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Finally taking form - 89%

EzraBlumenfeld, October 12th, 2018

After two pretty solid albums, My Arms, Your Hearse is where Opeth finally started using the formulaic progressive songwriting they would display for many years to come. Although the preceding works had mostly focused on extensively long songs, many Opeth fans will be quick to point out that My Arms, Your Hearse is the band's only extreme metal-oriented album to have no songs over ten minutes in length. While the stylistic change is reasonably noticeable, it certainly adds rather than subtracts from the final product.

On Morningrise, Mikael Åkerfeldt and his changing cast of bandmates had experimented with acoustic interludes and vocal melodies to a great extent, culminating in the very long and sometimes repetitive "To Bid You Farewell," with the other four tracks also having their fair share. Then, only two years later, they decided to hold back a little on this fresh aspect to their music. Although you can find plenty of Opeth's signature twisting acoustic licks and a decent amount of clean singing throughout, it's not as prevalent and is only used when necessary.

Another notable difference between My Arms, Your Hearse and its predecessors is Åkerfeldt's increasing vocal range. Previously, he had only focused on black metal-tinged, throaty high screams; here, the aforementioned stylings are evenly mixed with his now-signature deep guttural, which adds a much more interesting and diverse feel to the whole album.

As for the instrumentals overall, the guitars are much more focused on intertwining than simply harmonizing, as they had been before. Åkerfeldt and Peter Lindgren are each panned to opposite sides, so depending on which side you focus on more you can get completely different experiences. This album also saw Åkerfeldt on bass, and recent Amon Amarth-departee Martin Lopez beginning his long role as Opeth drummer.

Songs on this album have a much more haunting feel than on any other, possibly because of the supposed presence of a conceptual storyline throughout. The band had yet to shake off their early black metal influences, and that contributes massively to the dark atmosphere. Although "Demon of the Fall" is one of their most well-known songs, I think it easily sums up what its parent album is all about.

MAYH is definitely an album that stands out among its peers. The riffs sound absolutely massive, largely due to the increased-quality production and the domination of dissonant chords over the single-note melodies Opeth favored before. The instrumentalists collaborate quite nicely, and it all comes out sounding truly fantastic. It's an essential Opeth album, no doubt about it.

Highlights: "April Ethereal," "When," & "Demon of the Fall"