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In short: The good is astonishingly great, and the bad is not utter crap, but is too noticeably and starkly different in comparison to the good.
To begin at the beginning, with “Wreath”. Beginning with some octave chords and a fearsome vocal performance, this is one of Opeth’s most metal efforts throughout their time. This is a track that’s about in the middle in regards to quality – it’s not the most memorable of the album, but it’s a good track with some top melodies and chord progressions – and very little time dedicated to anything other than sick distortion, nasty growls, and a drumming performance that manages to be brutal without resorting to blastbeats.
Following this is the title track. With the possible exception of “Drapery Falls” off the Blackwater Park album, this is possibly the best song that Opeth have written since their “Morningrise” material. The opening of this song leaves no mercy in its path of rubble. The rhythm guitar consists of fierce tritone chords, complimented by well-done tremolo picking, followed up by one of the heaviest riffs I’ve ever heard by a prog/death band, if not all metal bands! Adding to the mayhem is a furious vocal effort from Mikael, who sounds the most pissed off he has ever been. Then after a very complicated fill, the beauty of clean guitars come in, and give you a rest from the onslaught which you have just suffered.
Mikael’s clean vocals, as exemplified in this song, seem to get better every album they do. Some can argue that they may be stale, overusing an idea etc., but his singing quality seems to increase every studio album Opeth puts out.
When we swing back into the heavy tritone riff that kicked off the song so well, you’re back and not just banging, but pounding your goddamn head to this killer passage. But it’s the next bit which is Opeth at their brilliant best – progressing to a most vehement riff, but with Mikael’s finest clean vocal performance, somehow pounding you and softening you up at the same time.
The only problem is the ending, which drags on for a little bit too long. It takes the song to a protracted length of 13:36, when it could have been perfect had it been cut off at around 11minutes long.
“A Fair Judgement” is the most mellow song on the album. It starts in that way which sounds like its being played through an old radio. Haunting minor chords are played on a piano, setting up a good atmosphere to begin with. The song begins after about a minute and a quarter, with a very orotund, dreamy ballad, then progressing to a brilliant and heavy lead without seeming to change from mellow to heavy at all. This progression repeats throughout, with no fierceness or attempts at brutality. This is Opeth at their best experiment-wise. Making a perfect combination of mellow backing, beefy, memorable leads, and Mikael’s dreamy voice again the icing on the cake.
“For Absent Friends” is a little acoustic interlude, kind of similar to “Patterns in the Ivy”. It’s basically a filler track, so there isn’t a whole lot to say about it. What can be said though it that it’s a fairly harmless little track really, a nice acoustic track with a clean electric lead played over it. It acts as a pretty nice little intermission for the album, but that’s about all it has potential to do.
Masters Apprentices is the next track on this one. This track, despite its simplicity, is the one that would have the chance to wrest the “Best song of the album” crown, from the title track. The first main riff is one of those ones that has an unsophisticated charm and memorability, and even people that dislike the track – I guarantee that there will be at least a few days when you have it stuck in your head, and find yourself humming along to it, and then there are the memorable lyrics that are easy to remember with the tune of the song backing it up.
After this high though, the album draws to a close with the sadly lacklustre “By The Pain I See In Others”. It opens up with what feels like Opeth trying to do a weak copy of themselves – they take the same formula as they did with writing “Deliverance”, but manage to completely fuck it up – the melody just doesn’t click like it did with Deliverance. The follow-up part contains a most irritating drum beat, which sounds like it was copying the outro of the title track – and when aforementioned element of the song was the worst part about it, this current song is already on shaky ground. It’s most unfortunate that after such a consistently solid album (for the most part), this song seems to be nothing other than filler to try and round off the recording at over an hours length.
As a bass player, one thing I’ve always enjoyed about this band is their different bass style. In many Opeth songs, you won’t hear the bass just plodding along to mimic the guitars in a boring fashion. As well as actually being audible (an all-too-frequent trap that metal artists fall in to), they have their own melodies and make a good contribution to the overall sound. Mendez’s performance on Deliverance is no exception – his jazzy bass tone really stands out with the guitars, while at the same time not taking over them.
It’s a serious shame that the two-CD idea of one heavy album (Deliverance) and one mellow album (Damnation) was one that never went ahead due to record label pressures. It could have made this album considerably better, not that it isn’t quite good already, but it would have been a good, original idea to have. So I’ll finish this review by saying a big “Fuck off” to Music For Nations – not only for the pressure on a great band, but for destroying the potential with Opeth’s DVD by having them only perform songs from the M4N albums (D1, D2 and Blackwater Park). You cunts deserved exactly what you got.
70 points for Opeth’s heaviest offering to date.