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Opeth is a group that suffers from one major problem. A majority of the time that they try to make slow songs, they result in boredom. I'm a huge fan when they can find a balance between both brutality and tranquility, but sadly, this album did not find a happy medium. It's obvious that the band has plenty of talent; it's just that it's often wasted on trying to be "artistic" with slower songs.
The album begins with "Coil". A slow and painful track, you're glad when it's over. Opeth can make good slow songs, the album Ghost Reveries made that very apparent to me, but this song is boredom incarnate. Fortunately, "Heir Apparent" comes thundering in to wake up the listener from the previous track. While the song has some slow moments, the track does a good job of finding clever ways to keep the listener's interest. For instance, once the song begins to slow down at around 3:30, it gives the listener a sense of calmness. Less than a minute later, Mikael's growls and a sonic wall of fast guitars and drums come out of nowhere. This process doesn't just happen once, but twice. This makes the song good for repeated listens because after listening through it once, you sit and wait in anticipation for Opeth's power to enter your ears.
Then along comes "The Lotus Eater". By now, the listener's interest has had a taste of what is to come on this album, and he/she waits to see what Opeth throw at them next. The song starts out slow and annoying due to Mikael humming for some reason, but the song picks up speed quickly. The best aspect of this song is the guitar work, and the song even makes room for a brief solo. The song does get rather tedious in the middle, but manages to bring the energy back for the end of the song. Despite the song having some good moments, it's nothing superb. By now, the listener is still interested enough to continue listening to the album and "Burden" enters. The one slow song on this album that isn't boring. Sure, it starts out slowly, but the slightly jazzy feel that this song has actually makes it worth listening to. Not only that, but about two minutes into the song is a fantastic keyboard solo. The only problem with this track is the last minute consists of the band attempting to show how an acoustic guitar can be played out of tune along with an "evil" laugh for no discernible reason. A majority of the song is well done, but the listener now has a perplexed look on their face due to the manner in which the song ended.
The welcome sound of well played electric guitars comes around due to "Porcelain Heart" which restores the listener's faith in the album....briefly. The song begins to slow down and all hope seems lost. Out of nowhere, the power that Opeth contains comes to save the listener. This process repeats again, but this track is a bit less fulfilling than "Heir Apparent" snce the amount of power in this song can't compete. Still, the song ends on a good note which is more than I can say for "Burden". The listener is still awake just in time for the longest track on the album to make its mark. "Hessian Peel", much like previous tracks, contains an imbalance of slow and fast tempos. By this time, the listener has fallen into a deep sleep and all hope appears to be gone. Opeth, true to form on this album, come to save the listener from the boredom they themselves made. Mikael growls, the guitarists and drummer do their work, and the song ends with keyboards fit for a carnival.
And now it's time for the grand finale. The listener now waits to hear what power is waiting to be heard on "Hex Omega". What does the listener find? They find a song that tries to trick them into thinking that Opeth will unleash more awesome growls and sonic destruction by beginning with some good electric guitar work. What happens next is the listener, exhausted from the previous boredom they suffered on this album, gives in and falls asleep. The difference is that the listener can't get awake again, even with the guitar towards the end of the song playing.
So, what does this album amount to in the end? Basically, a very boring hour of your time. The album has some good growls from Mikael, some enjoyable guitar and drum work, a keyboard solo that was awesome, and a slow song that wasn't half bad. Unfortunately, a majority of the music played here is slow, tedious, and sleep-inducing.
The band themselves is not bad in any way. It's just that this album saw a real decrease in the quality of the music being put out by the band. The bottom line is that this album was a disappointment compared to their last album. It still had some dignified moments which is more than I can say for Heritage and I do admit that if I were trying to get someone into Opeth's music, I would probably start with this album. Most people who are not metalheads might find some enjoyment in the slower moments and it would get them used to Mikael's growling. Still, as an Opeth fan, I don't find much enjoyment in listening to this album.
The tracks that I enjoyed on here the most were "Heir Apparent" and "Burden". The tracks that I liked enough to deserve mentioning are "The Lotus Eater" and "Porcelain Heart"