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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”.