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I always thought that Opeth were this kind of death metal band, that deals with complex concepts and occasionally throws in the mix a couple of prog influences to spice things up. Until I listened to Blackwater Park in full for the first time. The music was well written, but on the other hand I couldn't enjoy it to the full. This album has everything that is needed in order to be a killer effort and yet it doesn't reach that status. The beginning was very promising and highly enjoyable, and I really liked 'Harvest', but still some moments just don't click for me. If anything, Blackwater Park is amazingly produced for sure, and it features some great ideas. But the listener can easily get lost in them, I mean that the flow of music is not as good as it should be. Before culminating in my favorite final song, there are several songs from which I literally cannot recall a single riff. 'Bleak' is not like that, I'm talking about the songs right after 'Harvest'.
The album however remains worthy of many listens, since there are some great things happening in those worthy songs. There are grooves, acoustic fillers and just straightforward death metal. Opeth for the first time, showed that they weren't satisfied with being merely a death metal band, but all those progressive influences are just too much for me. On the other hand the execution is perfect. All band members were capable of delivering the goods, each on his own instrument and Mikael's vocals are incredible, both harsh and clean. Steven Wilson's participation is probably one of the pros, since the man knows how to mix an album and his backing vocals sound great next to Mikael's (especially in 'The Leper Affinity').
So what is the problem exactly? For me, an album is great when there is a lot of feeling put in it. For me emotion is more important than technical mastery, and in Blackwater Park, I only get that impression in those three tracks that stood out for me. It's not that every other track is depraved of feeling or anything like that, but after a while, the outcome sounds somewhat stagnant. Blackwater Park is not as good as I expected it to be, but that doesn't mean it's not good at all. I mostly enjoy it, and I'll be surely returning to it but it won't become one of my most treasured albums. Maybe what puts me off the most is its length; 67 minutes of death metal are always welcome but this style is just not rewarding.
I'm not sure if Opeth continued like that. I was never eager to explore their whole discography, probably due to their approach to death metal (and later, progressive rock). However I strongly believe that everyone should give this album at least one listen. This is a threshold, a crossroad where Opeth had to pick a direction, even if the death metal element was present in their next releases as well. I don't know if they chose the right path but for this I can be sure; Blackwater Park isn't even remotely bad or mediocre. Maybe this review makes it seem that I hate it but it's not like that. I like it, just not as much as I initially thought I would. I should probably listen to Still Life, I've heard that it's their peak. But again Blackwater Park can easily stand on its own feet and at leas not disappoint. Solid effort.
Favorite tracks: 'The Leper Affinity', 'Harvest', 'Blackwater Park'.
For as long as mankind has endeavored to understand the grand and mysterious reality that surrounds him, many a legend has sprouted within the minds of humanity based on assumed observation, and subsequently been passed down through the ages. Tales of uncharted lands, lost civilizations, and vicious subaquatic predators the likes of the Loch Ness Monster or the Creature from the Black Lagoon, forever lying submerged in the watery depths of enigma. The realm of progressive metal is likewise resident to its own collection of releases, drenched in a palpable reverence of near mythological proportions. Not the least among these supposed records of such divine quality stands Opeth’s alleged magnum opus, Blackwater Park, consistently hailed in some circles as one of the greatest ever written in its subgenre. The aura of all-encompassing excellence that has come to be projected upon this album in the years since its release has served only to obscure the true face of its very being, masked by an ominous shroud every bit as dark as the waters of the titular locale. Such levels of acclaim ultimately beg the question of whether reality matches the myth, and so one soon finds their heart compelled to slowly pull back the veil, and gaze upon the object of praise in its purest form.
Going solely by the track record the band have established prior to this release, composed of two albums of serviceable stature each followed by a lackluster retread of the same familiar ground, the logical outcome to be expected from Blackwater Park would be a significant uptick in quality, with a shift in direction to a largely unexplored side of the Opeth sound. While there is some amount of truth to that sentiment in both regards, the changes present are not nearly as sizable or profound as those that took place between Morningrise and My Arms, Your Hearse. Aside from a better production job, some occasional modern-sounding influences interspersed, and a noticeably eerier atmosphere pervading the album (no doubt the influence of Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson at work), the overall stylistic divide between this and Still Life is rather minimal at best. So much so, that where the first half of this album is concerned, it may as well be considered an unabashed rewrite.
“Bleak” follows the basic riff-pattern and song-structure of “Godhead’s Lament” almost to a T, on top of having a chorus with such a similar-sounding chord progression and uplifting vocal melody that were it not for the slightly altered rhythm, one could very well be compelled to try singing one set of lyrics into the other song. Likewise, “The Leper Affinity” and “The Drapery Falls” appear to cop some elements from “The Moor” and “Moonlapse Vertigo” respectively, in regards to layout and use of dynamics. This is particularly evident in the former, concerning how following the crushing first half, it transitions to its acoustic bridge through a similar abrupt switch to a somber lead guitar melody. And of course, track 3 has once again been reserved for the token acoustic ballad. While by no means being indicative of self-plagiarism, on top of the majority of these songs being definite improvements over their spiritual predecessors, it goes to show that the formula established on My Arms, Your Hearse can only be taken so far before things eventually start sounding redundant.
When speaking strictly in terms of quality, there are several signs of a partial return to form spread about, including a rediscovery of the vigor that had all but disappeared on the band’s previous outing. The album’s two prime cuts, namely “The Leper Affinity” and “The Funeral Portrait”, are both absolute riff-monsters that would have fit right at home on My Arms, Your Hearse. The title-track meanwhile revels in a double-bass heavy display of aggression, balanced out with a menacing helping of groove-centered riff-work that one can’t help but head-bang to (the riff in the first verse contains one of the meanest hooks I’ve ever heard in any song). Even a mostly low-key number such as “The Drapery Falls”, which opts to focus more on brooding ambiance through haunting acoustic passages, when it gets going genuinely starts knocking skulls with the best of them. Coming off the near non-stop showcase of uninspired mid-tempo drudgery released two years before, it is quite relieving to hear that unbridled fury is not a quality lacking in Blackwater Park’s repertoire.
Issues begin to arise however when realizing that like Still Life, a fair share of the tracks here contain an excess amount of fat yet to be trimmed. Various sections are still repeated too often in what feels like an attempt to artificially lengthen the songs beyond how far their ideas can take them, and while not completely crippling the tracks, do often sap away their memorability a fair amount. Other times, the otherwise focused songwriting seems to fall apart in what sounds like remnants of the Orchid approach attempting to creep back into the modern Opeth sound. The title-track begins promisingly enough with an infectious set of riffs leading to the opening verse, but Akerfeldt has barely made it through the first four lines before the song stops dead in its tracks, descending into a near two and a half minute clean/acoustic guitar bridge that sounds completely out of place. Afterwards, the song simply launches back into its original groove as though nothing happened, leading one to contemplate what purpose this segment serves in the song, and why it was not cut from the final product.
Also along for the ride are a handful of half-hearted compositions that sound either underdeveloped or bland (or both). “Patterns in the Ivy” is the most obvious case of shoehorning an unfinished product in to take up space (at least as presented here without the far superior second part included on the reissue), whereas “Harvest” is a clear representative of the latter persuasion. While not remotely an outright bad acoustic piece, it pales in comparison to the likes of “Benighted” or even “Credence”, while simultaneously overstaying its welcome by a good couple of minutes. It also doesn’t do the album’s pacing any favors that “The Drapery Falls” immediately follows with an acoustic intro played at exactly the same rhythm and tempo, the precise moment where it becomes apparent that the release as a whole is beginning to stagnate. And then there is “Dirge for November”, which stands alongside “Face of Melinda” as one of the lousiest songs this band has ever penned. On top of featuring a guitar melody at one point that comes dangerously close to ripping off “Serenity Painted Death”, this piece is so by-the-numbers and bereft of any interesting compositional features, that it’s hard to understand how or why it was recorded and released in its present state. Legitimately sounding like a half-finished song, I can’t for the life of me imagine how any album with a track like this could be in good faith considered an unassailable masterpiece, even if the rest of the record were flawless.
As a final remark, one of the more minor downfalls of this release as a collective whole lies, strangely enough, in Akerfeldt’s usually strong vocal performance. While his signature roars remain as powerful and fierce as ever, a sizable amount of the clean vocals sound uncharacteristically whiny for him compared to previous albums. In some cases this is due to post-production effects being utilized, such as to make the singing sound like it is being played from an old radio, which in turn completely guts the lower-end of his voice. Other times however, it sounds as though he is forcibly trying to over-sing, drawing out his lines and sustaining them in a fashion that bears more in common with pop than the folk-esque crooning he excels at. Fittingly, he hits his career low on the intro to “Dirge for November”, where he sounds as though he’s on the verge of bursting into tears. Intentional or not, it’s just a poorly executed and cringe-worthy attempt at generating emotional appeal.
As expected, the legend of Blackwater Park, like so many other famous tales is no stranger to embellishment and romanticism, but nevertheless mostly still remains one worth experiencing. While far from being the flawless masterwork it has come to be lauded as, what quality material resides here ranks among Opeth’s best par, and quite memorable instances at that. On a personal note, I won’t lie that I’ll often find myself suddenly humming the chorus melody to “Bleak”, or occasionally strumming the chords to “The Drapery Falls” when practicing guitar. This is an album that, with a little more attention to detail and a bit of trimming and fine-tuning in the arrangement, could very well have proved an adequate rival for My Arms, Your Hearse, though still functions as decent occasional listening material as is.
Ultimately, the reality of this release is akin to a man on one foggy, early morning, noticing a massive shape in the distance, swirling amid the waters of Loch Ness. Startled by the sight, he frantically runs into town, proclaiming to all who would lend him their ears that he had seen a prehistoric creature of mammoth proportions swimming in the great lake. Yet had the man taken the time to further investigate the anomaly he witnessed that morning, he would perhaps find that the supposed monster was in fact nothing more than a majestic whale. Surely an inspiring feat of nature, but not at all the legendary beast dwelling beneath the dark waters conjured up by his imagination.
Following the piano chord that occupies the very first seconds of Opeth's 2000 release, Blackwater Park, a crashing riff comes in, that promises that the album to come will take the listeners on a roller coaster ride through heavy peaks and soft, soothing moments. Opeth's Blackwater Park is a clear example of how both beauty and absolute brutal mayhem can be combined into one near perfect package. This album is one of the progressive death metal bands most popular releases, and also, in my opinion, their best, bordering on perfection.
Album opener The Leper Affinity is the perfect song to showcase both the bands talent and the bands signature sound. For a while, this song is absolutely bone crushing, with some very heavy riffing, great growled vocals from Mikael Akerfeldt, and then, all of a sudden, the song changes. The way this song flows from the heavy to the soft is simply breath taking, and this song is the perfect introduction to Mikael's vocals. He can do very low growls, which neither lack emotion nor energy, and then he can also do some gorgeous clean vocals, that soothe the ears. I can honestly not think of many better vocalists out there then Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt.
If the opener wasn't enough of a ride, then track 2 certainly will be. Bleak has always been my favorite song Opeth ever put out. This song is fantastically composed, beginning with an extremely heavy and yet atmospheric section, before going into a blues section in the middle, and then building back up to a thrilling finale. The growls on this song are some of the best on the album, and the clean vocals do not slack off either. The guitar work for this song is utterly amazing, with some powerhouse riffs in there, and the gorgeous instrumentals in the middle section. This song is one of the most perfect songs ever released.
Harvest and The Drapery Falls are two much more atmospheric songs, that drag on for a while and showcase some more great clean singing from Mikael. Harvest is one of the bands most popular songs, and the reason is immediately clear, with the fantastic use of various dynamics to create one of the most perfect atmospheres found in music. This song was an indication of what later albums would bring, as it had no metal found in it whatsoever. The Drapery Falls contains some growls, and great lyrics to accompany them, but is more focused on building a mood and a real feeling of desperation unmatched by any other song.
Dirge For November, The Funeral Portrait and Patterns In The Ivy are all brilliant in their own right, with the former being a song that contains 2 minutes of acoustic work, before the real heavy side of the band kicks in and it is, as usual, perfectly put together. Patterns In The Ivy is a pure instrumental acoustic song that merely leads as a warm up to the absolute brutality that is the title track. This song contains some utterly crushing riffs, quite possibly the heaviest on the album, and the song is just made even better by the 2 minute softer part in the middle. The lyrics to this song are extremely well written, depicting an evil environment that does not bare thinking about. This is Opeth at their absolute peak of brutality.
The instrumental work on this album is fairly technical, and fantastically written, with some real talent behind it. Each song conveys the emotions and mood that the lyrics would suggest brilliantly, creating a sense of dread that is missing from so many albums. This is a text book album on how to create a dense atmosphere without ever once compromising the musical integrity of the album. The growls and clean vocals are nearly perfect on here, proving Mikael time and time again to be one of the fore runners in the metal vocals scene. This album is a flat out classic that may take a few listens to get into, but once it has you hooked it will never let you go. Utterly incredible
I’ve never fully cared either way about Opeth. I mean, I know that these guys are one of the more polarizing bands in all of metal (and one of the biggest reasons for this is today’s subject of review, Blackwater Park) but I’ve just never cared all that much. It’s not that their brand of melodic death metal/progressive metal was a turn-off or anything, it’s just that I never gave them a chance. I think the closest thing to that “chance” would of been when I took a few extra seconds to figure out what the clerk at the 7-11 was listening to one night. Turns out it was this album and I’m not going to lie, it sounded pretty tempting. I just have a shitty memory and forgot to look it up when I got home. Oh well, if it was really something that amazing, it’d find me later on down the road.
And it did. YEARS later, but it did. The fine folks at The End Records (for some fucking reason) sent me a box of CDs, including the re-releases of Blackwater Park, Deliverance and Damnation (watch for those reviews shortly). So thanks for that!
Anyway, on to the review!
The album itself comes in a glossy case with a fairly thick booklet of liner notes and lyrics! That’s some snazzy stuff right there! Also included on the audio disc is a live rendition of The Leper Affinity that fairs pretty well in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s skip over to Disc 2 (a DVD) for a second. You get the 5.0 Surround Sound version of the album album that, I’m sure sounds fucking amazing on a Bose sound system but not all that great coming through my stock speakers in my $200 Magnetbox. Next up, is the Making Of Blackwater Park documentary. Wow… you may as well of watched them record this album in real time because you learn just as much from the documentary. Very in-depth! The boys Opeth talk about how just about every riff was thought up, every lyric was dreamt of and you walk away learning how every moment was genius.
And with that a little too on the nose segue, let’s go back to the main attraction! Since I never got to listen to Blackwater Park beforehand, I can’t tell you if this version is superior to any of the earlier recordings. What I can tell you is that the sound quality is excellent, period. Starting the album up, I was pretty damned excited. I get to listen to an album that I’ve been unconsciously dodging for a couple of years now (it also helped that since it was for review, I had no choice)! About a quarter of the way into the first track, I knew I was in trouble. Aggressive, progressive, melodic death metal? I messed ‘em…
Lyrically, Mikael Akerfeldt’s words are hauntingly beautiful and terrifyingly surreal at times. They’ll take you all over the goddamned place and drag you through murky waters and barbed brier to get you there. But it’s done in such a way that you’ll ask to go again when all is said and done.
As for the overall musicianship… do I really have to say anything here? Most of you already know that this album owns in just about every aspect. Akerfeldt’s voice is simply perfect for the task at hand. Mellow and clean when needed and an oceanically deep growl for when the moments arise. Mikael and Peter Lindgren’s guitar work is also on par with that of some kind of actual guitar Wizard! It’s all so magical! Every riff (that on occasion are played ad naseum, I’ll admit) sounds like a happiness spell that was cast on my eager, prog loving ears. The acoustic stuff is especially pleasing since it’s not overused and punctuates the ends of the better tracks.
Skinman Martin Lopez dazzles on his set with spellbinding rhythms and manic foot work that pops up out of nowhere. I was incredibly happy to learn that the talent didn’t just reside in the vocals and guitars like everyone I knew tried to make me think. This album HAD TO have a competent drummer to be half as good as everyone says it is. I’m also glad to know that I was right, as I always do. And finally, we have bassist Martin Mendez and his speedy bass lines. Seriously, you don’t catch bass rumblin’s like that in progressive metal all too often (and that’s not often enough if you ask me). This guy might be my favorite progressive/melodic bassist next to Ed Vink.
As I mentioned before, some of the riffs are repeated to the point of me being able to point out that they can be a bit repetitive. But they’re great riffs and maybe they deserve to get pounded into your head! No, forget that. They can get to be kind of irritating. So there you naysayers go. I smudged this album a tiny bit. Ya happy?
Overall: I can honestly say that this album deserves all of the hype that’s been surrounding it for eleven years. It is everything you could possibly ask for in a progressive/melodic experience and more. Sure it’s a bit on the repetitive side, but I think that that is a pitfall that every progressive outfit falls into every once in a while. Aside from that, this re-release of Blackwater Park is a “Must Have” if you don’t already have it and if you do, then I beg you to consider this version if not only for the documentary.
Before anyone listens to an Opeth album, particularly this one, they should be aware of the following:
- There will be lots of repetition. Opeth is notorious for repeating riffs and other musical ideas for minutes on end. If you want to hear something like Unexpect, where noticeable changes in the melodies occur every 3-5 seconds, this band is not for you.
- This is not a "traditional" metal album. Opeth isn't focused on sounding brutal, "kvlt", shredding, playing 32nd note double bass kicks at 300 bpm, or any other stereotype associated with black, death, and thrash metal bands.
Now onto the actual review:
Surprisingly (for metal purists at least), the more metal that I listened to overtime (and it was almost solely underground bands for 3 years or so, I was a purist for a while), the more I came to respect this album, along with all other Opeth albums. After listening to mostly jazz, classical, reggae, ambient, hip hop (*gasp) and other genres for a year or two, it has become one of my all-time favorites. Few metal bands can create atmosphere for an album as effectively as Opeth does on this album, let alone switch from various moods and emotions to others multiple times in each song, as demonstrated here. The album contains moments of mystery, sorrow, brutality, suspense, calm, fear, longing and and overall autumnal atmosphere throughout. As a musician, I have noticed that at times the members of Opeth are playing as many as four melodic lines at once, a feat that only a handful of other metal bands can match in a coherent manner. The song structures are atypical and usually fairly complex, and the vocals, acoustic, and electric guitars fit into the overall soundscapes well and are unmatched by any of their other albums.
I would take a couple points off of the album because Martin Lopez's drumming and Martin Mendez's bass playing have sounded more complex and varied on other albums such as "Deliverance" and then a couple more because the music isn't very accessible. It takes a lot of time, patience, and often a musical background to truly appreciate the album for what it is. Its hard to find metal bands today who are musically mature enough to realize that many often-lauded, more underground metal bands play music that honestly requires only basic songwriting knowledge, drummers with fast feet (or programming), and a vocalist with enough stamina to avoid damaging their vocal chords (AKA 90% of black and death metal) and take steps to avoid this label.
Sure Opeth may sound boring to the untrained ear and a lot of people might shower this album with praise (which of course automatically makes it terrible/mainstream/watered down). Sure Opeth has a large number of fans and supporters who aren't metal heads (most of the Opeth fans I know are fellow musicians). Sure they have stronger songwriting abilities than most other metal bands could even dream of. As much as I may sound like an Opeth fanboy for saying this, I have yet to hear a single cogent argument that explains the musical deficiencies (citing actual music theory) of the album. All that I hear is "the songs are boring and drag on without substance" or "inexperienced metal heads like this" or "it's really overrated". Sorry if it disappoints you, but Opeth understand how to write music, convey many different themes, incorporate various genres, and play music that is complex, beautiful, and thought-provoking in a way that most lesser known metal bands (save Windir, Agalloch, Alcest, Ulver, Falkenbach, and a handful more) can ever hope to accomplish.
If you've read any reviews for Opeth on this website, you know the spiel. A majority of metalheads mysteriously develop wet spots in their pants when a conversation moves to the topic of this band, and I can't seem to find any reviews that refrain from dropping the band's name into the critique of a metal album that involves acoustic guitars (even if it's in entirely different subgenres)! It's like listening to ninth graders summarize how 1984 was a pretty boring book that was kind of dark and depressing, just like Twilight! In this case, replace “1984” with an excellent dark metal band with longer songs, such as Moonsorrow, who has a completely unrelated sound and topic, and replace “Twilight” with Opeth and you see what I'm getting at.
Blackwater Park is the traditional jump-off point that best summarizes Opeth's sound. I will tell you that I used to be a rabid Opeth fan myself, foaming at the mouth and attempting to spread Opethitis to those around me at any chance that I had. I have a great deal of experience with their discography so the albums have “clicked” with me. But a few years later, with a head much deeper into the metal scene, it is easier to see how this album compares with others. At best it is atmospheric and powerful, but usually it is inconsistent and trivial, and at worse it is boring and devoid of substance.
First off, the instrumentation is certainly good, both Akerfeldt and Lindgren can play the guitar quite well, and Mendez and Lopez really give this album a higher score than it deserves to have. But to what purpose do these skills go?
Let's look at the first two songs. The Leper Affinity is fast, moving along at a blistering pace. Despite the fact that it switches riffs faster than an epileptic kid with ADHD at a rave, it's fairly decent. However, it summarizes the key problem with this album – it goes absolutely nowhere. Despite having a clean part somewhere towards the middle, there is no build up in the album. The only satisfying event during the song is the last riff, which gets cut off right far too soon. The song teases you with buildup, but instead of this, it goes off in a tangential direction and all progress is lost. Bleak is really the only song that gets it right – the initial riffs and chorus set up the atmosphere, the clean part is catchy and meanders through the middle of the song, without managing to upset the delicate ambience created by the heavy sections before. Then the song builds up to a climax before crashing back down again into the chorus. If you were expecting an emotional roller-coaster ride, this is the only one you will really experience.
Here's the problem: the first song is a more thrashy piece set on intensity rather than emotional power. Bleak is set more on having a strong atmosphere than having fast-moving instrumentation. But Opeth tries to fuck around with this and throw atmosphere into their fervently-riffed songs. Then we get stupid shit like the song Blackwater Park, which has a completely pointless, boring, repetitive atmospheric bit in the middle. It's two minutes long and does NOTHING for the rest of the song. Before the little intermission, the song is fast and heavy, then abruptly ends and goes into soft, clean guitars. There are no drums or vocals, just slow, floating guitars. The clean part itself is certainly atmospheric, but it does not belong at all. Right after it ends it goes back into almost completely-unrelated fast, thrashy action. There is no climax, high point to this song. It just goes and goes, the riffs continuously changing and never building, until the song ends. There is little passion or emotion in the entire song, and maybe the clean section was thrown in to help rectify that, but all it does to the song is make me have to dig out my mp3 player and fast-forward it.
The are other really shitty songs. The Drapery Falls is one of Opeth's most popular songs, and I honestly cannot see why. It seems like a rip-off of Bleak right from the start, and goes through plenty of clean to heavy changes to no effect. There is no reward, no emotional investment in the arduous journey through singing and growling, acoustic and heavily-distorted guitars. The song just inoffensively runs its course and fades away leaving me feeling slightly more bored than before. The next song, Dirge For November, is one of Opeth's worst songs. You can tell they tried REALLY hard to give it a really thick, crushing atmosphere of despair and desperation. At some points there are three or four guitars tracked over each other. The sadly hilarious result is a song devoid in atmosphere, yet no shortage of listening difficulty. The saddest, darkest parts of the song are the clean sections! Once the drums and distortion kicks in, the sadness drips away.
The remaining two tracks, The Funeral Portrait and Harvest are mediocre. There's not much to say about them. Harvest is at least consistent, and The Funeral Portrait has some pretty memorable riffs. There's nothing that really jumps out about these songs though, or really anything on the album. There's also a filler track towards the end that is one of Opeth's many throwaway tracks.
So when I say it's inoffensive, I mean it. There's little emotion or atmosphere, just some different riffs that flow in and out of each other, different unmemorable songs that start and end, and overall just an album you can put on if you want to go to sleep. It's not overly bad, it's just boring and mediocre. It had its good and bad moments but none of the good moments keep me coming back.
An oft-lauded masterpiece of modern music, Blackwater Park is the next great step in the evolution of heavy metal? Born of the blues and ganja smoke in the late 60’s by Black Sabbath, and streamlined and solidified into a more-than-legitimate music genre throughout the 70’s by Judas Priest, Motorhead, Black Sabbath once again and the progenitors of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, it seemed like metal music was going places. The following decades revolutionized how the world saw, listened to and interpreted heavy metal, as the had music split into dozens of subgenres, with bands as polarized as Riot, Kreator, Candlemass, Mayhem, Disembowelment, W.A.S.P., Death (and Black Sabbath, of course) all crusading for the good of the genre. Even the often downtrodden era of the 90’s and 00’s yielded countless inspirations and unique (for better or for worse) releases. But here it is, 2010, and all I am really looking forward to is the next Black Sabbath album, dammit.
But for now, we have Opeth. Oh joy.
I find it greatly difficult to express my opinions regarding this band. For months, I constantly flip-flopped on my stance, originally thinking “this is just as lame as the Internet told me it was,” before moving towards the idea that “you know, this really isn’t all that bad and offensive,” until I decided once more “this shit sucks. Hard.” So after this long history of indecision, I’ve finally settled down and come to the conclusion that Opeth merely plays repetitive, inoffensive, boring, meandering music that, by some miraculous stroke of luck, somehow became idolized and worshipped by the mainstream metal media worldwide. Yes, ask any average (presumably young and not entirely experienced) metalhead about Opeth, and you’ll need to duck from the waves of saliva and semen that will invariably expel from various orifices at a frightening rate. The vast amount of praise bestowed on vocalist/guitarist/principal songwriter Mikael Åkerfeldt and company would lead someone who knows nothing about metal music to believe that they have written nine (and counting) metal masterpieces, dripping with “emotion,” “atmosphere,” and “progressive” touches.
The band is touted by its annoying fans as “Progressive Swedish Death Metal.” The progressive aspect of Opeth is a tad bit debatable, however. Because of their convoluted song structure’s, the band received the tag not so much because their music is legitimately progressive, but because they write very long songs, that contain both death growls and clean singing *gasp!!*. Anybody can write long songs in this vein, but it takes to talent to write a good short song, and even more to stretch it out to the lengths of these songs and maintain interest. And considering the many great bands spawned by the Swedish death metal movement, Opeth is easily the single worst band to come from it, merely for the fact that they do not play death metal whatsoever. Yes, Mikael Åkerfeldt growls deeply, but plays nary a death metal riff, only slow, samey-sounding metal riffs of an unclassifiable genre. Let’s call it “progressive,” shall we? The tempo of the music rarely ever rises above a casual rhythm, and drummer Martin Lopez never plays a blastbeat, or even plays fast at all, aside from a few quick bass-drum segments. As far as the listener will be able to tell, guitarist Peter Lindgren offers fairly little to Opeth’s sound, even though it’s quite possible his presence is the only thing keeping them from descending into a torrent of musical suckage. Martin Mendez’s bass has been very enjoyable on past albums, but here his contributions are sadly buried by guitars hardly worth highlighting at all.
Opeth’s fifth effort, the charmingly named Blackwater Park, is quite representative of the band as a whole. The album is 70+ minutes long, with most songs ranging from 7 to 11 minutes in length, while a few others are relegated to the expected level of “2 minute acoustic interlude, just to shake things up.” Each song showcases a variety of vastly different segments; this would normally be impressive, except the band paid no attention to how these sections transition between each other, or whether they even sound good whatsoever when they are juxtaposed next to an entirely different-sounding part of the song. This is the downfall of Opeth: for the most part, they just don’t really pay attention while writing their songs. It’s like they wrote 2 minute intros for 35 different metal songs. Some consist of distortion and riffage played in a monotonous yet somehow enjoyable fashion, accompanied by Åkerfeldt s growled vocals; some are built from acoustic guitar noodling and clean singing. Yet others consist of piano, and even other contain both acoustic and electric guitars at once, and may include clean vocals instead of death growls during the “metal” parts. Some of the segments may feature guitar solos, which throughout Opeth’s career, are pretty much just “there:” meaning enjoyable while being played, but without being particularly noticeable or integral to the songs when they finish. But despite how nice these individual parts are, they are still just intros to songs, and nothing more. They must be expanded upon and taken to its logical conclusion while maintain variety, yet never overwhelming the listener. But rather than expand upon what they already wrote, Opeth simply took these 35 intros and slapped them together in 8 songs.
This is a bit of a hyperbole, of course, as the band clearly paid some attention to how the album’s individual moments flowed, but only to the point that they never sounded jarring and outright wrong. However, the transitions still do sound awkward and confuse the listener. The first few songs manage to be strong and, rather surprisingly, memorable to a degree, but these feelings never grow any stronger as the album goes on. “The Leper Affinity” has that one good riff in the beginning, but the song just goes through the motions without accomplishing much. There is a guitar solo at some point, as well as an acoustic part. The vocals are harsh for a bit, and then go soft and delicate later on (really, however great Åkerfeldt’s singing voice is, it is quite emasculated), before switching once more. The metal comes back again, and then gives in to a piano piece at the end. However bland that description of the music is, it is all that can really be said about it. When the song ends after 10 minutes of trying to decide where to go, it hasn’t accomplished much, other than to demonstrate the band members smoke too much weed and are unsure how to properly end a song.
The one-two crotch-shot that is “The Drapery Falls” and “Dirge for November” best displays why this band is looked down upon by a minority of the metal scene. By the time you’re halfway into the former, you’ve already forgotten everything that already happened in the song. At 5:50, the band introduces some of the worst riffing I’ve ever seen be taken seriously by anyone: it sounds off-kilter, trying far too hard to be “progressive” and “unique,” and it is just flat-out not enjoyable to listen to. A few minutes of nothing of particular importance later, Opeth display’s their weak grasp on what constitutes musical progression. They switch to acoustic, folky guitars, complete with soft singing, but before the listener can even wrap his head around what just happened, the band blasts into about 7 seconds of chaotic, metallic nonsense. The guitars then drop out again, but just as the listener is trying to relax and absorb the calming atmosphere of the music, it is ruined once again by a fast metal part that isn’t even good in the first place.
I make it sound like this album is painfully bland and never pleasurable to hear, but this is thankfully not true. “The Funeral Portrait” is easily one of the best songs both on the album and in Opeth’s spotty discography. It opens with one of the fewmoments on the album worthy of headbanging, contrasting simultaneously with some interesting sounding acoustic parts. This is followed by an excellent (!) Celtic Frost-esque passage, all wrapped up on Opeth’s own unique, silly take on progressive metal. The band steadily moves forward without ever looking back, and I can’t help but wonder why they don’t always sound as good as this. Well, at least as good as it sounds until 3:50, where I suppose the band felt that if they played a song for more than 4 minutes without introducing a massive shift in dynamics, they would no longer be taken seriously by their high-minded, snobbish fans. So they do introduce a quiet part, and once again, it is quite unnecessary. It wouldn’t even be so bad if the band stuck around to develop it, but they abandon the acoustics after 10 seconds or so before returning to the metal. At this point, I am always quite baffled, wondering why they even felt the need to stick a folky part in the song if they weren’t even going to use it for more than a few moments; it’s like they put it in there solely to aggravate me. But the following guitar solo is more noticeable than usual, and thankfully the Celtic Frostian riffs return as well. Several clean singing and bland guitar noodling parts later, there’s another good solo and the song ends without feeling several minutes longer than it actually is.
Opeth is an enigma in the metal scene. They play long, lavishly constructed songs that somehow manage to accomplish little, despite the band member’s obvious talent and prowess with their instruments. They have become astoundingly popular worldwide, and developed one of the most rabid and irritating fan bases ever. By most standards I should hate music that eschews the massively important concept of songwriting so casually, but Opeth has a bizarre, charming quality about them that keeps me coming back for more. However mediocre the band is, I will say that I’ve listened to them more often than I would care to admit. Something about Opeth can bring me back every once in a while, but Blackwater Park is usually not the album to do it (the band’s debut, Orchid, will normally hold that title). This is an album meant to be listened to alone, while in a muted and bland sort of mood: neither happy nor sad. The third song, “Harvest,” a six minute all-acoustic track, best exemplifies this atmosphere, and manages to be a decent song in and of itself. “Bleak,” “The Funeral Portrait,” the opener and the particularly great closing title track “Blackwater Park” are all good, mostly memorable songs. But Opeth has never known when their formula has gone too far, and cutting down (or perhaps removing altogether) “The Drapery Falls,” “Dirge for November” and the interlude “Patterns in the Ivy” would’ve been beneficial to the album’s pacing. Ever since the quality of Opeth’s music declined after their third effort My Arms, Your Hearse, I suppose nobody should expect much more of the band but nice, boring music: mildly pleasing to play while driving on dreary autumn days or while trying to fall asleep, but little times else.
And now I could drink HOT MILK!
Blackwater Park is one of the more well-know Opeth albums. Now, what exactly does that mean, I would have to ask myself (after stroking my long, Opethian beard)? This means that Blackwater Park has sold more units than some of their other albums as, you know, Opeth’s albums I’ve heard are all exactly the same. It’s a funny thing with Opeth; their own fans (at their most stereotypical) may find it hard to decipher the differences between an AC/DC or Motörhead album. Me, a fan of both AC/DC and Motörhead, can’t discern any real difference between Opeth albums. Sure, there’s that one where they played a softer style – but does less ‘heavy’ Opeth (as opposed to clean Opeth) sections actually make any real difference? That would surely mean their ‘heavy’ sections would have had to have accomplished something different in terms of mood or feel, right? Of course, there’s no real difference in any of the Opeth I’ve heard (four albums, apparently… four fucking Opeth albums, yikes). Dishwater grey, dull as it is dreary, modern progressive metal. It falls into all the traps of being unexciting, overlong, tedious, boring and any other extended list of words for being absolutely sleep inducing you’d care to mention. It’s like the worst of seventies progressive rock (Rick Wakeman’s King Arthur – On Ice, perhaps?) given a fancy new package and marketed to virginal twenty-something men with beards (that’s a tad unfair actually, some of the said twenty-somethings do have fat girlfriends with mothering breasts).
Still, it’s not like they professed to be anything other than this – it’s not a case of being deceived by cover art or anything of that sort. The cover art is English-summer grey and the album title itself is a combination of some humdrum things with an archaic, deep meaning obscured from mere mortals like myself. Still, I fell for it; a younger version of my current model contemplated whether or not this would be ‘my thing’ in a record shop that’s now long since closed its doors. Yes, I handed over my pocket money and was well into being initiated as an Opeth fan (though I was too young for the beard and fat girls were never my thing). Listen after tedious listen – I struggled with this drab album; quizzically wondering that there simply must be something to a band with such deep, introspective song titles like ‘When the Drapery Falls’ and a name which referenced books that I’d not read (either that or Opeth is Swedish for “How’s it hanging, Grandma?”). I could have kept on lying to myself, progressed (which is an apt word for a band who’ve done basically the same album over and over, and sold it as progressive, without the progress, of course…) with Opeth and soon I would have been part of the thousands hailing this as interesting. Yes, it could have been me, apart from the tiny, insignificant fact that I like rock ’n’ roll/heavy metal music in many of its forms; I still believe in an excitement, a fire, and a power in rock ’n’ roll (call me immature, I guess I am!) – and funnily enough, the autumnal, grey, hairy men of Opeth can’t really deliver that excitement. It should be offensive that they’ve not done anything to contribute to the music scene in which they thrive (barring one fact that I’ll touch upon). But it’s not – being offensive takes some effort and Opeth don’t really manage that. They’re excellent, tasteful musicians and their music is meticulously well-played; but as such seasoned players this doesn’t take much effort. Their compositions are tiresome but not as ham-fisted in its construction as some might say, and though it’s often said that their acoustic sections do nothing in terms of the song, but that’s not really a valid criticism when considering that this is Opeth, and none of its parts really does anything. There is no effort; no one’s breaking a sweat and that’s probably the most offensive thing I can say about Opeth.
That said, I suppose some songs do almost stand-out; ‘Bleak’ for instance is somewhat catchy compared to the standard Opeth song – one can imagine it causing a mild-stir at an Opeth live gig (perhaps even moderate applause, but no cheering… this is art). Oh, that’s a fairly lively riff, too, I hope it stops soon as any more of this frantic excitement and my weak heart may give up. That’s much better; they’ve started with the ‘death metal’ vocals and now were back to the effeminate clean voice. Isn’t it worrying that the acoustic sections in this band are far more interesting than the metal sections? No, perhaps not, but it is worrying that the acoustic sections convey a lot more emotion than the metal sections… actually, wait, it’s not it’s Opeth – I’m not at all worried by anything. In fact, sometimes I wonder whether or not this album is actually playing and whether I’m actually sleeping through sort rather tame, uneventful dream about a band who convinced millions of people that the road of extreme boredom lead to the palace of fat girlfriends (it’s okay, though, her breasts are huge).
Hmmm, if this is considered interesting then would any Opeth fans reading care to fund the publishing of latest novel? Well, let’s try. Here’s a brief taster of Love through the Bathroom Wall by EJ Thribb (which is the name I shall publish myself under):
…Sarah was most anxiously awaiting the arrival of her eccentric, artistic boyfriend, Morris E. Smith. Morris E. had recently been cured of his most forward eccentricities via electro-shock treatment and ever since then they had been going steady. Yes reader, it could well be love between the two. But, of course, this love was not without its challenges – Sarah’s flatmate Rachel was secretly jealous of her hunky boyfriend and whilst Sarah was preparing for her and Morris E. Smith’s date she locked her in the bathroom. When Morris arrived she said that Sarah had been taken ill with TB and as such she was to accompany him this evening. Morris was disappointed but at least he had Rachel to keep him company.
Weeks passed and Sarah had to sustain herself on toilet roll and shampoo/conditioner; a meagre diet if there ever was one. Morris – whom I should mention works, as a window cleaner – happened to be cleaning the flat adjacent to Sarah’s. Realising her only chance Sarah quickly opened the window and beckoned to her lover. Morris couldn’t believe it! “Tell me it is not you!?” He cried. And quickly he set his ladder up against her wall and climbed it, embracing Sarah. “Oh, darling! These two weeks I’ve spent locked in the toilet have only strengthened my love for you!” Any takers?
Well that padded out this review nicely, much like Opeth have dragged out this album to excruciating long lengths. Guess I’m fighting fire with fire, huh?
Ok, I’ve had my fun (well, I did need something to keep myself entertained during this record). Anyway, Opeth aren’t a truly functionless band and I’ll give them their due credit for that – they act as a gateway into actually interesting bands. Read their lyrics, interviews and such, as Åkerfeldt and chums actually have good taste in music. The acoustic sections are often quite referential of Nick Drake or Comus; admittedly they aren’t nearly as strange as Comus and lack the fiery touch of Drake (note: Drake isn’t all that fiery – it’s just Opeth are all that lukewarm). So I think you should check those out. This reasons me to believe Opeth are men of some conscious – they know all too well that they’ve fooled people into parting with their cash and as such believe they should give them at least something for it. They’re giving you something for listening to nothing, how quaint!
Well, there you go Opeth: a complete non-entity (well, from Still Life to Damnation, at least, I’m sure their other works are vastly superior if that means anything). Still, whatever effort Opeth do put into composition or variation is ultimately useless as whatever life or effort they put into their music is sucked out by their delivery – it’s just banal. Yawn, I’m ready to go back to bed. Goodnight Opeth, you heavy metal Horlicks, you.
It disappoints me that anybody would give this album a bad review. But alas, sometimes the light in such amazing works are overlooked. This album is my personal favorite Opeth release, and displays a huge mastery of musicianship. Opeth managed to take control of their instruments and give birth to flowing, depressive, reverent music. The music in here goes beyond following timing, notes, keys, and flow. When writing the music, it seems as though all those elements were disregarded, and Mikael just allowed for beautiful music to flow out of his mind that reflected true beauty. Some people say metal can’t be pretty. Well, lets be honest, yes it can and this album proves it. The music in here does so much for the listener, you can either get caught up in the brutality of such songs as Blackwater Park and The Funeral Portrait, relax to the ambient masterpieces such as Harvest and Bleak, or gaze into the sorrow that exists in your heart through the depressive masterpieces such as Dirge for November. For sure nobody can listen to this album and not feel some sort of mood instilled in their mind. This album can also be listened to at any time of day or in any situation, personally I enjoy listening to it before I go to sleep. The beauty of the music allows me to forget every worry I have and just gaze into reverie.
As I said before, this music does not reflect the technical corner of music playing. Mikael and friends have clearly mastered every aspect of music writing and performing that they are able to conceive beautiful soundscapes in which every instrument works together in perfect harmony. Mikael must have invented his own chords while working on this album, because many of the chords are very exotic and not commonly used. Though the solos are short and there are not a lot of them, every time there is a solo it is placed just in the right spot and sparks just the right mood. The transitions in the album are perfect, and Mikael showed he really knows how to move into one idea to the next without making it sound random. It just flows perfectly from section to section. One section in the song will sound completely different from another part but when leading from one part to the other you would not notice the change due to the great flow.
The bass is very audible and actually displays some great feel. Martin knows his place in the band and keeps the groove and feel going. The drums do not receive a perfect score because even though Lopez is a master who can play 5 things at once on the drums, I still wait for him to take over and show his skill, but it never really happens. However the timing and fills are excellent. The piano playing is beautiful, especially at the end of The Leper Affinity. However it is quite slow in Patterns in the ivy. However it still captures the listener’s attention and reflects a sorrowful yet beautiful sound.
The vocals on this album are incredible. Mikael has mastered growling and has a beautiful voice. Just listen to the clean vocals in Leper Affinity when he sings “You sighted and let me in.” Every time he hits the note on Sighted, a chill runs through my spine. He continues to put so much emotion into his singing, and it really is something you must hear. The harsh vocals are loud and brutal. They rest softly on top of the music yet every word is pushed out hard and it is rather brutal actually.
The two best tracks are Blackwater Park and Dirge for November. Dirge for November starts off a bit awkward but very emotional. Then a relaxing guitar duet finds its way in there. Soon the distorted guitars are playing some cool moody chords and then the good part hits. The vocals come in with a very minor dark mood to them. You can almost picture Satan having his way during the vocal lines. There is a very red, bloody evil mood the main section of this song, but soon the clean guitar comes and slowly fades out with one of the most beautiful, depressive soundscapes I have ever heard. Blackwater Park closes the album with a bang. The opening is just evil and bouncy. The vocals are there for a little bit but an acoustic soundscape intervenes. It is very relaxing and you would never expect what will happen next to happen. Soon the whole band comes back in and the next 4 or 5 minutes of the song, which leads to the end, are the most evil, brutal, and well written moments in metal history. The song keeps getting louder and faster and the vocals drive a powerful message and then the song has built to the peak and soon a quiet acoustic line has come out of nowhere and it quickly fades out, leaving the listener speechless.
Would I recommend this album? No duh. This is my favorite album I have heard yet. People who dislike it should give it another chance and sit down with nothing else going on and truly absorb the amazing music it has to offer. I can guarantee you will have trouble finding another album with the same impact as this one. Before you buy this album, I suggest checking out the song Bleak, it is a good intro to what this album is like, and contains every element of the album. The rest of the album focuses on more distinct moods and styles, and is worth waiting to listen to. I suggest if you buy this album to sit down and relax with nothing else going on and listening to it start to finish, and you will be shocked.
When Opeth released the stunning and beautiful "Still Life", expectations for the band had arguably reached their peak. After all, it would be extremely difficult to match gems such as "Serenity Painted Death", and "Face Of Melinda". Opeth, I am happy to say, shattered those expectations beyond belief. This is an album whose musicality cannot be matched. Whether it's the crushing progressive riffs of songs like "The Leper Affinity", "Blackwater Park" and "The Funeral Portrait", or the acoustic softness of "Harvest" and "Patterns In The Ivy" (which has a wonderful piano mixed into the song), this album will be sure to please almost anyone who listens to it. I highly recommend this album to an aspiring Opeth fan, or just about anyone (providing they can look past Mikael Akerfeldt's frightening growls).
While the above-mentioned songs are amazing, I must describe the remaining three songs with more depth. "Bleak" is my all-time favorite Opeth song, and justifiably so. Beginning with a very strong chord and continuing in that memorable riff, followed by Mike's growls, it hooked me from the very beginning. The best part however, has to be the cleanly-sung chorus (performed by Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson). The acoustic middle of the song, with Mike's clean vocals, definitely made this song a highlight.
"The Drapery Falls" is (not surprisingly) a fan favorite, and will continue to be for a very long time, if not forever. The acoustic guitar gives way to a very nice opening riff, segueing into more acoustic guitar with clean vocals, before being trampled underfoot by a bombastic chorus which made goosebumps appear on my skin. "Dirge For November" is equally brilliant, following the same formula and song structure as many of their songs. Soft opening, hard riffs, and ending with a piano/guitar medley. While some see this as Opeth's weakness, I myself am constantly amazed at how they can take the same formula and make it sound fresh and exciting every single time.
Equally as important as the music are those who perform it. As I have already stated, Mikael Akerfeldt's harsh vocals are very scary (in good way of course). Even before Blackwater Park, he had established himself as one of the best vocalists in metal. It's no wonder Bloodbath asked him to return after Peter Tagtgren left. He is a very able singer as well. The clean vocals are very soothing and add a level of atmosphere and sensitivity that help solidify Opeth's reputation. The dual guitar work of Mike and Peter Lindgren is always impressive, as they churn out riffs and solos like nobody's business. Martin Lopez is great as always behind the kit. He definitely keeps pace with the guitarists and he adds complxity and even more sophistication. Martin Mendez is also impressive on bass.
The above review can be used to describe almost any Opeth album, but it is on Blackwater Park where all these qualities are at their best. It is album where their ambitions have only begun to be realized, and will make for nothing short of an electrifying listening experience.
Highlights: Bleak, The Drapery Falls, Dirge For November.
Generally hailed as Opeth's masterpiece, “Blackwater Park” stands still as one of the most important prog metal records ever released. Well, while “Blackwater Park” certainly is a pretty good album, it can't be considered as an essential prog metal album: Opeth made much better records than this one, I'm pretty sure of that. Albums like “Deliverance”, “Ghost Reveries” or “Watershed” are so much better than this one, we can't even compare them with “Blackwater”, at least in my opinion...
Maybe because I'm a drummer, I consider the poor drumming of this album one of the reasons why I prefer other Opeth records instead of this one. Martin Lopez is an awesome drummer, very creative and original, but until “Deliverance” was released, his performances were just... average. While I'm listening to “Bleak” I can't help but think that it would sound much better with improved drumming. Lopez can play almost everything and it's really sad to see such an album ruined by the mediocre drumming.
I also have serious problems with the guitar work of this album. While there are lots of good riffs and intrumental passages to be found on this record, the guitars sound too... soft, even when heavy riffs are played. I don't know, but the production doesn't fit that well with the music: thanks to it, the album has a strange 'warm' feel and songs like “Leper Affinity”or the title track lose their aggressive edge. On other hand, the calm sections sound amazing, the production giving to them a very cohesive feel: “Harvest”, the third track, is an example, with the moody, soft guitar lines sounding amazingly well.
The structures of the songs are all pretty damn complex, though. All the tunes contain many different movements and sections, and there are lots of elements to be found on may tunes. “Bleak” is an example, containing an aggressive first section, which leads us to a very prog rock-influenced bridge, where Steven Wilson's vocals are used. And there's a reason why Steven was chosen to perform some clean vocals on this song: at this time, Mikael Akerfeldt wasn't the brilliant clean vocalist he is today and, as a result, his calm singing isn't that used throughout the album. If we compare it to “Ghost Reveries”, we'll conclude that, on the latter, the clean vocals are much more used. The growls are as ferocious as ever, though: I always enjoyed Mikael's growls and they sound great on “Blackwater Park”.
Speaking of highlights, the best song possibly is the underrated “Dirge for November”: it contains a calm intro, a fairly heavy middle section and a repetitive but awesome outro: it kind of hypnotized me the first time I heard it. “Lepper Affinity” is also a very good song, even though, as I've already said, it would sound much better with an improved production. Its outro is particularly good and this song probably is the first tune Opeth ever composed containing some piano lines. “Harvest” is also worth mentioning, an upligting mellow piece, filled with some tasteful clean guitar lines and pleasant singing. “The Drapery Falls” is just an average track, the same thing going for “Bleak”. Unfortunately, “Funeral Portrait” is a bit on the forgettable side though, and the title track is also very average. I was expecting it to be the pinnacle of Opeth's career, because it is generally regarded as one of the best songs this band ever recorded, but, hey, I can't help but think that it is terribly overrated. The crescendo that opens the song works fairly well, but when the first heavy riff kicks in, I immediately knew that something was wrong. That riff should have been played much much faster, it is played way too slowly, in my opinion. The acoustic parts are also pretty long on this tune, but they aren't that great either. I really love the last two minutes of it though, they sound really... 'epic', so to speak. Finally, “Patterns in the Ivy” is a small instrumental, which works relatively well, building the atmosphere for the the title track.
Conclusion: this album is terribly overrated but still very enjoyable. It's a good album to begin with if you want to know Opeth.. “Ghost Reveries” is much much better than this piece, though, so be warned: this is NOT, by any means, the pinnacle of Opeth's career. Highlights: “Dirge for November”, “Leper Affinity”.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the outros of “Leper Affinity” and “Dirge for November”.
Thye first 30-odd seconds of Opeth's Blackwater Park aren't a riff, a solo, not even a vocal line. It's a single sound that builds up right before it bursts into an energetic, incredibly heavy song that sets the stage for one of Opeth's finest listening experiences. This progressive outfit has pumped out very high-quality extreme progressive metal albums like Still Life and My Arms, Your Hearse, and Blackwater Park is no different – a very high-quality extreme progressive metal album.
The first thing you'll notice when you listen to Blackwater Park is that the sound is much better than that of previous albums. No longer do you hear any channel drop-outs or inaudible bass lines – the sound in Blackwater Park is superb through and through, and that's not only in terms of technical quality of mixing and mastering, it's also about the soundscape of the music itself. With the help of Porcupine Tree leader Steven Wilson (who contributes production, backup vocals and even some solos), Opeth displays here some of its aurally-finest tunes ever, with a lot of great backup vocals, unique sounds and some grand piano played for extra emotion. Beyond the clear sound of the album, the MUSIC is rich in atmosphere and variety.
You'll hear some great touches in the music here. "Bleak" has a slightly Arabian feel to it that changes into an stunning segment that shows off Opeth's talent in creating seamless transitions between heavy playing and soft, soothing singing in large thanks to Mikael Åkerfeldt's beautiful voice. "The Drapery Falls", another album highlight, contains only clean vocals for about four minutes before erupting into an evil rush that introduces us to a passage of weird drums and guitars that are truly psychedelic. "The Funeral Portrait" has Åkerfeldt and Lidgren switching roles soloing, "Harvest" is probably the band's best, most melodic effort to the point of the album's release and album closer, "Blackwater Park", continues Bleak's middle-eastern theme and closes the album in an all-heavy, no-clean-vocals burst of energy and makes the experience go out with a bang.
As good as all the songs are, there is one song that's worthy of special mention. This song is "The Leper Affinity". The opening track of an album must do a good job of capturing the listener's attention and setting the stage for the rest of the album, and that's exactly what Leper does. It's built of amazingly heavy riffs and a lot of transitions, and it seems to flow better than just about any other Opeth song to date. What's extra impressive is the lyrical idea, which handles murder, love, death and love-making. Quite a poetic effort made all the more awesome thanks to excellent instrumentation.
So yes, Blackwater Park has everything an Opeth fan could ask for – highly progressive songs with excellent riffs and solos, audible bass and of course, amazing drumming in the hands of Martin Lopez. It does have its week points, namely an unnecessary instrumental bit and a slightly stretched-out tune called "Dirge for November". Dirge is unfortunate because up until its very end, it's a very impressive song, but it seems Åkerfeldt took it too far expending the song. Two minutes shorter and it could have been a real classic.
If you're a fan of Opeth or progressive metal at all, then by all means buy Blackwater Park. Mikael Åkerfeldt's amazing songwriting abilities and technical execution, both mellow and extreme, are at their finest here, and while it might not be as good as Still Life, it comes very, very close to it. Two thumbs up to Opeth for pumping out another amazing record.
Reviewing an Opeth album is a challenging task because all Opeth albums (discluding Damnation) suffer from the same weaknesses and excel from the same strengths. Blackwater Park, the first and most conventional of the three Steven Wilson-produced Opeth records, is a compelling listen because it sports the same strengths that all other Opeth albums have but also expands upon them.
The production here is the best the band has ever seen. The guitar riffs are still muddy and the acoustics are still a little thin, but the output’s atmosphere has been enhanced tremendously by Wilson, who also contributes piano, keyboard, and vocal parts to the record. Each element that he adds to the album’s final product is subtle, but relevant, and greatly broadens the breadth of Blackwater Park’s thick, kinetic tone.
Mikael Akerfeldt’s vocals on the recording are consistently excellent. While Akerfeldt has always shown a penchant for marrying the ugly and the beautiful, Blackwater Park sees the band’s frontman captivating the listener like never before. His clean vocals in the middle of “Bleak” are a major player in what is perhaps the band’s best melodic middle section, and his cries throughout “Harvest” are lovely and endearing. Not much needs to be said pertaining to Akerfeldt’s growls, which are deep and forceful here just as they were on Still Life.
Opener “The Lepper Affinity” is the best song on the album, its endless spurts of riffage somehow finding a way to stay interesting despite the fact that the song is a couple of minutes too long. “The Funeral Portrait” is another personal favorite, the composition boasting less ideas than your average Opeth sledge and instead opting to revolve around a narrower, more focused blueprint.
Blackwater Park’s most prominent flaw is that each song on the album has detrimental qualities. No track on the record (save for “Patterns in the Ivy”, but that one’s real short) is without one too many riffs or vocal passages, the most egregious supporter of my argument being the disc’s title track which wastes three minutes during its first half repeating a quiet guitar theme before trying to redeem itself by getting all heavy again.
The combined length of the songs on the record is another one of the album’s downfalls. I’m all for long compositions, but when nearly every track clocks in at around ten minutes, listening to the disc in one sitting is nearly impossible. Often Blackwater Park makes me want to skip certain tracks or forward through certain sections entirely, which isn’t an admirable quality. I am of the firm belief that no parts of an album should need to be skipped to be liked; rather, a work should be able to be appreciated in its whole form as opposed to the dissolution of its parts.
What we have here is the type of CD that resonates with the listener despite the fact that he might not wholeheartedly accept it at first. It took many listens for me to appreciate Blackwater Park, and even more listens to enjoy it. The album is a notable effort from one of metal’s most loved (or hated) acts that showcases them at the height of their powers. It is both a logical introduction to the Opeth brand as well as a prominent addition to their discography.
© Kevin Martell (TheOutlawXanadu)
Blackwater Park tends to be the "jumping-off" point for people interested in checking out Opeth's music. Basically this album is one that will make or break one's desire to hear the band, and for good reason: it contains some of their best but most progressive works. Many tend to be driven off by the long, meandering passages, while others are enchanted by them. Nevertheless, Blackwater Park contains a lot of Opeth classics, and does give a good representation of their overall sound. It is, for the most part, a logical evolution from their previous works My Arms Your Hearse and Still Life. It also incorporates a few elements heard on their later albums such as Deliverance, and thus is a good bridge between their older classics and newer work.
The majority of the songs on Blackwater Park blend together heavy death metal sections with progressive and acoustic sections. Songs such as The Drapery Falls and Bleak accomplish this quite well, really giving the listener a taste of the complexity and intrigue of the songs. Clean and death vocals are used in equal measure, and fierce death metal riffs fade into melodic passages to accompany them. You can note the changes in rhythm and texture are quite contrasting, though they still manage to hold together the song's overall atmosphere. This is different from their earlier album Morningrise, where the shifts in song structure were so complete that many times you would think you were listening to an entirely different song (Black Rose Immortal from that album can almost be 3-4 separate songs in my opinion). Heavier songs like The Leper Affinity and The Funeral Portrait give you a decent dose of death (albeit more repetitive than most dynamic death metal bands). Harvest and Patterns in the Ivy are entirely melodic, which are great for when you're in a different mood. Finally, the esoteric Blackwater Park gives you more of the complex style, while also hinting at a few rhythm and atmospheric elements that would appear in their later albums.
If one wants to try Opeth, Blackwater Park is the album to do so. It includes a good sample of all their works, prior and future to this one's publication. It also includes a lot of their classics. I rate this as one of their best, and definitely recommend it. If you don't like this one, chances are you won't like any of Opeth's work.
The fact that this is probably my favorite Opeth album they've released to date doesn't really compensate for the fact they they are one of the most boring progressive metal bands to date. And I don't mean 7-minutes-of-improv-and-solo Dream Theater-esque boring, either. What I mean is that almost every song is at least 60% filler; i.e., the same riff being repeated for much too long at a time with hardly ANY variation, at all.
But let's attempt to focus on the positives. The drumming's quite nice, and not that bad when you actually decide to focus upon it. The group's guitar-playing isn't very exquisite [I'm guessing that Ã…kerfeldt's vocals & guitar combo contributes to that], but they are good enough. Ã…kerfeldt's vocals are actually very good, especially on this album. Unlike most clean male vocals in metal, his pitch is mainly at the median, and still has power behind it. Needless to say, he's one of the best clean male vocalists in my own opinion. However, his guteral vocals -- at least Blackwater Park-era -- are quite giggle-worthy.
As for the songs, "Harvest" is the high point of the album, a very enjoyable song with some interesting lyrics and clean-sounding guitars. Below that, I would rank "The Drapery Falls" which is a great song tainted by repetitive [although good] riffs and the irritating second-half full of Ã…kerfeldt's growling/grunting and lack of conscious melody.
The rest of the songs really fall into eachother, hardly differing from eachother to the point of just melting together to the point of when the dreaded "What's this song called again...? No, that's the title of track 3, isn't it?" syndrome goes into effect.
All in all, it's half-amusing with a few good tracks, but Opeth definitely falls into the shallow end of the prog-metal gene pool. It's can be a greatly enjoyable listen once in a while. But if you're looking for something complex, thought-provoking, and/or attention-grabbing... I advice you to save your money, and distance yourself from this band.
I remember it was a cold and long winter, it was raining outside almost all the time and I just discovered this album at the same time, at the right time I guess. Actually I bought this album in the end of the summer, but I knew it will be better for me to wait until winter arrives, and then to get into this album which only by his cover I could tell, will suits the winter as the moon suits the night. It's a brilliant mix of death metal and progressive rock, and it has a unique melancholic atmosphere which makes this album sounds much different than anything else out there. And no, I ain't talking about the poor emo trend which spreading like a disease on our days...hell not! Here it isn't a fake pose of some depressed teenagers or the usual sense you get from typical thrash/speed/heavy/death metal, here it's a real emotion which makes you feel something else than headbanging or moshing. The music here takes you to another places in your mind, makes you feel something brilliant and sweeping, a rare shivers from musical excitement in your back, a feeling that you and the music isolated together in an imaginative place in the other side of the world. Damn it, who the hell needs LSD when you got such exciting experience in a simple CD?
Now let me talk in a less emotional way, and talk about the music itself, in a more technical way. First of all, the production [by Steve Wilson and the band] is perfect.
The guitars sounds deep and bright. It sounds clear even when it distorted and it doesn't loosing strength and just sounds flawless but still internalized. The acoustic guitars sounds incredible. Clean and precise, pleasant as a fragile wind and even hypnotizing sometimes. The bass is dominant and intense, it doesn't blends beneath the guitars. The drums are overwhelming too, but the drumming isn't an extreme one as in typical death metal. It's a bit more mid-paced and it isn't brutal or something close to it...which is a positive thing of course, as Opeth's music isn't sounds like by the book death metal. The vocals (by Mikael Åkerfeldt) are amazing and outstanding. 'Åkerfeldt' sings low and harsh growls when it's the more death metal part of the music, and he sings also clean and melodic when it's in the softer tracks or parts of the album. He doesn't sings on high notes like a typical power metal vocalist, he has style much different than this. He usually sings in a calmly way and he has a very soft voice when he sings like that and he relaxing you and completely changes the mood of the song .
The songwriting here is topnotched. There are a lot interesting passages from heavy mood to melodic mood, a lot memorable melodies (especially in the pacific 'Harvest' and in the unparalleled 'Bleak' which sounds just perfect) and astonishing emotional lead guitars which makes you feel a musical orgasm. There are 8 tracks which clocks at 67 minutes, which means that the average length of each track is 8 minutes, and believe me that they aren't a tiresome tracks. Each song develops a lot and doesn't has the normal formula of the verse-chorus song [except the third track, and it doesn't means that it's a bad track]. It's actually a highly varied album which keeps on unique atmosphere and interest for each moment. There are also some keyboards here and there which keeps the melancholic mood of this album, listen to the perfect ending in 'The Leper Affinity' with the piano, it's just sounds excellent.
So, is it a masterpiece? yes. Is it a varied album? definitely yes. Is it REALLY deserves 100? Absolutely, it deserves much more than 100, it deserves your attention and money. Buy this album, you won't regret. Honestly, you won't like it at the first listening as in the fourth listening, but you won't like it in fourth listening as you'll like it in the tenth listening. The more you listen to it, the more you like it, exactly like that. And god forgive me than I mentioned the hollow emo fashion in a Blackwater Park review...
The construction of a typical Opeth song is really based on guitar riffs. But rather than a lone powerhouse driving the song, guitarist/singer Mikael Akerfeldt weaves together many intricate passages with lightly distorted guitars. When all these pieces are put together it forms a singularity of massive scope. The guitars don't churn or burn, they don't spew or chug, they grind and slide, they swirl and dig. The overtones present in any massive moment are incredible and genuinely melodic.
This band really knows how to create harmonic tension. The very first licks in the opening track The Leper Affinity starts with a middle E5 and then the same chord with a flat 9. This is followed immediately by some descending stacked minor thirds, and then quick chugging on the low E. And as it goes along, more guitars are added to the mix. Often Akerfeldt puts near identical passages on top of each other. It isn't like double tracking because the differences are too great. The effect is something akin to being just out side the eye of a hurricane. There are so many little pieces flying by, that you can only catch some at a time. It takes some skill to hear everything all at once.
The transitions are incredible. This is an area that so many have trouble with. Going from one riff to another is something Opeth elevates to an art. It would be easy for me to fall into more music-geek traps and detail my favorite of said passages but it is entirely unnecessary. I will tell you that the coolest thing is hearing this band transform instantly from a seemingly dissonant, grinding chaos, to a full-on Odysseus. Dark clouds seam a distant memory in place where giant power-chords and soaring vocals have the power to lift you up so high. One particularly great example is on The Drapery Falls when everything seams so together you can't help but move. Your head will bob, your fist will be raised, and you won't know these things are going on. You have no control. But it is a very shaky place to be in, as "Leper" proves going into a double grind that increases in power up until the very end. The things you will least expect are when all the instruments drop out entirely and a tender acoustic guitar will play delicate passages like a light breeze across your face. By the time you acclimate to the situation it has changed. Opeth always keeps you guessing. At times a song doesn't even sound like itself. There even a few tunes into which musical brutality doesn't enter. Harvest, Patterns in Ivy, Dirge for November, all flow brilliantly with a tonal purity that you just can't be expecting. "Patterns in Ivy" is especially surprising because it fades into the immense darkness of the album's title song. "Dirge's" delicate hollowbody electric figures sound so mellow and wide-ranging acoustic chords cast a spell. "Dirge" isn't entirely acoustic but the difference in sections is so pronounced that the two sections might as well be different songs. The electric section is equally lovely.
No one can get out of a review of this record without talking about the vocals. They are mostly very harsh and deep, an intense growl devoid of melody, fairly typical death metal styled vocals (another review mentioned that they were typical of black metal. This is not true; black metal vocals are very high and screechy). This will bother many and unfortunately deter some. They do not bother me. I enjoy them and the lyrics, which are cryptic and sometimes clunky (the band is Swedish, but they sing in English). To those of you who cannot take this kind of voice, I offer this: stick it out and give it a chance. Try listening to it before you make a purchase to see if you can really handle it. Also keep in mind that Mikael Akerfeldt does all the vocals, even the impossibly high and soaring clean stuff that could impress a hardened voice instructor (I've seen it happen). Let it sink into you and cringe and run away. After a while you may not even notice that Mikael is singing in that voice. If you keep an open mind you may find yourself really enjoying this. Most people won't be immediately thrown off, and some who aren't fans of death metal will actually enjoy it.
There is really something special to be found here. This is a band being truly creative, taking risks with their music. It is too easy to stick to a tried-and-true formula. Opeth falter sometimes, but these occasions are over-shadowed b the immensity of their genius.
It was really hard to decide how much i liked this CD. I feel i have to be in a certain mood to really enjoy it, but there's never a time where i really hate it. There are a lot of people out there that are going to love this music, or hate this music. Myself, on the other hand, i find it somewhere in the above average category. Its somewhat great, but it does have its bad points. Sometimes, Opeth is just heavy as hell and banging out the low, creepy riffs, while other times theyre just going into a melodic breakdown of acoustic guitar and a crooning voice that you would never guess would come out of the vocalists mouth.
Pretty much every song does the "Opeth breakdown," and most of them contain the thrash-like riffs that are hard and kickass, with the death vocals that are quite excellent. I don't find this album very different than any others in terms of vocals, and guitar parts. I think speaking guitar-wise, this is probably the best of them, for i find that the melodic stuff is quite pretty and its really worth the time to listen to. The thing that was done the best on this album was the bass. Sometimes basses just aren't heard very much throughout albums, but Opeth is one of those bands that wants their beats heard. It works very nicely with the guitars, on all parts of the song. You wouldnt think of it, but it adds a lot to the album and the sound quality of each song.
One thing that you can expect from Opeth, is long songs. They are a band known for extremely long songs, that have many different beats hidden inside them. The longest track is somewhere around 13 minutes, but something i notice, is that the tracks don't grow old. They do enough switching of their stuff in one song that i find i can listen to the entire thing without ever being tempted to press the skip button and carry the CD to the next song.
All in all, if you can handle something that has just such an abundant load to offer, this is the CD for you. If youre looking for straight-up metal and nothing but that, don't get this CD because youll be too disappointed with all the acoustic parts they go into. Highlights are "The Leper Affinity," "The Drapery Falls," and "Patterns in the Ivy."
...give or take 5 from my final score if you like/hate Opeth.
I had intended to let others review more popular band’s albums until I decided to compare “Blackwater Park” to Esoteric’s SDitC as they have long songs but that’s where similarities end as Opeth are supposed to be a progressive melo-death band while Esoteric are an Atmospheric (in my opinion) Doom Metal band.
Now onto the music, sod everything else they did in their career because everyone and his motorbike has reviewed them, I’m concentrating on this release only.
When one listens to “The Leper Affinity” and a “heavy” mallcore song, the thing you’ll notice in repeated listens is that “The Leper Affinity” and the mallcore song have the same song structure, a la, heavy part of a song = harsh vocals, mellow part of same song = mellow, singing vocals, coincidence? Listen to Linkin Park and then listen to this song and you’ll know what I mean. In fact, throughout this album, this very formula is repeated apart from “Bleak” where you’ll get duo mellow vocals in some of the heavy sections before the eighth verse, “Harvest” which is an acoustic song all the way and “Patterns in the Ivy” which is an acoustic instrumental. Not very progressive, isn’t it?
It’s just mallcore with Heavy Guitar work that isn’t drowned in distortion but diluted enough to satisfy those who don’t know who sang in Iron Maiden before Bruce Dickinson but hate mallcore enough to search for heavier music.
Also, the heavy parts aren’t Death Metal at all; they sound Hard Rockish to diluted Heavy Metal guitar work. The Drumming also doesn’t make the grade in Death Metal as it’s been marketed as, one might feel ripped off if he gets into bands like Possessed, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Kreator, Slayer, Death et al after listening to Opeth for a number of years.
Of course, on one hand, the songs themselves are enjoyable but on the other, they don’t have the staying power in one’s list of favourites for long once you do dig deeper into the archives of metal (ha, ha). One of Opeth’s strengths though is vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt, who can growl but also sing in a clean voice with some conviction but he is held back by the material of his creation. He needs to create stronger, memorable, heavier material before the band can justify the “Progressive Death Metal” tag they received.
And what the hell is “3 Eggs”? Did the band run out of eggs for their toast before Markus Lindberg gave them some to crack? The world may never know…
Opeth is the best band on the face of the earth, and this is my favorite CD of theirs. To all who read this, carefully look at the reviewers who gave it bad ratings, and be absolutely sure to never EVER take anything those human beings say seriously in your entire life... but alas, this isn't about bashing, this is about reviewing, so it's time for me to tell you what makes this such an awesome CD:
Let's start off with the guitarwork - it's perfect. They're not obsessively shoving complex fast solos and leads into every minute of the album like some prog metal bands might (not that I'm against prog metal, I'm a big prog metal supporter). Rather, Mikael and Peter approach their guitars the way they SHOULD; with the idea of writing riffs that actually sound good, and fit the songs. There is great contrast with the heavy death/doom metal style riffs, and the beautifully written acoustic guitar parts which I think take a more active and important role in this album than their early work. Peter's soloing style is unique and awesome; he's a guitarist who can bring more power to a song by sustaining one note at the end of a lead for a period of time than some guitarists can do with the fastest of the fast shredding and sweeping etc. Another aspect that really draws me in personally is the way they sometimes have acoustic guitars playing at the same time as the heavy riffs, such as in "Bleak." One might think this would take the edge off of the heavy riffs, while in that song it actually has a very eerie, kind of dissonant tone that brings a whole new edge to the music. Everything the two of them do works perfectly for the songs, to give a very colorful, dark overall sound.
Now, I'm going to skip saying much about the bass and the drums; while I do know good bass and drums when I hear them, I wouldn't have the expertise in discussing such elements as my bandmates might. Plus those don't seem to be the focus of Opeth's music. So I'll go straight onto the vocals. Mikael Akerfeldt has one of the most powerful growls I've ever heard in metal; it's low, but not ridiculously low like silly Mortician-style nonsense. It's audible, it has a huge sound, and you can understand what he says for the most part. He adds appropriate echo to it in this recording as well, so that it doesn't cover anything up; just enhances the experience (I do the same thing when I record vocals). His singing voice is anything but whiny (despite other reviewers' opinions), with the exception of some parts of the beginning of "Dirge For November" - I suppose there's some slight whine in there. Nothing to stop me from thinking he's a great vocalist though. His vocal melodies are great... it's not easy to write vocal melodies, it's much easier to just do a lot of raspy voices and growls (which is probably why so many metal bands do nothing but that), and it's also easy just to sing every note that the guitar sings. But Mikael takes a more difficult process in order to create a more beautiful product. The acoustic-based song "Harvest" is a good example of well written vocal melody.
I'm excited for all their future albums, and I'm excited to go to my first Opeth show on 2/28/04! Hopefully won't be the last.
Well, I don't think any album is as love/hate as this one. People have given it 100, and then other people have given it nearly 0. No, this album isn't perfect in my opinion, but it is a great record and definitely deserves a hell of a lot more than zero.
Opeth has a very interesting and ranged sound. They skip from full-on acoustics to brutal death riffage at the drop of a hat. This album includes some of their coolest riffs and most melodic acoustics. This is probably their most accessible album, but most of their works are quite alike in style and format.
This album has all the typical Opeth ingredients. Great, heavy riffs power the songs along for the most part. The riffs themselves range from super heavy, to quick, to thrashy. There is plenty of lead guitar work thrown in as well. During the aggressive sections, gutteral death vocals are abundant. Every song has at least a couple slower, melodic sections where the vocalist switches over to very controlled and melodic clean vocals, which fit the acoustics perfectly.
The drumming is strong and controlled, alot of very active and interesting beats are played, along with full-on double kick assault during alot of the deathy passages. The bass is also expertly played, and is fairly audible throughout the album, especially on the slower passages, where it accompanies the acoustic guitars very nicely.
The songs themselves are long and drawn out, but never grow tedious. The shortest song on the album besides the small instrumental interlude, is six minutes, where the longest (the title track) clocks in at just over 12.
There's no typical verse/chorus arrangements here, everything is a complete progression, and each song is like a symphonic movement in the way it builds and progresses, travelling from hard to soft and back again.
There are some very non-metal elements in bascially every song, but the contrast works very well and makes this album great to listen to no matter what your mood. There are many headbanging moments, and many moments where you'll just want to close your eyes and feel the wonderfully picked acoustics.
This album is best listened to in an atmosphere where you can focus on it and experience the entire record as a whole.
All in all, a very nicely produced and strong sounding record that offers lots of variety.
Choice cuts: "The Leper Affinity," "The Funeral Portrait," and "Blackwater Park."
Opeth probably takes the "modern" approach to metal to one possible extreme... some features of modern metal include random death vocals that do not make sense with the music underneath, and just plain too many ideas thrown in that just don't make much sense. Also, interesting riffage takes a back seat to pseudo-random sounding guitar patterns that are far too repetitive. In order to make up for this, lots and lots of long passages are thrown in that do not join together well. The song structures just don't make any fucking sense, when all is said and done, really. Finally, this is definitely not death metal, no matter what someone may say. Most of this isn't even metal. Go ahead, tell me Harvest is metal. (It's a silly acoustic interlude that manages to be 6 minutes long, but contain about one minute worth of ideas!) Then do yourself a favour and listen to some Iron fucking Maiden or something.
First, we have The Leper Affinity. The guitar work is just plain lifeless. It has no edge to it - no ability to grab one emotionally in any way. It's just... kinda... there. Listen to the guitar meandering under the verse at, say, about 1.40 into the song. Or 1.20. Or 2.15 - it's the same thing still. Boring. There's a decent riff around 2.17 in, where it seems like the song starts to pick up, but the problem is, the riff is worked right into the ground. Over it is a solo that is decent but lacks definition - it's also just kinda "there". It's a nice solo, but just not a particularly interesting one. Finally, the same transition again at around 3.15 in.
This is at once an album that has not enough ideas, and too many of them. Yes that is possible. The same riff tends to weave together many passages, so that the song becomes boring - instead of changing nicely to other ideas, one gets abrupt changes. "Oh, we gotta throw in a silly acoustic interval here". For example, at 4:15 into the song. Another boring-ass solo. Then, some clean vocals that just don't do anything for me. If I wanted to listen to this, I'd get James Taylor. The clean vocals are awful - they're just too "nice". Things pick up a bit later, but one is left with the feeling of "what the fuck was that middle section for?" - and again, the same riffs are used again in the second half of the song. Oh and then there's a piano bit. Which genius came up with that one? Want to hear a GOOD piano part, listen to the intro to WASP "Thunderhead". Now THAT is emotional right there. This? Well, this one just ended and I can't remember it.
Well, there's one song dissected bit by bit. And it just does not hold up under analysis. It is just not INTERESTING. The rest of the album is just like that. It kinda sits there. This is not HEAVY FUCKING METAL the way it is supposed to be played - nothing comes out and screams "On your knees!! I want you on your knees!" like metal is supposed to do. Yes, I subscribe to some pretty old-fashioned metal ideas, that metal is supposed to be impressive and majestic and arouse me into battle frenzy. Not this.
What's the rest like? Just about the same stuff. If you've heard one song off of this album, you've heard it all. So pretty much this album lacks any of the features that make metal great. It's not HEAVY. It's not even fast, or furious, or exciting. It lacks the pummelling riffs of a Black Sabbath, the screaming soloing of a Judas Priest... It's not even distorted - Hell, even mallcore can accomplish that, and this just has one passage at the end of Bleak that is (probably due to yet another brilliant idea) really over-distorted to sound awful.
"The Drapery Falls" has some really awful vocalists around 2:30 in - I swear, if I hear a singer breathe, I will flip out. Learn some techniques so you don't exhale into the mike, that just sounds unprofessional. "Dirge for November" is practically the same ideas again. "Dirge for November" finally - FINALLY - picks up a bit, but it is far too little, far too late. We have the only riff that's almost worth hearing in this album, at around 1:59 in. Too bad it sounds like a ripoff of Metallica "For Whom the Bell Tolls" kinda played around with a bit, so that half the effect somehow falls out anyway. It's difficult to acknowledge Metallica being better than someone else at anything, but unfortunately here is an example of that. Nonetheless, this is the highlight of the album. Though, when they crank up to 11, it's like most bands cranking up to "3". And the song is overlong anyway - after 4 minutes, right before the first acoustic part, they just should have stopped. Game over. New song. "Patterns in the Ivy" is good simply because they figured out when to stop, though while it is going, it sucks. The title track is just replete with bad ideas, as are all the other tracks. Acoustic interlude? Check. Death vocals over silly guitar patterns? Check. Forgettable solos? Check.
There are precisely zero really fucking memorable riffs here - in fact, most of the riffs aren't even metal riffs, they sound like badly recycled 70s rock riffs. Didn't I hear a Pink Floyd album once that kinda, almost, a bit, sounded like this, but sucked far the fuck less?
Ya know, I'd love to get all worked up about this album and release some really malicious invective in their direction. But, I can't. This has put me right to sleep. That might be the most damning of all. Metal isn't supposed to be a fucking lullaby.
To start off, I must say that I did not always like this band. I used to think of them as boring. I even saw them in concert and still thought their music was boring.
Then one day, I decided to give some of their music a chance - and it just clicked. The specific song was Forest of October from their album Orchid. I was extremely impressed at how the band was able to compose this grand canvas of intertwining guitars and bass and how it all, despite the huge size of the song, formed a massive, coherent, wonderful, yet at the same time dark and bleak picture.
This was the standard I measured this album to when I first got it. I was not disappointed - although the album isn't really perfect for some reasons. These reasons are the fact that some parts of the songs are boring - yes, boring. Gasp, you say. Truth, I maintain. For example, the first song of the album, The Leper Affinity, starts with boring, uninspiring guitar riffs. Some of the riffs in the song Blackwater Park seem to be the "filler" kind and the song The Funeral Portrait has absolutely no hooks whatsoever...which brings me to my next point.
Another bad thing about this album (about most of Opeth's music too) is inaccessibility. One cannot just pop an Opeth album in their discman and just listen to it for fun. Well, one can, but it just sucks when you've got only a five minute break (or less) and the songs are all more than 9 minutes save for a couple... Opeth songs are more experiences than songs - only by listening to the whole thing can one truly come to like an Opeth song. For the uninitiated, listening to an album several times may be a pre-requisite to liking it.
That said, the good points must now be highlighted, for they are legion. As this review's title suggests, the beauty of Opeth is mostly in the compositions. The sheer creativity of some songs is somewhat hard to swallow. Let me illustrate this point with an example: the song The Drapery Falls. The song starts with soft, fairly simple accoustic chords...then the other instruments kick in. I can only close my eyes in silent contemplation as my senses are assaulted with myriad amounts of sensations that can only be provoked by three distorted electric guitars, one accoustic guitar, and one bass guitar that are playing different things in perfect harmony. Everything just fits - and fits beautifully. This is what this album's (and this band) about.
Don't be misled by my heavily emotional description of The Drapery Falls. The same kind of thing can provoke all kinds of different emotions in the other songs. For example, while they use the same kind of technique in the song Blackwater Park, one feels like raging and headbanging rather than closing eyes. It all works perfectly.
Another thing that I like a lot about Opeth is how they use vocals. On one hand you have the heavy growls and on the other you have the soft, clean, melodic, beautiful (I can't stop praising Mikael Akerfeldt's clean vocals - they are the best) singing. The way Akerfeldt switches from one to the other creates a very cool effect - sort of a Jekyll and Hyde thing. Too bad the lyrics (which are pretty average on this album) don't reflect this very much.
Another thing I absolutely love about this album is its sort of thematic. The intricate drawing on the cover suggests a bleak, grey autumn day. The picture of the band in the middle of the booklet shows them standing in a autumnal forest, looking thoughtfully. Every song is bleak, grey, autumnal as well - you will find no happiness listening to Opeth. The lyrics sometimes reflect this but mostly, and unfortunately, fall short.
Having said all this, I highly recommend that everyone listen to this album at least several times before judging it too harshly. I also highly recommend it to anyone vaguely interested in progressive music - as well as anyone vaguely interested in music...