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Excellent blend of old and mid-era Opeth - 95%

MediocreGuitarist123, February 21st, 2012

With My Arms, Your Hearse, Opeth went for a notable change in sound from the Orchid and Morningrise records. This could be best described as a sort of middle ground between the early works and the sound that Opeth would be later known for, mixing in the ethereal atmosphere from those two records with the vintage, jazz-oriented progressive death metal sound.

This is also Opeth’s first concept record. The story is about a deceased man who becomes a ghost and tries to confront his lover. Unfortunately, she doesn’t return her love back to him and further attempts to confront her results in her fearing and despising him. Accordingly, Akerfeldt mapped the story out before writing the music; a very good move when writing a full-length record, especially a concept album. As the album progresses, so does the story, slowly building up from a sorrowful start in ‘April Ethereal’ to the climatic and dissonant ‘Demon of the Fall’ and ending in the same sorrowful tone in ‘Epilogue’.

As a result of the change in sound, as well as the recent lineup change that Opeth went through, My Arms, Your Hearse is disturbingly heavier than its predecessors. And I say ‘disturbing’ because the aggressive nature of a lot of these tracks adds to the atmosphere of the content. Drummer, Martin Lopez, pulls off a very consistent and very aggressive performance while still controlling himself from overpowering the band. The bass guitar is very audible in the mix and does a good job at thickening the sound. In Mikael Akerfeldt and Peter Lindgren’s guitar work, the two shifted from using harmonic riffs in the last two to a jazzy, yet very heavy riff-based approach that is often dissonant and sets the dark tone of this album. The softer sections on My Arms, Your Hearse blend in very well, giving the listener a more of a breather from the crushing death metal. However, I do feel that some of the transitions feel rather contrived; often times, they will use a short acoustic guitar interlude to transition to another heavy riff. This is a minor annoyance, but it’s rather prevalent throughout the record.

Mikael’s vocals have become much more varied in My Arms, Your Hearse than in previous efforts. His vocals had become much deeper; almost to the point where they resemble gutturals, whereas the first two records had a mid-pitched black metal sound. This is the first time in their discography that his harrowing, sorrowful, and even at one point in the aforementioned song, ‘Demon of the Fall’; demonic growls actually add to the music. His jazzy cleans are stronger than in previous efforts and sound convincingly as remorseful as his growls.

Although it would be later topped by Still Life, My Arms, Your Hearse has a very unique atmosphere and serves as a great middle ground between the atmosphere of the early records to their signature sound. Their musicianship has progressed considerably, showing what was to later come in Opeth's career.