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The darkest shade of Opeth - 80%

TheLiberation, May 8th, 2013

As you may possibly know, the atmosphere of Opeth's music generally doesn't create the image of flowers on a field (unless it's a dark field at midnight haunted by demons and ghosts), but Deliverance is definitely the least friendly of the lot. While its precedessor, Blackwater Park, was on a comparable level of heaviness, it had the almost sing-along Harvest and some more delicate moments. On the other hand, Deliverance, just like its supposedly soft counterpart, Damnation, sounds dark as hell even at its calmest. Even though a few years later Ghost Reveries continued this direction even further, and its occult-related themes certainly helped in that, Deliverance has a much more monolithically dark atmosphere, which stays from the heavy, intense beginning of Wreath, through the overwhelmingly sad A Fair Judgement, to the chaotic and gloomy closer By the Pain I See in Others.

This is already the third album recorded by the Opeth's "classic lineup". The Mighty Overlord Mikael Ã…kerfeldt, as well as present since the debut Peter Lindgren provide the guitars, with the easily recognisable style of heavy, yet often melodic riffs. The two can go anywhere from crushingly heavy, as in my favourite opening riff to Master's Apprentices, to beautiful and melodic as in A Fair Judgement. When it's heavy, there's definitely death and progressive metal riffing involved, when it gets softer and melodic (not that often here), we're going more into progressive rock and even slightly jazzy territory. As always, there are some acoustic guitars involved, but probably less on Deliverance than any other Opeth album. They have some interesting uses here though and a bit different than what tends to be the norm with Opeth, such as the section in Master's Apprentices which sounds almost ethereal, or the crazy riff in By the Pain I See in Others, which has an almost tribal feel to it.

While the song structures and riffing may sound familiar after Blackwater Park and the core sound of the album is mostly the same, there are definitely some changes and new elements, such as the melodic guitars in the second half of Wreath which are a step closer to the style found later on Ghost Reveries, or the piano intro in A Fair Judgement which is a beautiful addition. Basically there's plenty of small bits and pieces that make this album a very logical continuation from its precedessor, but also give it more character and keep it more interesting. The vocals are essentially unchanged: Mikael's great and powerful low growling style and beautiful, soft voice simply doesn't get old, and work just as well as always. Last but definitely not least we have the rhythm section, provided again by the famous "Martins" Lopez & Mendez. Some sections and riffs are basically carried by them and would lose a lot without their finesse and creativity, especially Martin Lopez's drumming on this album is plain amazing, like in the aforementioned opening riff to Wreath or the entire title track. He really knows when is the time to play less and when is the time to play more, and when it is the time to play more, his playing is incredibly smart and creative.

Another thing which adds weight to the album is that it's basically built of five 10+ minute monsters, with just one short acoustic interlude. No shorter ballads this time, basically every song is serious progressive metal business here. The said interlude, For Absent Friends, is nice, but it's not as sophisticated and atmospheric as Patterns in the Ivy from Blackwater Park, and it doesn't work that well when listened to separately. However, each of the "serious" tracks has a lot to say here. The only calmer song here is the beautiful and very melancholic A Fair Judgement, which starts with piano, and slowly, progressively (through subtle vocals and a wonderful guitar lead as the chorus) builds up, ending with... a heavy, doomy riff. The other tracks are definitely heavier and as usual in Opeth's case (which is basically the band's primary "love or hate" aspect), have much more complicated and sometimes plain crazy structures, jumping between slow, fast, calm, heavy and whatever else you can imagine. I find the transitions to be mostly very smooth even if sometimes quite daring, and they definitely do work on the majority of this album.

My personal favourites here are Master's Apprentices, which begins with an amazing slow, crushing riff, only to descend into a beautiful acoustic section (and then get heavier again), and the famous title track, with its amazing riffing and intensity: it's not the fastest track ever in terms of speed, but the way the riffs and sections progress forward is a different story. The whole thing basically rolls forward like infernal toilet paper, crushing everything on its path, and if it appears to be slowing down then it's only to explode with even more violence. In the meantime, both manage to be incredibly atmospheric (I swear the acoustic sections here are darker than the heavy ones). And then there's the outro of the title track which is bound to be one of the biggest "love or hate" cases in the history of metal. I'm in the first group.

It might be possible to complain here and there that some details on the album could work slightly better and maybe a few sections drag for slightly too long; also, the last two minutes of the album are a bit unnecessary (some strange effect with the vocals reversed, it is slightly interesting but not really needed). Nevertheless, this album is the definition of a 8/10 rating for me - it's simply incredibly solid, everything works well here, the flow of the album is great, and even if there are more extraordinary albums, Deliverance is just very enjoyable to listen to. This is plain and simple a very good Opeth album, just even a bit darker than usual.