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Opeth's hard time recording this effort sure shows its ugly face through the music. The band's trademark progressive sound has earned them the reputation of a band that fears nothing in terms of artistic impression, and in Deliverance they kind of take it to the next level; until now they were all about the conflicting friction of melody and brutality, and now it's all the more apparent as they reveal their darkest sides. Deliverance is by all means a characteristic Opeth record, but it's also their heaviest one yet.
Right from the beginning of the album's opening song, Wreath, it's apparent that Opeth had some anger to let off, with some fast riffing and Martin Lopez's famous unique style of drumming. Mikael's growl shines through this effort, transmitting an atmosphere of dread and mystery. One of Peter Lindgren's best solos compliments this song, and its finale, actually a return to its beginning, ends this shocker quite well. This trend is carried on through the titular Deliverance, which is by far one of the band's finest songs. It's an epic ride that's over thirteen minutes long, starting with an evil segment of guitar greatness that leads to the album's first melodic break showcasing Mikael's breathtaking clean vocals. "Walk with me, you'll never leave, wait to see your spirit free", he says, and one wouldn't be blamed for having the goosebumps listening to it. Once again, both Peter and Mikael play a guitar solo in the song, and both serve the purpose of moving things forward very well. And just when he finishes his evil growls and you think his now-clean singing is about to end the song, you're introduced to over three minutes of atmospheric guitar. The rhythm is dictated in perfect synchronization by both guitar and drums, ending the song on a very heavy note.
At this point, well over 20 minutes into the album, it's Opeth's perfect timing for introducing a melodic, moving song, just as they did with Blackwater Park's Harvest or Still Life's Benighted. A Fair Judgement is Opeth's longest song to feature no growls, clocking in at over ten minutes. But mind you, these ten minutes feel like less because the song flows so well. After the intro, played by Steven Wilson on a grand piano, the laid-back feeling of the gently-sung verses is contrasted very well by the heavy "chorus", which comprises of a heavy riff and some beautiful lead guitar by Mikael Akerfeldt, with the second chorus leading into a beautiful, heart-breaking acoustic segment complimented by yet another bluesy solo by Mikael, which reminds me of the one found in the aforementioned Benighted. An appropriate heavy part showcasing two of Mikael's and Peter's best solos follows, then the song then returns to its gentle nature for one last moment of calm, and then moves into a completely unexpected doom-metal finale, ending the song (which is, in my opinion, Opeth's most beautiful song ever and definitely the highlight of this record) well and leading into the short instrumental, "For Absent Friends".
Then it's time to go back. It's Master's Apprentices that's arguably their heaviest song yet, just as groovy and dark-sounding as Still Life's Serenity Painted Death. The monster riff introducing this song is heavy, yet very catchy, and lays the groundwork for some of Mikael's finest growls ever. The song's acoustic break shows the influence of one Steven Wilson, with a bizarre sound that accompanies the clean singing very well. And when this is done, they return to the album's last fine moment, showcasing some insane heaviness through guitars, drums and vocals. Unfortunately, this isn't the end of the album. There is one more song, By the Pain I See in Others. This song is stated to be Mikael Akerfeldt's least-favorite Opeth song, and it's quite obvious why. This is without a doubt Opeth's worst song ever, and their only really bad one. It's a mess. It sounds confused, unfinished and rushed, and not only does it sound all over the place, its chorus is repeated way too many times throughout this song. It ends with an unnecessary backward-played version of the acoustic break from Master's Apprentices, ending the album on a very disappointing note.
Beyond the quality of the songs with the mentioned exception, the sound is very good. The rough guitars are heavily distorted, and the riffs throughout the record are never dull, always catching the ear of the listener. The bass will oomph through a good woofer, adding another layer to the already rich sounds, often supplied by multiple guitar tracks. But, once again, it's Martin Lopez's drumming that managed to shine through the music. The music would have been great without his drumming, but his tendency to add unique drum fills shows more than once throughout the effort. Opeth's sound has been very well-balanced since Still Life, and this stays true in Deliverance.
When you hear the drumbeat opening Wreath, you know you're in for a rough ride. Opeth has surely proven themselves capable of writing some heavy music in the past, but Deliverance is beyond heavy. It's a compliment to an album that every song on it warrants attention. Even though its final track is undeniably disappointing, it's tracks like Wreath, Deliverance, Master's Apprentices and of course, A Fair Judgement, that make this record so worthwhile. It's very heavy and might take some time to get used to, and it sure isn't a good place to start your Opeth journey, but once you've taken the time to try and really appreciate it, I'm sure you would. Deliverance is a fine Opeth record, and an awesome metal album. Highly recommended!