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Let me get this out of the way, I'm a huge Opeth fan. It can be safely said that I have a raging boner for their music. This album on the other hand, made me quite flaccid. Perhaps it was the loss of two obviously vital members, perhaps Roadrunner pushed them for a release date before they were ready, or perhaps they've just lost their appeal that they used to have. I seriously hope it's not the latter. They've been changing their sound since they first formed, from the melancholic ethereal (not a pun) works of the beginning days, to the passionate melodies of the Still Life to Blackwater Park days, or to the prog giant that was Ghost Reveries.
The change started with Ghost Reveries, which in my opinion was much more commercially savvy than previous efforts, although I still loved the album, because it was complex, deep, and actually had good writing. The addition of two new members, from the melodic death metal scene I might add, and the loss of two greatly individual members probably did Watershed in. A lot of the ideas on this album are fantastic, but the songwriting is absolutely horrendous. The album opens up with a decent acoustic/folk track with female vocals. Then a monster of a song, Heir Apparent, crushes it's way in. My hopes were up at this point. I enjoyed this song, but something was odd, it didn't feel right at all, then it hit me. There were no transitions, the "shred" solo was painfully generic, and that god awful fast paced generic pseudo thrash riff comes piling in and ruins it for me. The ending, although abrupt, is fantastic, I truly wish they would have expanded on it.
The Lotus Eater is what epitomized everything wrong on this album, they tried way too hard to sound different on this and it just sounds like a mess of incoherent and silly. It's really a very shitty song. Next comes Burden, which is so cheesy it makes my cock recede into my larynx. Akerfeldt, since Ghost Reveries, has continually wrote increasingly lame vocal melodies, this song is full of it. The rest of the album is actually pretty decent, albeit more closely related to prog rock than anything else. It has a very cool atmosphere, but it certainly does not make up for the train wreck that was the first half of this album.
The playing itself, is solid, and proficient. Keep in mind, proficient doesn't always mean good. Frederik and Axenrot are good players, but they're so generic and "metuhl." They don't feel like they have any soul at all. They'd be better off in, well, back where they came from, in the diluted and uninspired melodic death metal scene. Martin Mendez is wonderful as always, subtle, but there and very good. Mikael Akerfeldts growls are possibly the best ever, but his clean vocals are too poppy for my liking. His playing is always good, and very individual, it's easy to pick out who's playing what on this album seeing as Mikael is a very defined player and my disdain for Frederik's playing has already been stated. Per's keyboards are in fact better on this album than on the previous works, they feel more natural.
Hopefully in the next release they'll hone their new sound into something more worthwhile and ease into their new lineup. This album isn't completely worthless, but definitely not up to par at all.