Getting Into: Opeth


Written by: RaduP, musclassia
Published: 28.06.2020


Radu: There really are very few bands that have a claim at being my favorite band. The type of band that you genuinely feel you have a connection to, that despite how much time passes in which you don't listen to them, you can come back and feel it all again. I had grown a bit tired of Opeth in the past few years, mostly from a disappointing release, and from seeing them live twice with almost the same setlist, but when getting back in the headspace for the Getting Into article, it all came back and I remembered why I loved them. But I needed some help.

Me and musclassia tried our hand at having a collaborative article, and you will find that we both wrote our own write-up on each covered record. They were written fairly independently, but it was me taking inspiration from him much more easily considering he finished all his write-ups before I had even started writing mine, which was made even more difficult by us agreeing on way too many things to justify having to write two different opinions. But we did it.





And what a better band to do an article on. I found out about Opeth thanks to this website. They have entranced so many people with their unique take on progressive metal, and they manage to give each album its own distinct feel, as well as having some controversial changes of direction. A perfect candidate for another Getting Into article, the series started by our own Baz Anderson, in which we take a deep dive into a band's discog. So let's take a deep dive into Opeth's.




The Main Records





1995 - Orchid

musclassia:

The debut record of Opeth, Orchid sounds very distinct compared to the music that came after, even the likes of Morningrise. They certainly didn't hold back compositionally, with the opening track "In The Mist She Was Standing" clocking in at 14 minutes, making it the longest track on the record and the second-longest from any of their studio albums. The songs were generally longer on the earlier Opeth records, and this is partially due to the band still refining their song structuring. After the extended dual guitar noodling that commences this song (and somewhat dates it), Opeth transition to riffing that is more similar to the style they became so renowned for, with some acoustic guitar work slotted in. When placed against their later work, I feel like the immaturity of the band comes through in the composition of a lot of these songs, with plenty of good ideas stuck together in less cohesive packages. Additionally, there's a rawness to the production that had notably lessened by the time My Arms, Your Hearse came around; however, this does nothing to diminish the power of Mikael Åkerfeldt's harsh vocals, which are higher pitched than on most of their later work, and have a real ferocity to them. Additionally, although I'm not generally as enthused about Orchid as I am their later albums, there's plenty of captivating music to be found here, much of it in "Forest Of October", the centrepiece and highlight of the record, which features some compelling interplay between the acoustic guitars, extreme metal riffing and frenetic soloing.


Radu:


It's easy to see Orchid as just a less mature version of what is to come from Opeth in the following decade. That is obviously pretty much the case, but we shouldn't ignore that when this came out in 1995 there was very little that actually sounded like it. There are a few parallels to what was already happening in the Swedish scene, particularly with Edge Of Sanity and Katatonia, both of which are closely associated with Opeth not just in sound, with Edge Of Sanity's Dan Swanö as producer, and the Katatonia connection being something we'll bring up later. But those aside, I can't really remember anyone blending progressive music, melodic death metal (the non-Gothenburg kind) and acoustic music in the way that Opeth did. They were overly eager to showcase their knack for writing long songs, and the production is very raw compared to what would eventually come, but all of this contributes so much to the charm it has. It's really interesting to hear those almost NWOBHM riffs and dual guitars in structures that resemble something that would eventually be the sound Opeth we now know. Newer versions of this album also come with a bonus demo track called "Into The Frost Of Winter", which is the earliest public Opeth recording, dating back to 1992. And if you think Orchid is lo-fi, imagine how that sounds like. Regardless, the lo-fi aesthetic on Orchid along with Mikael's growls does give them some slight black metal crisp, but it doesn't necessarily always work in the music's benefit, making it lack a bit of a punch. But as long and meandering as the songs may be, and as uncooked as some transitions may be, the guitar harmonies and the bass lines are always well thought out and not repetitive at all. All of the aspects of this album would be improved upon, from the acoustic sections, to the clean vocals, to the production, to the transitions. But nothing else really has that feel of Orchid, not even its closest relative, Morningrise. Speaking of which...





1996 - Morningrise

musclassia:

Opeth's sophomore album was closer stylistically to the album that preceded it than to the one that followed, but there was a substantial jump in the quality of the compositions here. The songs still feel a bit busy here in terms of transitions than on later efforts (with "Advent" serving as a prime example of this), but the sections flow together more smoothly, and are consistently more engaging. There were substantial improvements in the production on Morningrise compared with Orchid; whilst not possessing the cleanliness of their post-2000 records, some of the roughness of their debut had been smoothed down, finding a happy medium that suits the style on display here and enables each instrument, especially the base, to come through clearly in the mix. This more refined sound enables the various segments of each composition here to shine, and boy does each composition contain many segments. Despite only having 5 tracks, Morningrise is one of Opeth's longest albums, aided in no small part by every song breaking the 10-minute barrier, and these songs aren't just padded out with excessive repetition. "Advent" lays out the band's approach on the album clearly right from the off, twisting through numerous phases before eventually settling into a subdued, ominous outro. The songs on Morningrise are uniformly great, but outside of the opener, the two most noteworthy features here are the final two, "Black Rose Immortal" and "To Bid You Farewell". Clocking in at over 20 minutes, "Black Rose Immortal" is Opeth's longest song, and they make the most of those 20 minutes by cramming in enough different ideas to push it to breaking point, from an acoustic/electric guitar call-and-response towards the beginning, to the quiet sorrowful dirge halfway through, and climaxing with a whiplash-inducing transition into a dramatic guitar solo before closing with one of the heaviest moments of the Opeth discography. In contrast, "To Bid You Farewell" was Opeth's first full soft song, with almost exclusively acoustic guitars until two-thirds of the way through and a purely clean vocal approach, and acts as an extended and uncharacteristically calm denouement to an otherwise sprawling effort.


Radu:

Wrapping up the early era of Opeth lies Morningrise, which still maintained a lot of similarities in sound and approach to its predecessor, Orchid. The songs are still long and filled with a lot of transitions and acoustic/electric interplay, but their flow is much better here. The sound is still much rawer, unpolished and with a slightly blackened feel than what came after it, but also better sounding than what came before it. With it being one of the longest Opeth albums despite only having five tracks, this due to none of the tracks falling short of the 10 minute mark, this would be a very meandering album in the wrong hands. With a much better grip on progressive structures and interplay, they managed to keep such longs from ever feeling so. There are a few awkward moments production/performance-wise, like the final moments of "Nectar" or that stopping-after-every-syllable part in "The Night And The Silent Water", but these moments are nestled between others that make the best use of the rawer production to create an entrancing atmosphere. And bar those few awkward moments, Morningrise is an absolute masterwork, with a feel that would slowly fade over the following albums. There aren't any hooks so to speak, even their first clean song "To Bid You Farewell" isn't what you would call catchy, but they manage to be memorable and absolutely engaging with riff after riff after riff. The bass-breakdown in "Advent", the riff-fest that closes "Nectar", a whole bunch of moments in "Black Rose Immortal" of both harsh and soft nature, which I couldn't pinpoint without literally giving you timestamps. The latter is Opeth's longest song at over 20 minutes, and one that apparently only got performed twice around the time the album was released, and I'm absolutely certain I'm not the only one who thinks that that's not enough. The lineup is the same as the one on Orchid too, with Morningrise being the last Opeth album to be produced by Dan Swanö, as well as the last Opeth album to have performances from bassist Johan De Farfalla and drummer Anders Nordin. Nordin especially was a bandmate of Mikael Åkerfeldt in both their pre-Opeth death metal band Eruption as well as… this. Certain version also include a bonus demo called "Eternal Soul Torture", which does have some recognizable moments that would later turn up in "Advent".





1998 - My Arms, Your Hearse

musclassia:

Of all the classic Opeth albums, this is the one that has always been overlooked by me. Not out of any distaste for it, mind you, but given the amount of airplay the album before and several albums after have received in the decade since I discovered the band, My Arms, Your Hearse has all too often been an afterthought. That shouldn't be considered a reflection on the quality of the record, which is as high as its reputation would suggest, merely that it doesn't have as many moments that hook themselves in me as the likes of Still Life or Ghost Reveries possess. The compositions here are a lot tighter than on the first two records (which is reflected in the briefer song lengths), and are more reminiscent of their later material in tone, right from the imposing opening riff of "April Ethereal". This track is far more measured in its progression than songs on earlier records, which often jumped all over the place with abandon. Additionally, the clean vocals, and their implementation into songs, had drastically improved by the time this record had come around. Furthermore, the incorporation of acoustic guitars into the heavier music had matured to a point where both could comfortably exist side-by-side (as they do in several occasions in "April Ethereal"), rather than requiring awkward transitions between the two approaches. My Arms, Your Hearse saw the arrival of long-time drummer Martin Lopez (now of Soen), who notably lifted the level on this record compared to Morningrise, adding much-needed fire to the death metal sections (a boon to juggernauts such as "Demon Of The Fall") and improving the flow of the rest of the album, but the instrumental work across the board felt more refined, with Opeth clearly finding their feet with regards to what sound they wished to convey. The album works equally great in its heavier and softer moments (see "Credence" for a nice example of the latter), but "When" is the most consummate display of both side-by-side on My Arms, Your Hearse, making it the standout track for me.


Radu:

If there is any record in Opeth's discography you can really call transitional, it's this one. Not quite in the classic era, but also not one of those kvlt early ones. It's both, it's neither. I mean, look at the cover art and tell me that it isn't the kvltest thing, but also it was much cleaner and focused and more in-line with the classic sound than its predecessors. The cover does set a mood and an atmosphere for the record, but I wouldn't call My Arms, Your Hearse atmospheric in the way that Morningrise and Orchid were. Instead, the guitars here especially sound more gigantic than ever. The growls lost most of the blackened edge and feel more ferocious than ever. The acoustic and electric bits are better interwoven and the songs are shorter. The more "jazzy" sound of the Nordin / De Farfalla duo is replaced by something more direct, but still worthy of the progressive label. This directness is manifested not only in the sound and the compositions, but this album is just about the reverse of Morningrise in terms of not having any of the songs be over 10 minutes in runtime. But there's something in the acoustic sections and the still not completely polished production that does take back to the first two albums, and does work to give this album a somewhat haunting feel. There is a vague narrative thread too, mostly manifested through each song's final line containing the title of the next one (with the "Prologue" and "Epilogue" only having the lyrics in the booklet). The production is a bit more muddy this time around, which does add a lot more heaviness to the sound, which is really well appreciated in tracks like "Demon Of The Fall", the only song from the early era that I heard live (a crime, I know). Handling the production, as well as a hammond organ on the "Epilogue", is Dream Evil's Fredrik Nordström. The drumming fits this newfound heaviness as well, with Martin Lopez joining Opeth behind the kit. The other Martin also joined Opeth around this time, but scheduling conflicts led to him being unable to record his bass parts, and thus they had to be recorded by Mikael Åkerfeldt, making My Arms, Your Hearse the only Opeth album to be recorded as a trio. Newer editions of the album also contain a few bonus tracks from some VAs consisting of the some cover songs that Opeth recorded, one of Celtic Frost's "Circle Of The Tyrants" and one of Iron Maiden's "Remember Tomorrow". Also don't tell me you never tried to make a "My Arms, Your Arse" joke.





1999 - Still Life

musclassia:

The realization of three albums of measured progress, Still Life is rightly hailed by many as Opeth's finest work. "The Moor" sets the scene perfectly for this concept album about love, murder and vengeance, with its extended atmospheric introduction, delectable acoustic guitar and crushing riffs. Still Life is stylistically very similar to My Arms, Your Hearse, sounding very much like a refinement of their previous venture rather than a reinvention of any form. The instrumentation is slightly tighter, the production gives the album a slightly more vital sound, and the progressive songwriting continued to improve in balancing complexity and having a natural flow, with this all coming together to produce career highlights such as "The Moor", "Godhead's Lament" and the brutal "Serenity Painted Death". The second Uruguayan Martin joined the band on this album, with Mendez taking on bass responsibilities that he holds to this day. The two Martins shine throughout, but particularly when getting their jazz on for the modern prog rock classic "Face Of Melinda". The line-up that debuted on Still Life remained together for the 5 albums that are arguably the peak of the band's career, but their first outing together may be their strongest.


Radu:

This is it, we finally get to the classic Opeth sound. The trademark growls, progressive songwriting, electric/acoustic interplay and soft clean vocals have all appeared on previous albums, but it is here that they finally matured into the sound that is the first thing one thinks about when mentioning the band. Technically it's not too big of a leap from the previous album, My Arms, Your Hearse, losing any semblance of the blackened edge of the first two records, but also being less direct than its predecessor, and with the best songwriting they've ever had in terms of integrating and transitioning through all of their harsh and soft sounds. It's somewhat more patience-testing in that it isn't as prone to constantly changing riffs and paces. The most conceptual out of all Opeth albums, Still Life follows the story of an exiled man in search of his lost love, and the ghostly atmosphere is something that translates well into the not-completely-polished-yet production. A good point of comparison in that sense would be "Benighted", my favorite of the Opeth ballads; though not as pristine or heart wrenching as other ballads that would come on later albums, nor is Mikael's clean voice at its complete maturation, this one has such a ghostly and immersive echo-heavy atmosphere that makes it feel almost other-worldly. The Fredrik Nordström / Göran Finnberg duo is once again at the helm of the production, so they share quite a bit of the credit that should be given for how the Opeth sound became what it is. This is also the first album to be released in the "classic" formation of Mikael Åkerfeldt, Peter Lindgren, Martin Lopez, and, making his debut on an Opeth album, Martín Méndez, also making this the earliest album to still have a current Opeth member (at least current as of the writing of this article) other than Mikael. Still Life is the perfect blend of the raw charm of early Opeth and the sophistication of later releases, and one in which each song really feels like a banger, where not name dropping even one song feels wrong, which is ironic considering the only song I name dropped is the one most people consider to be the worst on the album.



2001 - Blackwater Park

musclassia:

My introduction to Opeth after seeing it listed on a 'Top 25 metal albums of all time' list I found when I was 17. A high accolade, but one that is backed up fairly well by the outstanding quality of music present on Blackwater Park. The production continued to be polished, with Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson receiving his first credit as a producer of an Opeth record. Additionally, the songwriting continued to mature, particularly on tracks such as "Bleak" and "The Drapery Falls", which so seamlessly spanned the range of intensity Opeth operated in. Mikael Åkerfeldt also took a huge jump forward with his clean vocals, whether through technique or production, as they sound much fuller and more rounded on the likes of "The Leper Affinity" and "Dirge For November" than at pretty much any point in the 1990s. The soft tracks, "Harvest" and "Patterns In The Ivy", had a richer and lusher tone to them than similar cuts on past albums (particularly something like "Benighted"), but the intensity of their heavier moments was not curtailed in any way, as the opening minutes of "The Leper Affinity" possess just as much fire as the first bouts of aggression in "April Ethereal" and "The Moor". Lastly, Blackwater Park was the first Opeth record to include a title track, and what a song they elected to bestow this honour open; "Blackwater Park" is a "beast" of a track if ever there was one, with it just loading more and more bleak heaviness as it strides inexorably towards its sinister conclusion. Blackwater Park isn't my favourite Opeth album (I find there are a few patches here and there where it drags, particularly around the middle), but it's as logical a place to begin as any, positioned at the apex between 90s progressive death metal and the more polished efforts they would put out in the new millennium.


Radu:

Passion. That's what Blackwater Park is all about. Pure, unadulterated passion. Akin to my fellow reviewer, I also first found out about Opeth through this album, and more specifically through it being a top rated album on this website, so I have it to thank for both Opeth and Metal Storm. And for a very long time it was not only my favorite Opeth album, but one of my favorite albums of all time, so much so that I debated switching its and Still Life's ratings, and I still think it's closer to a 5/5 than a 4/5. But my preferences have changed in the meantime, and I've grown much fonder of early Opeth. However I cannot deny that Blackwater Park is simply the most memorable of the Opeth albums, with the possible exception of Damnation. The opening riff of "Bleak", the entirety of what might be the best Opeth ballad in "Harvest", as well as the entirety of what might be the best Opeth song period in "The Drapery Falls", and let's not even talk about all of those moments in the title track. It may drag on at times, but you'd be hard pressed to find a song that isn't essential, other than the "Patterns In The Ivy" interlude. Some versions of the album also include two extra ballads, "Still Day Beneath The Sun" and "Patterns In The Ivy II". With Steven Wilson making his first contributions on production (as co-producer alongside the already familiar Fredrik Nordström / Göran Finnberg duo), this marks the last time where you could confidently say that an Opeth album sounds significantly better than its predecessor. Steven Wilson also provides some keyboards throughout the album, as well as a few guest vocals on "Bleak", and the Wilson / Åkerfeldt duo would be something we'd hear from again. While the production does give it a bit too much of a polished accessible sound, it also still somewhat maintains an ethereal forest-like atmosphere. Blackwater Park further expands Opeth's knack for long songs that was diminished on My Arms, Your Hearse, with most songs here passing or pushing on the ten minute mark. There is a better balanced mix of soft and harsh moments than on previous records, and the clean vocals also had a significant leap in quality. Simply put, Opeth never sounded better, but they lost all of the raw charm of the early releases. They make up for it here, but because they arrived at the "classic" sound, anything other than perfecting it would make it lose its appeal.





2002 - Deliverance

musclassia:

The middle child of Opeth's most prolific spell, Deliverance is the album from Opeth's golden age most prone to being forgotten about, without the reputation of the likes of Blackwater Park or Ghost Reveries, not the stylistic departure of Damnation. It acts as a companion piece to the latter of those records, and whilst Damnation focused exclusively on Opeth's softer side, Deliverance is one of the heaviest and darkest albums in the band's discography. Arguably the album's biggest issue is how front-heavy it is; "Wreath" is a vicious introduction to the record, with huge, lunging riffs and an atmosphere as oppressive as any the band has conjured, whereas the title track follows its predecessor on Blackwater Park in being one of the most iconic songs in the band's history, particularly due to its extended percussive outro. These two songs set a near-impossible standard for the rest of Deliverance to follow, and despite the virtues of the remainder of the record, those heights are rarely approached again. With the other songs being almost exclusively heavy, "A Fair Judgement" offers the only periods of extended levity on Deliverance, being a soft dark prog rock track, and a strong one at that, albeit with a couple of periods that drag (something one could arguably accuse several songs here of). The only other major soft stretch on the album is midway through "Master's Apprentices", a blissful breather that arguably eclipses the brooding intensity of the remainder of the song. All things considered, Deliverance is a fantastic record, just one that exists somewhat in the shadows of the other albums released in the five years either side of it.


Radu:

I do find myself more often listening to "Deliverance" than Deliverance, mostly because of this being probably the biggest case of a song being the obvious best song on an album. This isn't to say that "Wreath", "Master's Apprentices" or the really underrated "By The Pain I See In Others" don't ever come into my playlist or that the full listen isn't rewarding, but both times I saw Opeth live, the title track was the only song they played live from this, and I would've been pissed if they changed it for any of the other ones. As you probably know by now, Deliverance is the heavy companion of the softer Damnation, and the two were supposed to have been released together to show the two sides of the band, and they eventually were (and I do recommend the Deliverance & Damnation version wholeheartedly). And save for the band's early releases, here Opeth felt really cold, and for pretty much the last time. Deliverance is significantly heavier and darker than anything in Opeth's "classic" era, being more direct in a way, without really reaching My Arms, Your Hearse's level of death metal straight-forward-ness. Because as much as I am giving it praise for being darker and heavier, it's only barely so. And for an album supposedly showcasing the heavier side of the coin, this isn't too far off from the usual Opeth sound, so much so that I wouldn't really immediately think "this is heavy for Opeth" if I didn't instinctively compare it to its companion. The first half of "Wreath" and the title track's extended breakdown might be among the heaviest bits of Opeth's discography, but "A Fair Judgement" feels really out of place; however, it also wouldn't really have fit on Damnation either, even if that would've made the albums closer in terms of runtime. With the recording sessions being especially tense, and with the initial one double album release being split, it feels like Deliverance's potential is being dragged down not only by one song being a notch above the others, but also because of how it was inevitably put in a position where it couldn't escape comparisons with other records.




2003 - Damnation

musclassia:

Opeth's prog rock album before they became a prog rock band, their interpretation of a softer approach on this album is markedly different to that found on their post-Watershed material. Far more haunting and melancholic than the likes of "Sorceress" or "The Devil's Orchard", songs such as "Windowpane" and "Hope Leaves" are so emotionally charged, it's impressive that Opeth never spilt into maudlin on Damnation, but the conviction on display throughout is undeniable. The album went down remarkably successfully compared with the divisive nature of their later works, but the stage had been set for a full album written in this vein by the likes of "Credence", "Benighted" and "Harvest" on past records; the instrumentation was softer, but the tone was as dark as ever. It also helped that the songs were great, particularly the aforementioned two tracks and the unorthodoxly structured "Closure". However, the album is slightly let down by its ending; after the strong "To Rid The Disease" ends, a fairly run-of-the-mill instrumental and the somewhat nothing-y "Weakness" flatly close out Damnation to slightly dampen feelings towards the record. Add in the somewhat underwhelming "Death Whispered A Lullaby", and the reduced consistency places Damnation a notch below its heavier counterparts; nevertheless, it contains some great music, and it's little wonder people were hoping for more of this when Opeth announced an intention to move from metal to rock, rather than the retro throwbacks of the likes of Heritage and its brethren.


Radu:

I'm sure everyone went at least once through a phase where Damnation was their favorite Opeth record, and it's not hard to see why. It's accessible, emotionally resonant, has a pretty unique sound, and Mikael's clean vocals are at their best. As Mikael stated once when introducing "Windowpane" live: "This is the song that will get us all the ladies". Plus there was a taste of the less metal sound that Opeth could do for a full album, but without diving into retro prog rock rehashes like the recent albums. Damnation is often used as the "it is not the lack of growls that makes newer Opeth suck" example. I can't say I blame them, considering the dark tone of the record is pretty consistent with this part of Opeth's catalog, but up to this point Opeth's ballad had places in their records that made sense and they were always shorter than their usual songs, which does explain why it's the shortest Opeth record. Damnation does have some of their strongest ballads, but as a record hearing ballad after ballad, especially when most of them lack the dynamism of their usual stuff, does get a bit tiresome. "Closure" might be the best song in that regard, being the most dynamic of the bunch, but the relative lack of much other than softness, as emotionally charged and pleasantly sounding as it is, would feel like Opeth without any clean vocals or acoustic moments. Deliverance had soft moments. Later era Opeth has dynamism, although of the prog rock variety. Take pretty much any song here, and it's a great affair, but listening to the entire thing feels pretty lethargic. And the worst part of all is that the album is one track switch away from having the aptly titled "Ending Credits" as the actual ending track. And this isn't just a title nitpick, "Weakness" genuinely feels like a mid-album song. Even as the soft companion to Deliverance, Damnation lacks flow, but it makes up for it in the Steven Wilson produced soundscapes, as he was both producer and provider of extra keys and vocals for the pair of albums.





2005 - Ghost Reveries

musclassia:

The final outing of the greatest core quartet that Opeth had, and what a swansong Ghost Reveries was for Martin Lopez and Peter Lindgren. In addition, Opeth now had a full-time keyboardist, with Per Wiberg transitioning from a live-only to permanent role in the group. After the detour that was Damnation, the metal was back in a big way on Ghost Reveries, right from the off, with vicious growls atop a gnarly opening riff in "Ghost Of Perdition", a tour de force of a song that serenely glides through bouts of extremity and more measured prog with vocals alternating between growls and lush cleans almost on a dime, before rounding things off with the most haunting yet grandiose of conclusions. At the other end of the spectrum, "The Grand Conjuration" is far less wide-ranging, extensively employing a couple of key motifs throughout its lengthy runtime without ever growing stale. The lengthy tracks are uniformly excellent, but arguably peak with the exquisitely melancholic "Harlequin Forest", a song drenched in rich atmosphere like almost no other Opeth track. On the flip side, Ghost Reveries features several shorter, softer prog rock cuts, culminating in the achingly gentle closing track "Isolation Years". Released 10 years after Orchid, Ghost Reveries for me is the culmination of 10 years of brilliant music, to the extent that my first tattoo was inspired by the album's artwork.


Radu:

"Gustav Mahler, lingering death" is forever going to be one of Opeth most recognizable lines, but without the pun. There's very little denying that "Ghost Of Perdition" is not only likely Opeth's best opener, but maybe their best song period. It was at this point that they had explored both aspects of their sound, and at this point they were still leaning closer to the death metal side, if the growls that jumpstart the album don't make it immediately clear. However, Opeth were never as clearly into progressive rock before, not even of the death metal-less Damnation, from finally being the first Opeth album to have a keyboard player, with Per Wiberg joining the band prior to this album, but also having the progressive transitions and interplay feel more clearly retro inspired even through the countless heavy moments in the album. In a way, this is the most "Opeth" Opeth album, so I can see why this gets all the praise that it gets. But I can't help but feel that the Jens Borgen production is making everything feel a bit too spotless compared with what I like Opeth being, and, dare I say... warm? It is far from being as bad as it was on Watershed, with Ghost Reveries being mostly fantastic, with some signs of "impending doom" plastered all over it. But it came at somewhat of a perfect time, not really full into the prog rock mania, not really tired of the metal, with both Peter Lindgren and Martin Lopez still in the band (their last album with Opeth, thus it is somewhat more of a watershed moment than the album with just that name. Except this one is actually good. And with all of the prog rock feeling so lush through and through, maybe the overly spotless production isn't such a bad choice. What was a perfect choice, was that "Soldier Of Fortune" cover of the Deep Purple song that appears on some versions.





2008 - Watershed

musclassia:

The swansong for Opeth as an extreme progressive metal band, Watershed isn't quite as regularly awe-inspiring as many of the albums that preceded it, yet contains a number of stellar moments to make it a fitting conclusion to what is arguably the most successful stretch of any metal band's career; off the top of my head, only 80s Iron Maiden and Enslaved can claim to have as extended a sequence of releases that are heralded so much by so many people as the entire Orchid-to-Watershed collection. Watershed saw both Fredrik Åkesson and Martin Axenrot, both still in the band to this day, make their Opeth debuts, and both have ample opportunity to shine, particularly on the juggernaut that is "Heir Apparent", a typically seamless-yet-convoluted extreme prog venture for the band flared up with some dramatic keyboard parts. However, the album followed in the trend of Ghost Reveries of featuring multiple soft tracks, arguably the most noteworthy of which is opener "Coil", a charming duet between Mikael Åkerfeldt and Nathalie Lorichs, one of very few guest vocalist appearance on an Opeth record. I enjoy all three softer tracks, although I am least enamoured with "Burden", which is mainly saved by the extended lead guitar melodies and solos. Nevertheless, the obvious star of the show on Watershed is "The Lotus Eater", a track bookended with humming, and featuring clean vocal choruses paired with blast beats, as well as a distinctive 'prog-hoedown', during its utterly engrossing 9-minute runtime. Less consistent than the albums that preceded it, Watershed remains a strong effort featuring a couple of shining gems, especially "The Lotus Eater".


Radu:

I have a confession to make. By now you probably realized I'm a big Opeth fan. I know a lot of their songs by heart, and by thinking of an album I can instantly get at least one song in my head. As much as people consider it the worst song on the record, and I'm not precisely gonna disagree, "Burden" is the only song that I can recall from Watershed. Both of the times I saw Opeth live, they played "Heir Apparent", and while it's a great song in its own right, there's barely enough familiarity for me to be able to tell that this isn't the first time I've heard it. Considering we all know what came after Watershed, the feeling that I get while listening to Watershed is that I understand, and that I feel like this sounds like a band keen to make that jump. There are plenty of really heavy moments, even by Opeth standards, sprinkled through, but it sounds pretty tired. Pretty much every Opeth album before this could be lauded for being a step in a direction, the first five albums were the progression to the classic Opeth sound, then they split that sound in two albums, then the prog rock moments became more obvious with the introduction of the keyboards. And then Watershed is… alright? Not a bad album by any means, it might not be the worst Opeth album, but it's definitely among the least interesting. In fact, the most interesting about it is the massive lineup change, with Martin Axenrot replacing Martin Lopez on drums, and Fredrik Åkesson replacing Peter Lindgren (who was the only one left to have played on every previous Opeth album) on guitars. If anything, it proves that the current lineup could do a damn good prog death metal if they wanted to, and "Coil" proves that Mikael can do a duet with someone other than Steven Wilson. And I still don't get why there's no version of this album that also contains "Mellotron Heart" and the cover of Alice In Chain's "Would?" from the Burden single.





2011 - Heritage

musclassia:

Heritage was very much a start of a new era for Opeth. Watershed was a lot proggier than their previous records, but still had one foot firmly in the extreme metal camp. Heritage, on the other hand, saw Opeth cut the cord completely and set a course for 70s prog. Damnation was proof that Opeth could shed the metal and still be revered; however, Heritage was very much a different spin on prog rock to the dainty melancholy of Damnation. The frantic drumming and noodling guitars that comprise the primary riff of "The Devil's Orchard" were a stark departure tonally from what had come before, and generally the gloomy atmosphere that had so defined Opeth's sound to that stage had mostly dissipated. This was a hard pill to swallow for many fans, who became increasingly disillusioned with the group with each successive release in this vein. Personally, the albums from the last decade do lack the fundamental characteristic that made Opeth so compelling to me to begin with, namely that rich melancholic depth that both their heavy and soft tracks shared, but there are still many moments of merit on Heritage, from the shimmering outro of "The Devil's Orchard" and contemplative "I Feel The Dark" (arguably the closest this album gets to their past work tonally), to the gentle jamming of "Häxprocess" and slick rock of "The Lines In My Hand". There are moments of irritation here that didn't exist on previous records, such as the heavy flute parts of "Famine" or the strained chorus of "Folklore", and at no point am I close to being captivated to the level I am with their finest work, but claims of it being a disaster go beyond exaggerations and into being outright falsehoods.


Radu:

The most divisive Opeth album. Heavier than the album itself was the tsunami of disgruntled fanboys screeching in unison as their favorite growly bois dropped the extreme metal side of their sound. I don't blame them, I probably would be just as disgruntled if I had been a longtime Opeth fan when this has happened, and I would miss the old Opeth too, but thankfully I was a fan of progressive rock before I had even heard Opeth, and this album was already released by that time, thus I was able to look at it from a different perspective. If Watershed found the band feeling tired, disjointed, and desperate for a change, Heritage finds them revitalized, but not quite in control of what they wanted to do. They wanted to do a prog rock album, especially since they just about recorded another prog death album after Watershed, but scrapped it because they weren't feeling it (it's probably worse than Watershed, but damn it, I need it), and since they had tested the waters with Damnation, they knew that they could shed those metal parts successfully. But if Damnation was focused exclusively on the dark gloomy tones, Heritage is a lot groovier. But that doesn't mean that it's not gloomy, with songs like "I Feel The Dark" or "Nepenthe" comfortably fitting on any of the previous five records. Their skills at writing dark and groovy prog rock would be honed on the next few albums, as there are still a select few moments and transitions that feel jarring, but compared to the previous album, Heritage feels like a breath of fresh air. And if Damnation suffered from the removal of the metal elements, Heritage fares much better by actually having some dynamism in the songwriting, and with most of the songs feeling very distinct. Not everything sticks, "Famine" especially not, but it's also rare for an album to have some of its best songs as bonus tracks ("Pyre" and "Face In The Snow"), though I don't know why they couldn't include "The Throat Of Winter" as well.





2014 - Pale Communion

musclassia:

Probably the most heralded of the Opeth prog rock records, this wasn't a return to Damnation, but may be the closest any of the 2010s records come to recapturing that vibe. "Eternal Rains Will Come" has a typically 'frantic prog' opening, particularly on the drums, which is one of my biggest turn-offs about latter-day Opeth. In contrast, the second half of this song is probably my favourite sequence of music released by the band this decade; focused around a single motif, it has this hazy gloom to it conveyed by the vocals and keyboards (now helmed by Joakim Svalberg, who replaced Per Wiberg in the group's most recent line-up change). Beyond this track, the quality across the board towers above Sorceress and a lot of Heritage for me, between the more straightforward and plain fun "Cusp Of Eternity", the quaint instrumental "Goblin", and the longer cuts "Moon Above, Sun Below", "Voice Of Treason" and "Faith In Others". All three of these songs have strengths, from the majestic closing minutes of "Moon Above, Sun Below", to the strings and brooding atmosphere of "Voice Of Treason", and pathos of "Faith In Others". None of the trio are quite as reliably compelling throughout their entire durations as the greatest songs from the band, but together they arguably make the strongest argument for the virtues of Opeth as a prog rock band.


Radu:

I'll admit: I'm very biased towards this album. It was the "latest" album when I first got into Opeth, so I got to listen to it a lot back in the day, and more often than not I listen to something from this when I'm in the mood for some new era Opeth. And after listening to my fair share of Opeth I'm still fairly convinced that this is the best non-metal Opeth album. It should come with a bit of a warning though, as this is probably their album where they are most enamored with rehashing old prog rock sounds, even more so than on the previous album, as here I don't think there are any songs that could neatly be integrated in any of the metal albums. This is unashamedly dad prog rock. I'm not sure how much of it comes from Joakim Svalberg replacing Per Wiberg on keyboards, as the keys obviously play a huge role here. The performances and songwriting are absolutely tight all around, especially on "Moon Above, Sun Below", my favorite track from the record, and the most Opeth-sounding, so to say. If the band had displayed a knack for playing pure prog before, this is where that matured fully. However, this is after all a rehash, one that has less and less of Opeth's characteristics, and also the point where I can start feeling Mikael growing old, both in his voice and in his musical approach (hence why I called this dad prog rock). I can understand how this felt like even more of a betrayal than Heritage, which could've been passed off as a one off experiment, but this one is full on embracing the sound. And it bangs.





2016 - Sorceress

musclassia:

2.5 stars may be harsh, as this isn't a bad album; however, within the context of the Opeth discography, it really stands out to me as a comparatively unremarkable and uninspiring effort. There are strong moments; after the irritating, aimless-sounding intro to the title track, it evolves into a brooding-yet-regal song with plenty of heft. Additionally, "Will O The Wisp" doesn't match the quality of songs from Damnation but makes for a suitably moving listen, whilst "Chrysalis" is quite the rambunctious rocker. However, there are a couple of tracks here that appear near the bottom of my ranking of Opeth songs, including "The Wilde Flowers" and "Strange Brew"; the presence of them together on the same record somewhat diminishes Sorceress's lustre. The band leaned further towards the retro-prog sound and further away from the classic Opeth mood, even in contrast to the likes of Pale Communion, and whilst they are perfectly competent at pulling off this sound, there's not all that much that is added to their sound compared with similar-sounding artists on this record to make up for the charm that was lost during the transition. Worth giving a listen once you've worked through the rest of their albums, but I wouldn't make it your first port of call.


Radu:

This was the first Opeth album that ever was "the upcoming album" for me. The cover art made me hope for perhaps another direction, either a return, or a new move towards something like more psychedelia. Once the title track was released I was jolly to finally listen to some new Opeth. After getting past the intro, I can safely say that all of my hype had died down. Which is a big bummer, because the rest of the song is pretty good, but I can't get over how bloated and stupid the intro sounds. And it's obviously the one song they played live every time, instead of the actually good songs like "Strange Brew" and… yeah, "Strange Brew" is pretty much the only song from Sorceress that I actively listened to since I was done giving it full listens. Though I won't deny that "The Wilde Flowers", "Era", and even the title track have their moments. It's quite baffling, considering how much I liked both Heritage and Pale Communion, and this one isn't that far off in sound, but it seems like most of the things that worked there, don't work here. For one, the production is awful, Mikael's voice growing old finally feels like it actually detracts from the music (especially on heavier songs like "Chrysalis"), and the songs don't feel as engaging, nor do they capitalize on the great moments they do have. But after all, it's still an Opeth album, so there is plenty to enjoy here, as I have grown a bit fonder of it in time, once I made sure that I wasn't just being bitter about the "Sorceress" intro and the move to Nuclear Blast. There are some slight shifts in sound, mostly in terms of what 70s sounds are emulated, which is a pretty good change of pace, but one that would pay off more on the next album. At least the album finally had growls again, even if just on the live version of "The Drapery Falls" from the bonus CD, one that I have no idea why it is there.




2019 - In Cauda Venenum

musclassia:

Getting back on track after Sorceress, Opeth's most recent output felt like the band was finding their new voice as a prog rock band, with some solid contributions on both the heavier and softer side. The energy of "Heart In Hand"'s main riff and the huge mid-tempo riff in "Dignity"'s midsection make strong early impressions, whilst these tracks both feature some nice softer moments too. Each of these two songs takes the listener on quite a journey, and one of the strengths of this record is the song structures, which offer up a charming storytelling vibe and sense of unity despite it not being a concept album. However, there are several songs here that feel like they're on the cusp of greatness, but are held back by some of the proggy excesses the band uses; the worst culprit of this is "Next Of Kin", which could easily by my favourite track from the album without the overly elaborate vocal scales that mute the impact of the majestic expanse that the accompanying instrumentation conveys. Outside of this, In Cauda Venenum features some interesting novelties for the group, seeing them push certain limits, such as the vocal range on Mikael Åkerfeldt with some surprising high notes in "Universal Truth", as well as going for a curious jazzy approach on "The Garroter". The album peaks at its conclusion with "Continuum" and "All Things Will Pass", the former of which features some incredibly lush and moving music in its couple of closing minutes, and the latter of which manages to capture that dark majestic vibe of "Next Of Kin" without overcomplicating things. The stirring outro to this track means In Cauda Venenum will leave a slightly warmer impression on me at the end of each playthrough than the remainder of the record necessarily merits, but overall this is a solid and quite distinctive album for the band, and is probably the second-best album from their prog rock era after Pale Communion.


Radu:

After the disappointment that was Sorceress, it wasn't as easy getting excited for a new Opeth album, but they finally did try something new by releasing two versions of the same album, one in English one in Swedish. The music is pretty much the same, but for some reason I enjoy the Swedish version significantly more, and I do advise you to listen to that one. Maybe there's an uncanny valley activating in me due to how unusual it feels to hear Mikael singing in Swedish, so that I don't actually feel like I'm listening to Opeth, but a band that sounds like Opeth, thus I can appreciate it with a cleaner mind. While this does make the album a bit less memorable, more listens might make this my favorite Opeth of the past decade. It still suffers from a few of Sorceress' flaws, but I feel like it finds better ways to circumvent those by having some actually tight performances, songs that don't feel as plodding, and even the production is better. The sound is still rooted in the 70s prog that the band now emulates, and while none of the songs would fit on an older album, it feels like the band finally managed to apply what made previous albums great, while also adding some of the interesting changes in soundscape from Sorceress, as well as some distinct In Cauda Venenum ones. It just sounds a lot more inspired and fun to listen to than Sorceress, and it being in Swedish (if you listen to the Swedish part obviously) makes it feel more authentic. And though I wouldn't necessarily call it a return to form, it finds Opeth in a much better position, and me much more excited for a follow-up than a couple of years ago.




Where To Now



Well it seems like we reached some sort of article length limit, so you'll find the rest of the article in the first comment of the comment sections.



 



Written on 28.06.2020 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments

Comments: 15   Visited by: 166 users
28.06.2020 - 17:42
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Here's the rest of the article:

Where To Now



So you just listened to all Opeth albums and are wondering why there isn't more of this stuff? You're in luck! Not only are there a lot of bands that try to sound like Opeth, but there are a lot of projects related to Opeth that might be of your interest. You might also be interested in some of the 70s prog that newer Opeth albums emulate, but this is a discussion we might have another time. Instead, let's look at some of those related projects I was mentioning.Back when Mikael Åkerfeldt was still firmly in extreme metal mode, he formed the Swedish supergroup death metal act Bloodbath, featuring Anders Nyström, Jonas Renkse and Dan Swanö in its first incarnation (and current Opeth drummer Martin Axenrot after this record, replacing Swanö on drums). They released their debut, Resurrection Through Carnage, during the first of two stints for Mikael Åkerfeldt as the band's vocalist, and despite the quality musicians that have appeared in the band since (including Hypocrisy's Peter Tägtgren and Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost), their debut remains their strongest effort yet, helped in no small part by being bookended with Swedish OSDM revival bangers such as "Ways To The Grave" and "Cry My Name", my two favourite cuts from the album. The production really gives the guitars that classic buzzsaw sound, but the album is filled with quality riffs to add substance to that style. Pretty much every track has something to distinguish it, from the eerie guitar twangs in "Mass Strangulation" and the nifty lead guitar motif in "Death Delirium" to the twisted chorus of "Like Fire". However, it is the brute force churn of "Ways To The Grave" and the instantly memorable lead guitar licks of "Cry My Name" that stand out here. Arriving a decade after the sound it mimicked, Resurrection Through Carnage is one of the greatest adverts for revivalist worship of classic genres, acting as a worthy addition to the Swedish old school-style death metal catalogue.


Radu:

I love Swedish death metal as much as the next guy, but isn't it a bit ironic that the slightly parody band is the one that is more popular than most of the bands it apes? Might be due to the star power of having Mikael Åkerfeldt as well as Katatonia's Anders Nyström and Jonas Renkse and Edge Of Sanity's Dan Swanö paying their tribute to the Swedeath sound. Prefaced by the Breeding Death EP, Resurrection Through Carnage is quite likely the best the band has put out, mostly because it didn't really become a professional and popular band yet. It has a bit of a parody feeling, especially with how outrageously thick that guitar buzzsaw tone is, but isn't as in-your-face cheesy as Steel, the heavy metal parody band that Åkerfeldt and Swanö had. Though I find it hard to listen to that "Mass Strangulation" riff without a smile on my face, I can't deny that this is done out of actual love for that sound. And with such obviously talented musicians at the helm, and including Swanö's producing credits, this would extend beyond the homage/parody into being an actually damn great death metal album. As fun as it is, "Cry My Name" and "So You Die" are legit neck breaking bangers. Even though Åkerfeldt is no longer in the band (he did record an extra album and EP after this), and the band didn't fulfill my dream of changing their frontman every other album, I'm glad that Bloodbath didn't stay as just a fun side project and became a beast of its own, since I don't wanna live in a world where that was the case with Steel instead.





Katatonia - Brave Murder Day

musclassia:

Bloodbath was not the first collaboration between Mikael Åkerfeldt, Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström. Six years before the release of Resurrection Through Carnage, around the time Morningrise was coming out, Åkerfeldt lent his harsh vocals to Brave Murder Day, the sophomore record of Katatonia, another Swedish band with a similar longevity and transition away from extreme metal to Opeth (albeit much earlier in their career). In contrast to the gloomy atmospheric rock they've been making this millennium, their early records were some of the cornerstones of the extreme doom genre, with Brave Murder Day considered a seminal death/doom album. The opening track "Brave" is the longest on the record and sets out the band's stall from the off, with Åkerfeldt's hoarse roars adding a harsh bleakness to the mid-tempo melancholy. The lead guitar arpeggios that dominate the song's midsection infuse the music with a real sense of urgency and intensity, whilst the more muted tone to its second half delivers plenty of gloom to contrast with this. "Brave" is the only track that exceeds the 10-minute mark on Brave Murder Day, yet shorter cuts such as "Murder" still manage to fit in their share of slow/mid-tempo anguish and melancholy, with some particularly raw growls during an instrumental lull midway through "Murder". "Day" is the big departure on the record, featuring Renkse doing clean vocals above a gentle, undistorted track, but Åkerfeldt's approach was more suited to the music on the remainder of the record; the first few lines of "Rainroom" wouldn't have had the same impact if sung in Renkse's docile tones compared with Åkerfeldt screaming "When you said that life can't be what you want, and I really want EVERYTHING". I'm personally not all that big on death/doom, but Brave Murder Day is one of the strongest representations of the sound I've encountered, particularly as far as classic albums in the genre go.


Radu:

It was around the mid-90s when Opeth were working on Morningrise that Mikael Åkerfeldt found himself asked to perform vocals on two seminal albums. One of them was Edge Of Sanity's Crimson, in which his contribution was more as a guest, and Katatonia's Brave Murder Day, where he would perform most of the vocals. Jonas Renkse would lose his ability to growl as a result of the absolutely devastating vocals on Dance Of December Souls, hence why there was a need for another vocalist to take care of those. From Katatonia's context, this would be their last full-length record as an extreme metal band, but also one that would shed the gothic blackened edge of their previous one in favor of a more standard death doom approach. It also has "Day", the only song on the record where Renkse does the vocals, with the clean alt/gothic sound basically predicting their future direction. But from an Opeth context, it's great hearing Mikael's death metal growls in another setting other than death metal or progressive metal, and his voice fits perfectly to add the "death" component in death doom. Along with Brave Murder Day, the next year would see the release of Sounds Of Decay, an EP in a similar style, also with Mikael doing harsh vocals, and the EP has been appended to the main album on a lot of reissues. Some of it might be due to historical context, but there's enough quality here to be obvious why this album is held in such a high regard among both doom and Katatonia fans, with it often being cited as their best album. Although I think comparatively Dance Of December Souls, or for that matter also Jhva Elohim Meth, don't get the attention they deserve, it only takes that one riff from "Brave" for it to be obvious why this gets all the attention. This album is filled with more straightforward (especially compared to all the progressive songwriting we've gotten used to by listening to all of this Opeth) melancholic melodies of the type that would find their way into their material from then on, but here they are in a rougher manner. Akin to the first two Opeth albums, a lot of the atmosphere comes from Dan Swanö's production, which offers a fairly raw and cold feel to the whole thing, which is precisely what one would want from such a depressive piece of extreme doom. And with it reaching its 25th anniversary soon, one can only hope.





Edge Of Sanity - Crimson

musclassia:

Mikael Åkerfeldt leant growls to Brave Murder Day whilst the singer within Katatonia contributed cleans; conversely, whilst Dan Swanö covered most the extreme vocals on Edge Of Sanity's Crimson, Åkerfeldt provided some cleans here (plus some growls). Crimson has acquired some notoriety for being a single 40-minute song-album; however, it's also acquired great renown for being an absolutely awe-inspiring record. Progressive melodic death, it really brings the best of all of those worlds here, between the dirty production and vicious riffs, flawlessly judged flow of what is less a song and more a journey, and instantly memorable melodic hooks. Whether reprising a previous hook or moving into new territory, "Crimson" never fails to excite, and the clean breaks that aid in progressing the story of this concept album never fall into cheesiness. A 40-minute single song is a lot to digest, but Edge Of Sanity managed it not once, but twice, with Crimson II being worthy of the Crimson legacy, if not quite equaling its predecessor.


Radu:

It is often said that a metal album, especially a death metal one, should be 40 minutes in runtime. So obviously an album being exactly 40 minutes would mean extra points. Of course Edge Of Sanity get most points for being one of the best progressive/melodic death metal you'll ever hear, perfectly balancing all those elements, and even sprinkling it with some goth rock moments. Being recorded around the same time, and with the same producer, there are a lot of similarities to Opeth's Morningrise, having most of its upsides and none of its downsides. Oh you thought "Black Rose Immortal" was long at over 40 minutes? Try "Crimson" being the only track on Crimson and clocking in at 40 minutes; even though some versions contain the song split into 8 parts, the flow in between them is unsevered. It's progressive without being disjointed, melodic without being cheesy, atmospheric without relying on it, conceptual with a story similar to Children Of Men. The production, coming from Dan Swanö, who is pretty much Edge Of Sanity's main man, has a raw appeal that the music makes perfect use of, quite akin to all the other Swanö-produced albums we covered here, like the aforementioned Morningrise or Katatonia's Brave Murder Day. And with him being such an important figure in the development of these bands, as well as having been a member of Bloodbath, it would make sense to be brought up in this article, though not only that, but Mikael Åkerfeldt does vocals at some points on this album (and when paired with an equally masterful growler like Swanö, the two become a bit hard to distinguish), as well as a guitar solo. Though his contributions are not as significant as the ones on Brave Murder Day, you know damn well I'm gonna use this excuse to talk about Crimson, likely the best one-song album out there, one that makes perfect use of the melodic death metal sound while it was at its peak and before it became cheesy, in ways that most actual melodic death metal don't really achieve.Mikael Åkerfeldt first collaborated with Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson in 2001 when the latter produced Blackwater Park, before subsequently producing Deliverance and Damnation, and mixing several other of the band's records. Storm Corrosion was the first full-blown musical co-venture for the duo, however, and it serves as a stark departure from the sounds of either musician's primary bands. The record could perhaps be described as progressive rock, although it may be a stretch to consider it rock; the arrangements are mellow, eerie and atmospheric, but musically light. I was encouraged when the first song from the self-titled record, "Drag Ropes", was first released; not a million miles from Damnation in tone, it has this mysterious, muted aura to it, with off-kilter sound effects swimming around the acoustic guitar and synths that propel the song forward, as well as some interesting vocal interplay between Åkerfeldt and Wilson. Sadly, the rest of Storm Corrosion didn't quite make the same impact. The title track is probably the other highlight of the record, a gentle acoustic piece that serves as Wilson's vehicle as much as "Drag Ropes" belonged to Åkerfeldt, although the discordant ambient stretch in the second half feels somewhat unnecessary and loses me. The remainder of the album generally features a mixture of ambience, subdued atmospheric rock and occasional inclinations towards either poppier or more avant-garde waters, and whilst these remaining songs are by no means bad, there's not quite enough to them to inspire repeat listening on my part; the songs are a tad too subdued, without quite having sufficient emotional clout to compensate, and the rare moments where the duo get their 'weird' on don't feel particularly natural given the tone of the rest of the music.


Radu:

With some promo pics that have became the source of many memes, Storm Corrosion is the team up of Mikael Åkerfeldt and Steven Wilson. Although the two have worked together in the past, with Steven producing and performing on a few Opeth records, and Mikael performing on a few Porcupine Tree songs in return, this was the first, and so far only, time when the two collaborated as musicians over the course of an entire record. Storm Corrosion is not really the blend of the two musicians' past work, although it still has a recognizably prog rock sound, but going much more into an ambient / folk / experimental direction. It's very sparse, quiet, subdued but with a few climaxes, and with a general ominous and wistful mood. There are some folk and orchestral moments, courtesy of some wind instruments, and, well, an orchestra, but the only guest of some fame is drummer Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree. The mood is very well constructed, especially in the first track, but the effect isn't really that powerful on the rest of the record. It's too eventful to be an ambient record, too ambient to be a prog rock record, and it doesn't really live up to the weight of the names attached to it, especially with Mikael's vocal contributions paling compared to Wilson's, but it's still a pretty interesting listen.





Soen - Lotus

musclassia:

Soen was founded by Martin Lopez whilst he was still a member of Opeth, but became his primary musical output after leaving Opeth. The group has featured other musicians with extreme metal backgrounds, most notably the original bassist, Steve DiGiorgio of Death, Testament and many more, but Soen were far more a progressive/alternative act; their debut Cognitive showed clear influence from Tool in particular, as well as Lopez's former band. By their fourth record, Lotus, the group had established their own sound, as well as a substantial following, to the extent that Lotus beat Tools return Fear Inoculum in our most recent MetalStorm Awards. The music on this record feels mostly like dark alternative rock fed through a proggy filter, with the band capable of bringing heaviness on tracks (or sections of tracks) such as "Lascivious" but not making it a primary focus. Conversely, the title track is happy to spend most of its duration in 'dad rock' territory, reminding me more of Bruce Springsteen's 2014 re-recording of "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" than anything metal. The primary focus for anyone listening to Lotus will be the vocals of Joel Ekelöf, an effortlessly compelling tone that conveys passion without ever sounding strained and elevates what would often otherwise be relatively unremarkable compositions in my opinion. I'll be honest; four albums in and Soen have yet to go beyond being a group that I have at most a passing appreciation of. However, Lotus is their most distinctive-sounding and consistently solid offering yet.


Radu:

Once Martin Lopez left Opeth, you wouldn't think that Tool would be the band he'd try to emulate once he dedicated himself to his Soen project. Soen has since outgrown said Tool emulation, but they kept the root of the music the same blend of alternative and progressive, rock and metal, but with enough of their own signature to truly feel like a sound of their own. I would say the alternative part is the biggest part of their sound, hence why I almost understand why the band still isn't featured on Metal Archives, with the progressiveness and the heaviness backing up the alternative core. It is pretty much a winning formula, one that allows for some fairly interesting progressive songwriting without having to commit to any epics or meandering instrumentals. Instead, Soen rely mostly on Joel Ekelöf's wonderfully emotional vocals. I may not be the biggest Soen fan, but I'd be an even more uninterested listener if it wasn't for those vocals. This isn't to say that the other musicians are completely outshined, with Martin Lopez especially doing a fairly good job on the drums, and certain riffs and organ sounds bringing just enough memories of the last Opeth album to have been graced by Martin's presence. But Soen are a beast of their own now, and no album proves that better than Lotus. It's slick, it's emotionally resonant, it's catchy, it's lush, it's elegant. It's Soen.





White Stones - Kuarahy

musclassia:

Unlike his fellow Uruguayan, Martin Mendez is still in Opeth, having stayed throughout their transition from progressive death metal to progressive rock. However, unlike the alternative rock of Martin Lopez's Soen, Mendez's first major release outside of Opeth is firmly rooted in extreme metal, showing that Opeth's transition was not a result of diminished appetite for this sound on Mendez's part. It would be of no surprise to anyone familiar with 2000s Opeth that stumbled across White Stones without prior knowledge to discover that the band had ties with the Swedish outfit, as Kuarahy shares much of its tone and riff structure with the heavier moments of Opeth. It retains some of the progginess of Mendez's other band, but doesn't share their propensity for long songs and extensive soft periods; the average song length here is around 4-5 minutes, and although there are brief moments of pause, such as the opening to "Drowned In Time", the bulk of the music here is groovy, at-times twisted death metal. The progginess comes more in the riff structures, such as the contorted riffs that follow the aforementioned quiet opening to "Drowned In Time". Kuarahy is an intriguing revisit to this kind of sound from Mendez, and the vicious growls from Eloi Boucherie and solid drumming from Jordi Farré aid in successfully recapturing some of the vibe of records such as Still Life. As far as the songs go, there's some degree of variety, from the brooding intro to "Guyra" to the blasting intensity of "Ashes", but the songs all sound fairly similar, and whilst it's an enjoyable sound, the writing isn't quite interesting enough to keep it consistently compelling throughout the entire record in the way Opeth used to manage.


Radu:

Having been the longest active Opeth member other than Akerfeldt himself, Martin Mendez has been a huge part of developing the mid-era Opeth sound. It is that sound, and mostly its heavier parts, that he recaptures with his side-project White Stones. Along with fellow Opeth member, Fredrik Åkesson, and two members from Vidres A La Sang, Mendez should have a hit a jackpot, especially considering how many pre-Heritage Opeth fans are aching for a return to that sound. Sadly, White Stones strides too close to that sound to not be inevitably compared to it, and it also doesn't capture what made that sound great nearly enough for it to be a worthy comparison. On its own, Kuarahy is a pretty good album, and you can tell the people involved in it are great musicians, and there are some great progressive structures in the riffs, and a fair deal of diversity in the sound, but it just doesn't have neither the knack for it, nor are the vocals anywhere near as imposing. Couple that with a pretty handicapping production, you don't get a bad album, but one that is frustratingly missing its potential.




Overview



musclassia: Like Radu, I also hold Opeth (albeit perhaps less so these days) as a challenger for my favourite band, and from putting together this article it becomes clear that we share that viewpoint for very similar reasons, given the extensive overlap in our write-ups. A lengthy stretch of all-time great releases pushed the band into almost untouchable territory by the end of the 2000s, with the band demonstrating that they could evolve, mature and try out new approaches without diminishing their luster. And yet, against all odds, they somehow managed to burn through a substantial portion of that unrivalled goodwill by having the temerity to drop the metal and turn into a 70s prog rock throwback. The vitriol this move inspired has always bewildered me; however, it's clear from my ratings (and to a lesser extent Radu's) that this transition hasn't led to material that matches the peak of their prog death metal period. They seem firmly locked into that approach now, and are continuing to develop their own spin on it, so don't expect to see the metal return any time soon. As we wait to see where Opeth goes next, there's plenty of material for anyone new to or unfamiliar with the group to get stuck into, and hopefully this article gives you a better idea of the journey Opeth have undertaken as a band and as individual members, and some of the high points and low points along the way.
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
Loading...
28.06.2020 - 21:24
musclassia
Yay character limit

Thanks for sorting out, at least we hit all the studio records in the main article
Loading...
28.06.2020 - 21:50
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by musclassia on 28.06.2020 at 21:24

Yay character limit

Thanks for sorting out, at least we hit all the studio records in the main article

Eternal curses upon the bloodline of the people who don't read the part of the article that didn't make it
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
Loading...
29.06.2020 - 06:55
Lord Slothrop
Great read gentlemen.

Still Life was my introduction to their music and, at the time, the first exposure I'd had to progressive death metal. Needless to say, it blew me away and I quickly devoured their catalogue, which at that time ended with Watershed. My first experience seeing them live was on the Heritage tour and they played none of their extreme songs. I enjoyed it, but remember seeing fans walking out of the venue while flipping them off. I've seen them twice since then (including their amazing Red Rocks show), and both times they mixed it up, which I thought was a smart move. But it would also be a smart move to utilize a greater variety of songs from tour to tour.

I love/like all of their albums (even the last four, with ICV as best of the lot) for different reasons but consider Still Life their apotheosis. As for the most disappointing... I'd venture outside their catalogue and say Storm Corrosion for sure. Two of my favorite musical artists collaborating on a- at best- interesting, but not very compelling listen.
Loading...
29.06.2020 - 16:59
Interrobang
Chief Sturgeon
I actually agree with all your ratings. This is weird for me too.

P.S. Good article.
Loading...
29.06.2020 - 22:34
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Not sure if ms is Dead or its wifi, i am in deep lappland where ice start to melt, super bad conection. I love your way, good work, i like you write extra as I did about saxon, oliver dawson saxon aka son of a bitch. You write more about bands where ban members are involved, good. I find this band in 2005 on bm radio whit song demon of the fall. I loved band, but whit last 5 poor albums my live died, not my band, dunno i will listen it maybe first 3 albums
----
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
Loading...
30.06.2020 - 01:24
notheory
Good article.
I mostly agree with the ratings and everything, but I still think that Ghost Reveries is just above average, it kinda feels hollow to me and feels like a "successful musician" if you know what I mean, specially the lyrics.
The old works are more appealing to me.

I'm kinda confused about why there is something here about Crimson or some other albums that are kinda unrelated to Opeth music, but that's up to you I guess.

(Now that we got into Opeth... how should we get out?)
Loading...
30.06.2020 - 09:26
nikarg
Mod
On the list of popular bands that I never managed to get into, Opeth takes first place. I have given them so many chances, and there are many parts of songs that I enjoy but I can never finish an entire album. The soft and extreme parts never blended well together in my opinion and always felt to me as being forced, something like a gimmick, and killed the vibe. Most songs are way too long songs for my liking and for no reason, and I also hate Åkerfeldt's clean vocals. It's strange because I really love some of the clones, like Barren Earth's debut, which I believe is phenomenal.

Colossal article, by the way. Well done and thank you, guys.
Loading...
30.06.2020 - 11:03
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by notheory on 30.06.2020 at 01:24

Good article.
I mostly agree with the ratings and everything, but I still think that Ghost Reveries is just above average, it kinda feels hollow to me and feels like a "successful musician" if you know what I mean, specially the lyrics.
The old works are more appealing to me.

I'm kinda confused about why there is something here about Crimson or some other albums that are kinda unrelated to Opeth music, but that's up to you I guess.

(Now that we got into Opeth... how should we get out?)

I went in expecting to rate GR lower than I did too. But then I liked it too much.

I think we justified having Crimson here, although out of the ones in that section, they are the least connected. But Dan Swanö not only was extremely influential to Opeth, as well as producing the band's first two albums, thus having an important contribution in creating their sound, but Mikael actually performs on Crimson as well.

There is no getting out of Opeth.
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
Loading...
30.06.2020 - 11:05
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by nikarg on 30.06.2020 at 09:26

On the list of popular bands that I never managed to get into, Opeth takes first place. I have given them so many chances, and there are many parts of songs that I enjoy but I can never finish an entire album. The soft and extreme parts never blended well together in my opinion and always felt to me as being forced, something like a gimmick, and killed the vibe. Most songs are way too long songs for my liking and for no reason, and I also hate Åkerfeldt's clean vocals. It's strange because I really love some of the clones, like Barren Earth's debut, which I believe is phenomenal.

Colossal article, by the way. Well done and thank you, guys.

Something tells me My Arms, Your Hearse would be the one most to your liking. Shorter, more durect songs, really heavy, production still raw.

I can understand Opeth not appealing to everybody.

Thanks for the kind words
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
Loading...
01.07.2020 - 02:30
JayMo4
Written by nikarg on 30.06.2020 at 09:26
It's strange because I really love some of the clones, like Barren Earth's debut, which I believe is phenomenal.


To be fair, Curse of the Red River is a fantastic album. I do think the "Opeth clone" criticism gets heaped on to Barren Earth a little too much, as there is a greater folk influence present, a much wider use of vocal harmonies, and a more modern prog sound compared to Opeth's 70's throwback style.

Granted, I like both bands a lot. But I don't see one as impersonating the other. The influences are present, but Barren Earth are still their own band.
Loading...
01.07.2020 - 17:53
qnick90
Funny reading, since I thought that RaduP had completely different musical tastes than I have, and yet, I can mostly agree with him in this (great!) article.
Loading...
01.07.2020 - 17:54
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by qnick90 on 01.07.2020 at 17:53

Funny reading, since I thought that RaduP had completely different musical tastes than I have, and yet, I can mostly agree with him in this (great!) article.

A broken clock is right at least twice a day
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
Loading...
02.07.2020 - 05:51
tintinb
Opeth is one of those bands which even non metalheads like, as far as Youtube reaction channels would lead me to believe. It also act as a transition from clean to death growls for many listeners, it sure did act as one for me. I remember starting to listen to Opeth in 2012 along with Porcupine Tree and I was really overwhelmed by their music. I felt that there could be no musician who would be able to top this craftsmanship which still holds some truth to this day, atleast for me. This is a mammoth of an article which brought a lot of memories of my Opeth listening days. Thank you.
Loading...
Today - 19:37
saeed.pain
Oh what a great article. This is a nice guide.
Loading...

Hits total: 1109 | This month: 409