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We have now the latest Opeth release, Watershed with new guys on the line-up. Replacing Lopez is the Bloodbath-fame drummer Axenrot and taking the 2nd guitar duties is Fredrik Akesson, ex-Arch Enemy.
I didn't know what to expect about this album but I knew this would be very different from any Opeth release to date and yes, it's different. The mood, the songwriting, the execution of (almost all) instruments is different. There are some highlights and some low points that I'll try to explain here.
The album starts with Coil, a short song that serves (to me) as a intro more like a real song. Mellow and with good voices (Mike's ones and the female ones who fit very well with the song) and good use of keys. Also Mendez does some interesting stuff on bass. Very promising, doesn't?
Then comes Heir Apparent. I just will say the drumming is one of the lowest point on this album, being far from the great taste that Lopez had. Maybe the greatest Axe's mistake is the lack of cymbals using, combined with the non-jazzy style who fitted greatly before. On the heavy sections (30% of the time), Axe rocks but on the mellow ones (70% resting) he doesn't have the taste to do it well. Also a strange solo from fredrik comes and mor me, that kind of solos doesn't fit well with the music, Mike's solos are so much better and I'm relieved he does the major part of them.
The next song is The Lotus Eater and starts with mellow words by Mike and then the blastbeats comes. I liked the use of blastbeats under clean vocals (used by bands like Borknagar before) and the good growling from Mike , but the song have a pointless keyboard interlude again, like on Hair Apparent. the next riffs sounds cool until 5:45 where the SuperMario NES tune used by Per comes and ruins the song. Sometimes Per does a great job and another he ruins all, like here.
The next is Burden. This song is maybe the 'poppest' ballad made my Opeth ever. Per does a pointless solo on the middle, the aahhhs sounds weird (even a little gay - nothing personal with gay people, just it doesn't fit Opeth )and a classic guitar close the song but the last minute...I just can't dig it. It's the worst guitar performance I've heard from Opeth. A total disonant and pointless disaster with a 'Evil' laugh... damn.
Then comes Porcelain Heart, chosen for an official video. A safe song. Nothing spectacular, nothing wrong, just fine and maybe the more 'traditional' song of the album (the acoustic part sounds a lot like Vintersorg's Svältvinter intro). Until now the bass can be heard clearly only on Coil and burden, the rest of time is drown under the guitars doing almost root notes extrictly. Usually the favourite song of my skip-button.
The next song is Hessian Peel that starts mellow again and Mike does some inverted words. This is the longest song of the album, the only one who surpass 10 minutes. The first 5 and half minutes is a safe and fine song, then comes a heavier part with a strange solo -I guess provided by fredrik as the first solo on Heir Apparent - and the next minutes the mellow and heavy parts switches as Opeth always had done before but repeating the same heavy parts, not so much memorable, but still fairly decent.
The album - with just 7 songs on it - ends with Hex Omega, an unmemorable song I think. Not a bad song, just there's nothing special on it and it's skipped all the time.
On the paper, this album it's not bad but nothing outstanding right? then why I scored it with just 30? my reasons are:
a)Too short and no one really outstanding song.
b)Opeth this time don't sound cohesive.
c)Too many failed experimentation, specially on keyboards.
This is by far the weakest Opeth offering to date, even Ghost Reveries is better than this on all aspects. If you are a Opeth fan, maybe you'll like it anyway (will take a while to enjoy it I think) but if you don't, this is not a recommendable album for starting to hear them. Pick My Arms, Your Hearse or Still Life to know how great this guys once were.