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One of the most polarizing albums of all time - 97%

Ingeld1066, April 18th, 2011

Before anyone listens to an Opeth album, particularly this one, they should be aware of the following:

- There will be lots of repetition. Opeth is notorious for repeating riffs and other musical ideas for minutes on end. If you want to hear something like Unexpect, where noticeable changes in the melodies occur every 3-5 seconds, this band is not for you.
- This is not a "traditional" metal album. Opeth isn't focused on sounding brutal, "kvlt", shredding, playing 32nd note double bass kicks at 300 bpm, or any other stereotype associated with black, death, and thrash metal bands.

Now onto the actual review:

Surprisingly (for metal purists at least), the more metal that I listened to overtime (and it was almost solely underground bands for 3 years or so, I was a purist for a while), the more I came to respect this album, along with all other Opeth albums. After listening to mostly jazz, classical, reggae, ambient, hip hop (*gasp) and other genres for a year or two, it has become one of my all-time favorites. Few metal bands can create atmosphere for an album as effectively as Opeth does on this album, let alone switch from various moods and emotions to others multiple times in each song, as demonstrated here. The album contains moments of mystery, sorrow, brutality, suspense, calm, fear, longing and and overall autumnal atmosphere throughout. As a musician, I have noticed that at times the members of Opeth are playing as many as four melodic lines at once, a feat that only a handful of other metal bands can match in a coherent manner. The song structures are atypical and usually fairly complex, and the vocals, acoustic, and electric guitars fit into the overall soundscapes well and are unmatched by any of their other albums.

I would take a couple points off of the album because Martin Lopez's drumming and Martin Mendez's bass playing have sounded more complex and varied on other albums such as "Deliverance" and then a couple more because the music isn't very accessible. It takes a lot of time, patience, and often a musical background to truly appreciate the album for what it is. Its hard to find metal bands today who are musically mature enough to realize that many often-lauded, more underground metal bands play music that honestly requires only basic songwriting knowledge, drummers with fast feet (or programming), and a vocalist with enough stamina to avoid damaging their vocal chords (AKA 90% of black and death metal) and take steps to avoid this label.

Sure Opeth may sound boring to the untrained ear and a lot of people might shower this album with praise (which of course automatically makes it terrible/mainstream/watered down). Sure Opeth has a large number of fans and supporters who aren't metal heads (most of the Opeth fans I know are fellow musicians). Sure they have stronger songwriting abilities than most other metal bands could even dream of. As much as I may sound like an Opeth fanboy for saying this, I have yet to hear a single cogent argument that explains the musical deficiencies (citing actual music theory) of the album. All that I hear is "the songs are boring and drag on without substance" or "inexperienced metal heads like this" or "it's really overrated". Sorry if it disappoints you, but Opeth understand how to write music, convey many different themes, incorporate various genres, and play music that is complex, beautiful, and thought-provoking in a way that most lesser known metal bands (save Windir, Agalloch, Alcest, Ulver, Falkenbach, and a handful more) can ever hope to accomplish.