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Let me start by saying I don't exactly hate Opeth. Mikael is a phenomenal vocalist and at times I wish more bands had vocals like his. The guitar work (when it's actually present) is laudable and I enjoy a lot of the leads/riffs. In fact, their song "Deliverance" is easily in the Top 50 of my favorite songs. So by no means do I think Opeth sucks. That being said, like all previous albums, they seem to write some excellent songs then a lot of shitty ones. The only difference with Watershed is that the good ones come first and the shitty ones come last (thus giving me a perfect title for this review). The final track is a mix of good and bad so I gave the original 37.5% rating this would get a boost to 44% (8/3 = 12.5 x 3 + 6.25) so that's where the rating comes from. 3 songs that essentially equal 100%, one that essentially equals 50% and the others that get a well-deserved, snorefest ZERO.
So now that I've established the rating and the fact that I don't necessarily hate Opeth, I can continue my review. My original expectations weren't very high as I am not by any means of the word a die-hard. I cherry-pick every album they release and add only the good ones to my permanent library, knowing that the slower songs have zero chance of ever appealing to me. So going into this I was like, "Well, time to listen to it once and delete the boring songs," as I always do with all Opeth records. "Coil" is the first track and it really is a nice intro to the album. Very soothing with some great, calm female vocals and your delicious dose of Mikael's harmonious, heavenly singing to amplify the greatness. "Awesome," I say to myself, "that's a keeper." Then comes "Heir Apparent" which features a pretty repetitive droney, slam riff. No, not like slamcore bullshit. It has a crunch then it drones on for a few seconds before it repeats. The riff itself develops, only further made even more badass by the fact that there's a very sinister, killer lead. A dark song consisting overall of mostly, if not all, growls. Additionally, there are some acoustic sections which are pretty pleasant and add a nice contrast to the darkness. So we're 2 for 2 now. Up next is "The Lotus Eater" which features some singing over very unorthodox-for-Opeth blast beats (sounds great, too) and something that Between the Buried and Me would do: a jazz passage. It's more fluid than BTBAM's genre-swinging sections so it doesn't sound as out of place (not that it'd be a bad thing regardless of how smooth the transition is). Also features some nice lead work, but overall it's pretty standard for the more death metally songs Opeth writes other than what I just pointed out.
Holy shit, 3 songs in a row that don't suck? A miracle, I say. But then comes "Burden" which is just absolutely dreadful. The song epitomizes an auditory burden. Slow, dreary and just a serious aura of apathy. After my initial listen, I could not have become more bored. The rest of the tracks fall into the same category as this bullshit, only finally becoming a little more interesting with "Hex Omega" but that turns into a pile of shit by the end as well. I might as well just chop off the last few minutes in Audacity.
See, I respect Opeth and all, but most of the time they really cannot keep my attention because they write too many lethargic songs with small death metal passages. I'm all for the songs being long too, but when you have multiple songs consisting of just tepid, boring slow shit you kind of begin to question whether they're death metal at all. I understand the mood is supposed to be depressing, and its done quite well, but you can be depressing without being boring. They have such a hard time keeping my attention with such lifelessness. All of Opeth's slow songs are a trudge through mud; a complete snorefest of forgettable, generic sounds. Mikael begins to sound like he's tired and everyone else starts to get drowsy. I can't even single out a slow Opeth song that sounds any different from the others. It's all just a rehash of a rehash. They always tend to be the longer tracks of the album(s) as well which is such a pain. It's like they just stopped caring halfway through the recording process and decided to write the latter half in their sleep. They expend all their energy on the pummeling death metal tracks and take breathers on the slow songs. In fact, I don't mind slow songs at all! They just need to be interesting enough.
We all know these guys are talented musicians from a mechanical standpoint. Mikael is easily one of the best multi-range vocalists out there, the guitarists can play some very haunting, depressing and memorable leads and the drummer possesses such a big portfolio of different playing styles. It truly is apparent they know how to write good music and play their instruments well, but they just don't seem to try on every song. You can feel their energy and passion in the first three songs, but after that it just all fades into a void. Calamity is far from what I expect of these guys. All I ask is that the songs keep my fucking attention, but after this long and zero improvement, I don't think they'll ever meet my demands.
Yes, the album captures the dark atmosphere they try to go for with its crystal clear production, enveloping bass guitar and brilliant piano playing, but in the end the latter half of the album just fucking SUCKS. No amount of great atmosphere will ever capture my attention if everything else blows. Especially when on the first listen I began to fucking zone out. Yes, zone out. If the objective of Opeth's entire discography is to cock tease the fuck out of you with a couple good songs then have an outweighing plethora of snorefests...well, congratulations. You have succeeded.
I will continue to check out Opeth's future work, but this many albums later, I think it's safe to say that any future album's merit will be directly related to how much they give a fuck about keeping my attention.