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Opeth is a hard band to review, mainly because they’re so controversial. The debate surrounding them on Metal Archives is so intense and so played out that it’s hard to say anything new about them. Many reviewers, even a few good ones, pick one of Opeth’s albums out of a hat, and pretend they are writing a review for that album. In reality, they simply write a review bashing the band as a whole.
It was because of this debate that I approached Deliverance with a certain amount of caution. It didn’t help that my brother had bought the album against my recommendation to stay away from it – after all, the last time he had done that, the album was Iced Earth’s The Glorious Burden, which, apart from “Declaration Day”, sucked the big one.
Most of my fears were dispelled immediately when I hit the play button, and the album kicked in immediately with a drum fill, a loud death grunt, and a violent riff. The heavy parts of the album dominate – 75% of the album is heavy – but the soft parts are still there. The album itself consists of six tracks, whose average length is 10:18.
Ultimately, people looking for a good melodeath album in Deliverance are going to be disappointed. Although its roots are in the melodeath style, what makes Deliverance an enjoyable listen is the black metal-like atmosphere. It’s not the kind of atmosphere that most black metal bands have, but it’s similar. Musically, Deliverance has very little to do with black metal, other than a few riffs, but the atmosphere created by the guitar sound is similar. It’s not very grim or frostbitten – on the other hand, it’s a very foggy, marshy atmosphere. Close your eyes, and you can imagine yourself slogging through a dense swamp in the middle of the night, with only a flashlight to guide your way. As I said, the guitar sound and riffs are the main elements in this atmosphere. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is, but it is there.
The music isn’t overly showy, but it is somewhat technical, especially the drumming. Martin Lopez handles the many different textures, beats, and time changes thrown at him with ease. His drum sound fits the album perfectly, and his drumming is busy, but only a little more than it needs to be. On the other hand, the bass playing is mixed very low, and I usually can’t hear it – and this is coming from a bass player, who’s used to listening for bass parts in music. From what I can make out, Martin Mendez is more than competent, but I can’t make out much. It’s a crying shame, really, and it’s one of the reasons this album fails to reach the status of “masterpiece”.
With the drums as busy as they are, and the bass inaudible, the role of backbone falls to Peter Lindgren, the rhythm guitarist. In this role, he delivers. His riffs hold the album together, and they also keep the atmosphere going when Åkerfeldt decides to take one of his infrequent solos.
The acoustic sections of the album are only 25% of the total, but they’re also very important – both to the atmosphere and the band’s commercial success. The average non-metal listener might not be ready for an hour of dreary, creepy melodeath. I’m not saying that the acoustic sections are on this album solely because the kiddies who listen to the band need a break from all the scary, scary death metal, but it is what makes the band accessible to those listeners. The sections are also very atmospheric, especially when enhanced by Åkerfeldt’s ghostly clean singing voice.
His death grunts also enhance the atmosphere of the heavy parts – the atmosphere is already there, but when his vocals throw a few pissed-off ghosts into the aforementioned swamp, the album can be hypnotizing.
The most accessible song on the album is “A Fair Judgment”. Once you’re done with the piano intro – really people, if you don’t like it, just fast-forward through it – you’re greeted by (gasp!) a verse-chorus structure, which promptly falls apart for a soft bridge and a long instrumental section, after which it returns for one more verse and a doomy outro riff. It’s catchy, it’s hummable, and it’s ten minutes long, and I loved it.
There will be plenty of times when you won’t feel like sitting through a song on this album, and that’s okay. It’s one of those albums you listen to infrequently, but appreciate when you do listen to it. Deliverance is certainly not boring, but it’s no masterpiece.