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When can we scream instead of whisper? - 97%

SoundsofDecay, November 28th, 2013

I'm a big fan of the early Opeth albums, and this is probably my favourite one. It represents a massive change compared to Morningrise and is the beginning of the Opeth style most recognized on albums like Still Life and Blackwater Park. The vast compositions and near black metal tones of the previous albums are gone. In their place is a more concise songwriting style with a much greater emphasis on riffs, and lots of them I might add. My Arms, Your Hearse is a transitional album for sure as there are some traces of the old style left. They have yet to fully arrive at the sound for which they'd become most famous. This is also still the most aggressive and purely metal album from Opeth, though the clean guitars and vocals are in abundance as ever, the metal passages are arguably the heaviest they've been.

From the album art to the music, this album is swamped in a thick and murky atmosphere unlike any other Opeth album, and unlike a lot of other albums period. One of the best examples I can think of where the cover art really matches the content and the two help bring each other to life. This is the first of Opeth's concept albums, and features a unique writing trick where the final word of the lyrics for each song is the title of the one that follows. Quite a neat trick that I haven't seen elsewhere, which helps tie everything together. The lyrics are as to be expected from this band, with a nice poetic flair.

This album marks the first appearance of Martin Lopez on the drums, who lends a considerably different feel compared to Anders Nordin. Nordin's beats were often quite Mediterranean influenced, while Lopez (fresh from Amon Amarth) gives a much more aggressive and metal performance with some more subtle moments with a great swing to them. Bassist Martin Mendez was technically part of the lineup by this point, though he didn't have time to learn the parts so Mikael Akerfeldt stood in. I'm a big fan of Johan DeFarfalla's brilliantly expressive and skillful playing on the first two albums (especially Morningrise), however his much more complex playing would simply be drowned amidst the much denser compositions of this album. I've read some criticism of Akerfeldt's bass playing on this album which I don't find reasonable, he holds down the low end perfectly well and if you listen closely you'll hear him doing some quite interesting melodic stuff from time to time. Akerfeldt and Lindgren's riffing style has become much more about strumming chord progressions as opposed to melodeath style dual harmonized leads of the first two albums. The clean playing has taken on a more "jazzy" feel and the folky acoustic playing is still there. Mike's vocals have changed a lot, becoming much deeper and more like death metal vocals instead of the black metal styled rasp he used before. He gives a powerful performance, and also my favourite of his clean vocals on this album, which is strange considering he supposedly had a cold while recording.

I couldn't really pick a favourite song from this album, as they all give off the same vibe while being distinct in themselves, though I must give special mention to "Credence" for being stunning (my favourite Opeth "ballad") and "Karma" for being the one I probably would pick as my favourite if I had to make that choice...but I like it all equally really. It took me quite a while to get into this band, especially the later albums, but this one definitely helped me a lot in that area. Fully recommended.