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I get why y'all shit on Opeth - 84%

richieblackmetal, April 18th, 2018

I get why y’all shit on Opeth. Really, I do. I’ve spent the better part of my life listening to particular veins of metal that stray away from the main stream, never really offering comparison with what pleases my ear to that of those who pledge to defend the purity of the kvlt. Criticism of the gentle aura about the O often stems from an elitist perspective, pushing the mantra that metal has to look big and tough to be strong. And I get that; as a fan who has walked this band’s meandering trail for many years, I will readily admit that this style of metal does not stand upright even with a semblance of posture beside a Bathory, Emperor, Type O-, or Rotting Christ. Old school listeners will seldom find the melancholic approach found in Opeth’s early to mid-aged works desirable, but the unique candour of this group is the nectar so satiable – the x-factor so ‘wrong’ in the band’s agenda that perturbs the trve kvlt. So, lube up for a biased review. I enjoy Opeth’s music, always have and always will. The only case to be made in this critique is the nature of the beauty of art and how it lies the eye of the beholder – not in its fit within the purity of tradition, comparison, and expectation.

Allow me a preface by putting meat on the bone to those who are new to the O. The particular form of Opeth seen in Deliverance is progressive death metal, a metal-esc genre defined by the transient nature of melodies, tempos, and atmospheres which assuredly blur the transition of musical ideas, each track often culminating into a listening experience of great length. I am keen to omit “death” from that definition given the band’s infamous 20+ year evolution, as one must note the deviation from metal altogether in most recent works Heritage, Pale Communion, and Sorceress. But it is without doubt that the O was born of the still raw fodder of the mid-90s and once took influence from the very best in metal (Sabbath, Dio, early wave death metal) and, now, undeniably respectable rock (Alice Cooper, Zeppelin). With a sly smile, I like to revisit those times of old.

Following the pallid malaise of Blackwater Park, Opeth’s sixth studio album, Deliverance, is an offering of acceptance. This time around, a reconstruction of a certain level of heaviness is coupled with the haunting atmosphere mastered in Still Life and Blackwater Park and, from a listener’s perspective, the result is a healthy mix of hard-hitting, damply-layered, and overall head-bobbable material. A delicate nuance touches all six tracks and gives each song an antiquated yet somewhat still brilliant appearance – a middle ground is reached here between massive and airy, dark and light, that I would challenge you to compare to anything akin to the genre. There is a lot to absorb in this record, and much of that simply boils down to each track offering so much in terms of melodic ideas and structural progressions. The record gives critics much to chew on as so often the concept of getting lost on the trail is weaponized; frustration in not knowing where a given song is headed or being not-so-blissfully unaware of the track which they are listening. One could argue with so many ideas floating around from track to track, continuity within the context of an album is more easily achieved compared to the traditional approach. One would be correct in this critique. Congratulations, you figured it out.

There is much to unpack with the songs of Deliverance, and to do so in a written review would be to delve too deep into the formation which makes each move so well, given the sheer length of the tracks. The most notable concept to absorb is a natural series of micro-progressions in each. Parts lay atop one another seamlessly; melodies flow well with an emphasis on fully fleshed out ‘feels’ melding into more fully fleshed out ‘feels’ and the advent of a more-than-occasional bridge to bind the pieces together. The metaphor of each track being a path to walk from start to finish suffices in saying that there is so much to experience every step of the way. Ideas don’t seem to vanish after they appear; as the minutes pass, they morph naturally as different elements are introduced on a continuum. In a listening stint, I feel haunted – adequately and comfortably so and that is something I count on after spinning the gentle O. To say Deliverance is their heaviest record is a safe assessment, but the heaviness does not come in spades here. Once again, Opeth wields dynamics like a weapon and pushes us down the rabbit hole from start to finish.