yet, Brann Dailor, Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, and Troy Sanders experienced enough individual and collective tragedy to threaten their adamantine bond – the death of their longtime friend and manager Nick John after battling pancreatic cancer, a devastating global pandemic that put their faith, families, and livelihoods in jeopardy. Mastodon’s decades of success and the brotherhood between its four members had not made them any more immune to the possibility that it could all splinter tomorrow. Mastodon had a glimpse of the end and committed to a new beginning – and Hushed And Grim does not take a single moment for granted.
And there are more of these moments than on any previous Mastodon release. It initially feels reductive to simply describe Hushed And Grim as Mastodon’s ninth album – at 88 minutes, their first double LP boldly defies conventional assumptions about attention spans in the streaming era. With the expanse of a studio film, the texture of a novel and the breadth of a Greatest Hits, Hushed And Grim is Mastodon paying tribute to John by building an eternal monument. “He’s always been an influence when he was alive,” Hinds wistfully states. “And he’s even more of an influence now.”
Consider why double albums are frequently called “monumental.” Mastodon is very much aware of what this format says about their legacy in heavy music. Dailor recalls his formative teenage years absorbing every note of world-building epics like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Physical Graffiti, and The Wall, milestone works from bands whose inspiration and craft have simultaneously reached a zenith. “It takes some balls to put out a double album these days or takes some ovaries,” Dailor quips. “I’ve been trying to say ovaries because I think it’s more powerful.”
Mastodon fundamentally altered the course of 21st century metal on 2004’s classic Leviathan, and every album thereafter continued to shape the genre in their image. In 2018, five-time nominees Mastodon won their first GRAMMY®, with “Sultan’s Curse” earning Best Metal Performance. Arguably more impressive was Emperor of Sand being nominated for Best Rock Album, with lead single “Show Yourself” hitting the top five on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. Without sacrificing an iota of their intensity and intelligence, Mastodon’s imprint on pop culture has spread from Adult Swim to late night network television, from the History Channel’s Counting Cars to HBO’s Game of Thrones, from DC Comics Dark Knight Metal to Bill and Ted Face the Music.
But as Sanders points out, “the most solid representation of us is when we get in our cycle and craft a wholesome, dynamic and beautiful record from top to bottom. That’s what we ultimately thrive on.” Hushed And Grim only emphasizes what the band’s many accomplishments has expressed to this point – Mastodon have transcended genre of any kind, animated by an unwillingness to compromise that results in their most expansive and accessible release yet. There are no interludes, no filler, none of the stereotypical bloat that accompanies even the most revered double albums. With the spirit of Nick John coursing throughout its entirety, “every song has a place in our hearts,” Kelliher stresses.
Throughout, Mastodon travel through time and space, through memory and imagination, drawing on their experience and formative influences to open new portals. On “Pushing the Tides,” they exist at the thrilling intersection of metal and post-hardcore, “The Beast”’s heaving Southern rock, replete with a countrified contribution from guitarist Marcus King, creates an alternate history of the Allman Brothers sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels with Black Sabbath, “Had it All” features a guitar solo from Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil and some classical French Horn by Jody Sanders, Mother of Troy, reimagining Mastodon as a band intermingling with the monsters of Headbanger’s Ball. It’s all overseen by the legendary producer David Bottrill now including Hushed And Grim alongside his prior progressive pop landmarks from Peter Gabriel, Tool and King Crimson.
Yet for all of their technical mastery and ambitious musicianship, the most daring aspect of Hushed And Grim comes from the voices of Mastodon themselves. It’s not just in the tremendous growth all members have made as vocal performers, exemplified in the explosive shouts of “The Crux” and the aching refrain of “Skeleton of Splendor”; there’s an unmistakable expressive grit that cannot be coached, that takes years of endurance and pain to unlock.
As Mastodon’s music continues to expand outward, each member traveled inward, more deeply to unearth their most emotionally transparent lyrics yet. “One thing I’ve noticed about longevity is that you kind of eliminate layers of bullshit and become more honest,” Sanders muses. In the past, Mastodon albums were so memorable in their metaphorical heft that it threatened to swallow them whole – they’re the Moby Dick band, the Rasputin band, the guys who wrote about wolves and skulls. “We pull authentic emotion from our life experiences,” Sanders explains. “And we channel that through the art that we call Mastodon.” And the themes of heartbreak, of joy and hope that have always underpinned the band’s most referential work are pushed to the fore on Hushed And Grim.
Look, they’re still called Mastodon – the metal is here, Kelliher and Hinds’ riffs are still massive, Sanders’ bass can level a mountain and Dailor’s drumming is every bit as dazzling in its intricacies. Yet, the towering “Had It All” was originally built from Sanders’ simple acoustic strum, Kelliher and Hinds’ interplay impresses with a newfound, nimble sense of melody and Dailor’s restraint is as thrilling as his blinding fills as “The Beast” brings a slow Southern shuffle to their repertoire. But Hushed And Grim dares you to see Mastodon as what they’ve always been – four friends from Atlanta who are subject to the same struggles as you and I. “I’ve turned the grief to medicine,” “I feel the pressure,” “death comes and brings with him sickle and peace,” “leaving you behind is the hardest thing I’ve done,” these are their refrains, to be shared between Mastodon and the listener as equals. “My love, so strong/The mountains we made in the distance/Those will stay with us” – these are Mastodon’s parting words on the closing “Gigantium,” and we is all-inclusive, to themselves, to the fans that have stuck with them throughout the years, and the new ones to come. And to Nick Johns’. Our time together can’t possibly last forever and, inevitably, Mastodon may one day be no more. Hushed And Grim will remain.
Sweden’s Opeth are preparing to release their most important record to date with “In Cauda Venenum”. Certainly, fans and critics will have their opinion, but few records in the Swedes’ oeuvre are as engaging, delicate, panoramic, intense, and musical as Opeth’s lucky thirteenth. Sporting a clever Travis Smith cover—replete with inside jokes and a nod to King Diamond—a masterful Park Studios (The Hellacopters, Graveyard) production, Opeth’s usual five-star musicianship, and lyrics entirely in Swedish, “In Cauda Venenum” raises the bar markedly. While a record in Swedish is a first—there’s also an English version—for frontman and founding member Mikael Åkerfeldt, the 10 songs on offer feel and sound completely natural. As if years of listening to and being a fan of Swedish rock and hard rock has paid off. In a way, Opeth have come home. But the Swedish lyrics of the primary edition of “In Cauda Venenum” shouldn’t distract from the quality presented in Opeth’s new songs, the lot of which sneak up and take control after repeated listens. “In Cauda Venenum” is like that, tricky in its complicated simplicity, resourceful in its ability to charm with delightful if wistful melodies. Really, it’s just Opeth being Opeth.
“This is me,” Åkerfeldt says. “This is Opeth. I think by now fans will recognize—at least I hope they do—my writing style, our sound, what we do as a band. There are a lot of surprises on “In Cauda Venenum”, from the strings and Swedish samples to Fredrik’s [Åkesson] solos and the Swedish lyrics. But I knew I wanted a Latin title early on. I wanted a Latin title that would work for both versions. I didn’t want a Swedish title for the Swedish version and an English title for the English version. Since the death metal days of Opeth, I’ve always wanted a Latin title. Nothing ever worked. We had one Latin titled song on the first record though, “Requiem,” the instrumental. I’ve always wanted something like that but it turned out harder than I thought when coming up with a title. With Latin, it can mean something really cool but look like shit or be very difficult to read. I couldn’t find a source for “In Cauda Venenum”. I thought, “Well, that looks cool.” I remember Travis and I were working on the cover. We had this little insect, a scorpion, with the five heads of the band members. So, when I came across the phrase ‘In Cauda Venenum”,’ I thought, ‘Well, that’s weird. Here we have a scorpion and ‘“In Cauda Venenum”’ can relate to scorpions. Besides being a cool phrase, it works with the artwork, and the lyrics. In many ways, the stars aligned with the title.”
Opeth have traveled a long way since their humble beginnings in Huddinge, a small town south of Stockholm. Formed in 1990 by David Isberg (vocals) and Åkerfeldt (guitars) to create the “most evil band in the world,” Opeth would first require an actual band to partake in such a venomous venture. The duo enlisted Åkerfeldt’s former Eruption bandmates Anders Nordin (drums) and Nick Döring (bass). Not long after, a second guitarist, in the shape of Andreas Dimeo, was added to the lineup. Officially a five-piece, Opeth set out to corrupt the world (or at the very least Sweden) with their evil spells and black-hearted music. After a few gigs, the band splintered, with Dimeo and Döring exiting for personal reasons. Over the next two years, members left as quickly as they arrived, but it was the introduction of Peter Lindgren—on bass, then guitar—where things started to get serious. Even the departure of Isberg in 1992 didn’t heavily affect the newly established core of Åkerfeldt, Nordin, and Lindgren. They vowed to carry on as a trio and as Opeth. For the next few years, Opeth, still in its most nascent of stages, wrote and rehearsed religiously. It wasn’t until the re-entry of bassist Johan De Farfalla that Opeth was formally complete. Now, 13 records into their career and a few lineup changes to boot—Åkerfeldt is the only original member remaining—the band that started out of nothing has gone on to tour the world, sell more than two million records, and change the face of the heaviest of metals. “In Cauda Venenum” is Opeth’s finest hour.
“For us, at this stage with “In Cauda Venenum”, heaviness isn’t guitars tuned down with screaming vocals over the top,” says Åkerfeldt. “That’s not necessarily what I call ‘heavy’ music these days. I can listen to Korn and say, ‘OK, that’s heavy.’ But it doesn’t really mean anything to me. I mean, I catch up on things in magazines or online. I read about bands that have the ‘heaviest record ever,’ and I’m not too impressed by that. OK, it’s cool but what does it say? What does it mean? It’s an impossible mission, to be the heaviest. That’s been done before. Over time, I got tired of that tag. Of course, when I was younger it meant everything to me. I was always on the pursuit for heaviness in my youth, trying to find the next level of heaviness. First it was death metal, then it was bands like Meshuggah, but heaviness is now more about emotions, heavy chord progressions, music that has feelings. Heaviness doesn’t mean Meshuggah anymore, although indeed they’re a fucking heavy band. I’m not trying to tap into that anymore.”
“In Cauda Venenum” was written surreptitiously by Åkerfeldt when he was scheduled for sabbatical after the “Sorceress” record cycle. Tired of Gantt charts, milestones, and other Project Management Office essentials presented by management, he told his handlers it was high time for break from Opeth and its many and varied responsibilities. They complied. Almost immediately, however, Åkerfeldt was holed up in his studio, Junkmail, writing music by himself without pressure or influence. Ultimately, the Opeth songman wanted a return to the old days—think “Orchid” through “Blackwater Park”—when writing music was a creative endeavor not a factor in the business equation of being in a full-time, internationally recognized band. Described as more fun than spadework, the writing sessions were eventually exposed to the rest of the band and management. They were into Åkerfeldt’s newest creations but before anyone had a word in edgewise, “In Cauda Venenum” was, more or less, in the proverbial bag. The only thing that remained the same was Åkerfeldt writing and performing in his aging studio.
“The process, or the studio, for writing “In Cauda Venenum” was similar to Sorceress,” Åkerfeldt says. “I have the same stuff I’ve recorded on since “Watershed”. It’s all very outdated. I mean, nothing really works all that well, but it fits the purpose for what I’m doing with it. The writing, as always, is the same. The environment was the same. But the pressure was different. I got to write music that I felt was important. For “Sorceress”—which is a really good record—I felt I catered to what the other guys in the band wanted. I mean, with Axe, he really loves playing heavy metal music. So, I wrote two heavy metal songs. That was cool, but I didn’t want any kind of basic heavy metal on this record. I wanted something really elaborate, complex without sounding complex. I wanted it to be sing-along and melodic, but not gimmicky. The most fun part about writing “In Cauda Venenum” was the Swedish idea. That I’d write an entire Opeth record in Swedish. With that, I also wanted to make it grander, overblown and pompous, with strings and stuff. I actually had a really good time writing this record. For once, it was fun. A lot of fun.”
The idea to craft “In Cauda Venenum” entirely in Swedish originated while Åkerfeldt was driving his kids to school. He challenged the concept, weighed the risks and rewards, and ultimately came away with the direction he needed: Opeth’s next record would be entirely in Swedish. Precedent, after all, had been established. The special edition of 2008’s Watershed included a cover rendition of Swedish singer Marie Fredriksson’s “Den Ständiga Resan,” on which sings Åkerfeldt sings in Swedish. Then again, an entire Opeth record in Swedish was not only a first-time event, but a brave marketing move to single out the band’s predominantly English-only fanbase and indeed, all but two countries—Sweden and Finland—do not speak, read, and understand Swedish. Undeterred, Åkerfeldt continued on, writing the scenic “Ingen Sanning Ärallas” (“Universal Truth”) first. The rest of “In Cauda Venenum”, in Swedish, came as smoothly as a glass of glögg down the gullet. That an English version awaited was a no-brainer.
“I don’t expect us to conquer the world,” says Åkerfeldt. “We’re not going to be the next big thing now that we’re 45 and into our thirteenth record. So, as time has moved on, Opeth is becoming more and more for us. In a way, that makes the music and the record more pure. We’re not trying to get to the next level of popularity. We’re trying to get to the next level of creativity. So, making the record in Swedish was the spark. It got the music going. Down the line, I got anxious about the idea though. I started to think, ‘Maybe, they [the fans] won’t listen to it all because it’s in Swedish.’ I’ll admit I was chicken shit about not having an English version. So, I went ahead and made an English version as well. To me, the Swedish version is the main version, the most important version to me, and the version I want people to listen to first. Obviously, we wanted to give fans the choice though.”
Indeed, “In Cauda Venenum” will give fans a choice. Swedish or English. But maybe it’s not the language after all that bewitches. From the Tangerine Dream-like opener “Livet’s Trädgård” (“Garden of Earthly Delights”) to the epic closer “Allting Tar Slut” (“All Things Will Pass”), the new Opeth record is riveting, a musical score to an unreleased film, existing only in Åkerfeldt’s head as directed by Werner Herzog. To wit, tracks like “Svekets Prins” (“Dignity”), “Minnets Yta” (“Lovelorn Crime”), and “Banemannen” (“The Garroter”) are artful and melancholic yet high-spirited and uncomplicated in their sway forward. In many respects, it’s almost as if the film projector’s clicky hum is in the background while some shadowy figure sits in a chair smoking a cigarette. To put it actual terms, “In Cauda Venenum” resides somewhere between yet beyond Scott Walker’s “Scott 3”, The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, and Judas Priest’s “Sad Wings of Destiny”. It’s heavy mental, just with Swedish thoughts and motivations.
“I’m still discovering new artists that interest me,” Åkerfeldt says. “I also re-discover records I already have, like Deep Purple’s “Stormbringer”, which is always a nice surprise. ‘I’m like, “Oh, that’s cool. Forgot about that song. I will listen to that two-three times now.’ There are some newer artists—that are obviously not prog or from the ‘70s—like Kate Bush. I’ve been aware of her for a very long time and I knew her songs, but it’s a bit like the ABBA situation: they’ve always been there, I know the songs, I’ve heard the songs, but I’ve never listened to the songs. Now, I play an ABBA record, and I’m like, “Fuck! That’s great!” Those songs became something else than what they were in my childhood. So, that happened to a couple of Kate Bush songs. Now, I listen to her. I’m also doing a lot of listening to jazz, courtesy of my girlfriend. As far as obscure artists, I got totally blown away by a British artist—completely unknown—named, Philamore Lincoln. I remember seeing the record, “The North Wind Blew South”, many years ago. I figured the cover was cool, because the cover reminded me of the back cover to our first record, “Orchid”, where we are standing in silhouette on the mountain. His cover is just him though. Eventually, I found a copy and thought it was amazing. It was Philamore Lincoln that got me into pop-rock music accompanied with strings.”
Originally slated to be recorded at Ghost Ward Recordings with producer/engineer David Castillo, Opeth opted for Park Studios with Stefan Boman instead. Nestled on a quiet backstreet in a nondescript neighborhood south of Stockholm, Park Studios was built in the 1970s by blues rock guru Acke Gårdebäck (of Acke & Gurra fame). While the studio has changed owners several times—now co-owned by Boman—it has retained its shag carpet and platform shoes allure by offering a bevy of original old-school recording tools, the very kind used on some of Åkerfeldt most cherished records. Plus, as it turns out Boman is of the same vision as the Opeth frontman when it comes to gear. Recordings for “In Cauda Venenum” commenced in November 2018 with Boman engineering and co-producing with Åkerfeldt. The production team started first with the drums, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars, bass, and then tailed off the tracking with guitars, keyboards, lead guitars, and additional vocals. By Christmastide, Phase I of “In Cauda Venenum” was complete.
“There are really good studios in Stockholm,” says Åkerfeldt. “It really boiled downed to which studio I wanted to use. I was at dinner with Tobias [Forge] from Ghost and he said to me, ‘Have you been to Park Studios? You’d love that studio. It’s right up your alley. It’s a modern studio with old shit.’ I had totally forgotten about Park Studios. So, I called up Stefan [Boman] to ask him if he was available and if we could come down to look at the studio. He was like, ‘Yeah, great! Come over!’ Park Studios is 15 minutes from my house and 5 minutes from our rehearsal room, so it was perfect. Also, I’m not that into vintage gear where I must have a Marshall head from ’69 soldered in the month of March. As long as it sounds good that’s what I’m into. I like the idea of doing things for real though. Using someone’s expertise to get what you want. I want to sit with an amp, turn some knobs to get the sound I want. There’s physicality to it that I like. I got that at Park Studios.”
Where Opeth go from here, it’s on tour in support of “In Cauda Venenum”. The previous touring cycle for Sorceress was two-years, so expectations for the Swedes ring the world into 2021, where they’ll play “Svekets Prins” (“Dignity”), “Hjärtat Vet Vad Handen Gör” (“Heart in Hand”), “Ingen Sanning Ärallas” (“Universal Truth”), “Banemannen” (“The Garroter”), and “Kontinuerlig Drift” (“Continuum”), are high. Clearly, once the bi-lingual brilliance of “In Cauda Venenum” is released, Opeth’s dedicated fanbase will be eager to hear, absorb, and experience the record in the flesh. As for what Åkerfeldt wants from his ardent followers is for them to appreciate the latest Opeth chapter in the same way they have 1996’s “Morningrise”, 2003’s “Damnation”, and 2014’s “Pale Communion”.
“Of course, I want everybody to love everything that we do,” Åkerfeldt says. “But it’s secondary to me. I can’t control that, and I don’t want to. I really don’t know what they’ll think about it. I don’t know how people listen to music these days. I don’t know how people feel about it music. I know how I listen to music. I provide the time to listen to music. I make time for music. I’m not doing something else while music is playing. I’d like everybody to focus on the new record. That’s no different from the Opeth records. I’ve always wanted people to focus on our music; not treat it as background music for daily chores, white noise, or whatever. If you want to get into this record, I’m hoping you’ll find, by our standards, something different.”