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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."