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When the album leaked about a month back, I'm not gonna lie, I downloaded it. Then I listened to it once. Then I deleted the files. I was confused. This was not the Opeth I was used to, not the sound, not feeling. It had the elements but there was something missing.
I decided to give it another chance and went out and bought the album. I popped it in and was blown away. I realized that it wasn't something missing, it was something new. An organic feel, a way of making you unable to guess what would happen next. It is an album of surprises and all of the surprises work.
But there are a few problems.
I loved Martin Lopez. I felt that he was a natural, organic drummer, and flat out amazing. Now he's gone, replaced by Axe as they're calling him, and damn if Axe isn't heavy handed. Subtlety is not his strong suit, as 2:15 of Porcelain Heart shows. But once I got used to him, once I stopped comparing him to Lopez, I realized that he is a great drummer. He has a way of exploring what his drums can do for a song, and it really lends to the air of surprise.
Self-plagiarism is another issue. There are a few riffs that smack of older Opeth songs, 3:58 of Porcelain Heart especially. But, after a few listens, it feels natural, it feels right, and it becomes less and less of an issue.
The album is amazing, once you get used to the differences. There is no feeling that the album should have cooked a bit longer, as in Ghost Reveries. There is no feeling of tiredness, of sloth. It all feels fresh, natural, new, interesting, and intriguing. The vocals are excellent, the guitar work is great, the drums are interesting, new, and push the line, the bass is solid although I would have liked Mendez to be a bit more in your face, and the keyboards are wonderful. Definitely a must have for any fan. If you don't like it immediately, don't throw it in the trash. Keep giving it spins, and eventually it will all fall into place.
Favorite Tracks: The Lotus Eater (clean vocals and blast beats combined, as well as the section at 5:50... all in the same song!), Hessian Peel, Coil, Heir Apparent.