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Patience is Required - 91%

Ulloz Zipxoc, July 15th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2012, CD + DVD, Music for Nations (Digibook)

This is Opeth's "Master of Puppets", essentially. Their most acclaimed record, their big breakthrough, the one that is mentioned ad nauseum. It's hard not to think it a little overrated at this point. But it really is a good album, when you sit down and listen.

The production is the first improvement you'll notice if you've heard Opeth's first four outings. It was decent even on "Orchid" and there is a definite progression to "Still Life" sounding less tinny and echoey, but this is a giant leap forward. Steven Wilson boarded the Opeth train, and despite my distaste for his musicianship (Porcupine Tree and any of his solo output), he is definitely a better producer than he is an artist. With him mixing and mastering, "Blackwater Park" is very clean, rich, and full sounding. It's a big part of the reason this is held up as a landmark release; the gothic atmosphere Opeth strove for was finally being presented as it should be. Their more conceptual efforts (Still Life and My Arms, Your Hearse) would have been much better served if they had been given this treatment. This theatrical production would continue throughout the next several releases, culminating in the masterpiece "Watershed". Here there isn't quite as much organ, notably, instead focusing much more on the Opeth staple of long-winded riffing.

The reason Opeth is such a polarizing band may come down to their dichotomy between these yawning death metal riffs and the soft acoustic sections they've become famous for. I find indulgence in music and literature rewarding and interesting for the most part, disliking it instead in film and animation where I think focus is key. Opeth is certainly indulgent, allowing songs to peter on under progressive pretenses, but they contain the technical strength to justify their length. You can't deny this band certainly has a style in which it immerses listeners. But even as a fan, I can admit you do have to be in the proper mood. If you aren't ready to pay attention for 10 minutes at a time to loooong riffs and often slower tempos, you should not attempt it. To their credit, nothing is broken or dissonant; everything flows together incredibly smoothly, surprising you with how elegantly it manages to shift from heavy to soft. But it often takes on the qualities of a lullaby, even in the death metal segments, which does as lullabies do and gently lets your eyelids down and your chin forward. That's the biggest gripe many have: it really is sleepy music at times (play "Harvest" for your restless children). If you are willing, however, to listen to metal that is decidedly less aggressive than, say, Immolation, and more focused on the 'getting there" than the destination, "Blackwater Park" is an exemplary and highly distinctive experience.