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The pinnacle of flawlessness - 100%

GuardAwakening, July 16th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1998, CD, Candlelight Records

I never thought I'd really come across an album that so greatly captures an emotional balance seasonally. Especially one that features an interesting storyline as the album progresses through this turn of influences regarding dark fantasy and musically balances a perfect blend of progressive black and death metal. Opeth's My Arms, Your Hearse is exactly that. A concept album released in 1998 that borderlines the quality of a novel and a perfect extreme metal album.

This album is the epitome of concept records. In fact, if I did have a skill at reviewing stories or if I ever take up this hobby in the future, I would consider reviewing this album just to cover its storyline as well as its music in a simultaneous conjunction just to discuss its overall quality. Unfortunately I am not extremely skilled with terms to describe a novel's writing style, terminology, metaphors and the liking. Basically, I am not a book reviewer. Let alone, discussing the music of this release on a music website is the only direction that seems appropriate even if I was up to the task of doing this. So thus in this review I will primarily cover the album's musical performance.

Opeth being formed as a straightforward death metal band in the early 90's and progressing to something much more could very well seem very unorthodox to casual listeners in this day and age. In fact, the band currently have been putting out records only under the progressive rock genre as of late. Opeth has always clinically been a three dimensional output with no two releases or song among their library really bearing any sort of indistinguishable similarities with one another. Having released two full-length albums before 1998's My Arms, Your Hearse seem to have been the band only discovering the height of their potential. The records Orchid and Morningrise while featuring an earlier and slightly more primitive sound, are almost godlike performances bar none. My Arms, Your Hearse does what those records did, but maximizes the talent to a threshold unimaginable. Every single riff, drum pattern and song on this album is overloaded with passion and real emotion. Almost acting as if a valise for the next track just to embrace how much further and epic the tracks can garner into finally reaching the record's climax.

There is this heavy border between art and metal that I believe Opeth have breached with this release. The artform of music and the denial of extreme metal being treated as such is overlapped with this album. So much to where they intertwine even with something that almost resembles a novel being carried within the lyrical themes. The story of the album concerns a man who died and reigns the world only as a ghost, not even being aware he has died. Capturing the seasonal emotional twist as the album unveils song by song, the ghost closely follows the woman he gave his heart to while he was alive. The woman is constantly distraught in the story, not accepting his death. The progression of the album can also be seen as linked to the progression of the seasons, the final song ending with winter, and leading back into the first song with the beginnings of spring. The passion featured just in the album's lyrics alone is amazing, but the music itself furthers this sincerity of emotional pull even further.

Mikael Ã…kerfeldt frets his guitar as he screams and growls every line of this story while Martin Lopez and Peter Lindgren play beside him in this epic longplay opus which clocks in at nearly an hour in length. Sweden being a country home to unadulterated black metal and death metal styles, it's no surprise that Opeth have clinically mastered both of these genres but placed into a progressive rock box and unveiling something truly magnificent in the process of hybridization. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've heard this album and questioned how the atmosphere is almost equivalent to each season the songs are based upon. The channeling drop heavy riffs of "The Amen Corner" capture the distraught heat of summer, while "Demon of the Fall" captures the dreaded dropout of all environmental life that we see in the autumn. Art really can't be expressed in any better way.

The album's clam parts completely compliment the music in a way to stir the potential this release bears in order to prepare you for the next brutal lick, double bass drumming or heavy distorted atmosphere. Every song was meant to flow into the next which equivalents this record even further to the form of a storybook. The songs can be treated as chapters, even if you're not fully focusing on the lyrics. "Progression" is the keyword here, and I mean that as in not just a double entendre with progressive metal, but also the progression of this album entire from beginning to end. "Progression" may also refer to the band's subtle increased performance from every album they've released since Orchid which clinically succeeded in venturing up to higher rate of almost near-perfection which I believe was made real with My Arms, Your Hearse. This album is amazing, that is all I can say.

This is honestly one of the greatest metal albums of all time. I don't need to make a recommendation of this record to you based on what your music taste is for me to retain firm belief that you'll enjoy this record. Even if you listened to this album and don't like it, at least you experienced something which I among several other people consider groundbreaking. If you like music... basically, just listen to this album.