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The summit of perfection - 100%

Writhingchaos, February 3rd, 2016

Opeth. The one band whose talent most bands would either piss themselves in fear of or kill to have even an iota of the skill that they possess. I mean these guys have more skill, conviction and talent in one song than most bands have in their entire careers. Funnily enough this was the last album of theirs that I heard, along with Orchid. Yes in case you were still wondering I did work my way backwards with their albums, as did most other fans out there I’m guessing. I mean the Swedes started gaining the mainstream praise we now attribute to them only after the release of Damnation and Deliverance after all. However having said that, this album certainly deserves much more appreciation that it’s got and for all you late-era Opeth fans - you are truly missing out on an underrated masterpiece here!

Here as most people have already pointed out, the songs have been tightened up making them more concise and definite as opposed to the loose, jammy and almost dreamy feel of Morningrise and Orchid. Neither approach is bad in my opinion, but on this album Opeth definitely established the precise blueprint for their upcoming five albums (not counting Damnation) as well as gave the genre of progressive death metal a new lease of life, if you will. All of the songs simply slay from beginning to end (no surprise there, it’s Opeth after all) and most of all, this album can be enjoyed as 9 separate pieces of music as well as a 52 minute long journey of thunderous peaks and valleys.

The echoing haunting piano at the beginning of "Prologue" only serves as an appetizer reminding you about the mystifying theme of the album, as "April Ethereal" launches the album into the stratosphere in full fury. Mikhael’s growls are truly terrifying here and the pounding riffs kicking in at 3:08 only to serve to heighten that fact. Such brutality. All the generic BDM bands out there cluttering up the scene with your nonsensical br00tality, suck on this and learn something for a change! The slow harmonizing part at 4:42 is just sublime bliss in every sense of the word. This song singlehandedly proves that all your grandiose plans of making progressive and technical metal aint worth shit if you don’t know squat about songwriting, and Opeth definitely have the talent of songwriting in spades. If this song doesn’t convince you, then probably nothing will. “Madrigal” is one of the better interlude tracks I’ve heard, actually adding to the album as a whole instead of just being tacked on lazily like in most other albums out there, simply to pad out the length of the album in question. “The Amen Corner” keeps the flag of brutality flying high yet again, with acoustic section woven perfectly into the face-melting riffage along with a fret-burning solo and multiple leads to soot, finally ending with a perfect soothing acoustic outro. How to fuse perfection with perfection? This song! The acoustic guitars in “Credence” are just heavenly weaving their way through multiple melodies and sections without you even realizing it on the first listen. That throbbing lead at 4:10 is just next level. Listen to it for yourselves and gush about it for a change. The section at 3:38 in “Karma” where the lush vocal line “You have nothing more to lose” gives way to another section of melancholic strumming topped by a mournful lead just depresses me in more ways than one as I know that I will never ever be this good at composing in my current lifetime at the very least.

For all you pure-bred death metal fans, be sure to look up “Demon Of The Fall” as the opening riff itself demolishes mountains, forget moving them and will conjure up such visceral images in your head that you’ll be forced to read books on Spanish Inquisition tortures for a month afterwards in order to satiate those images! Yeah no kidding. You’ll be humming the almost doomish melody at 5:25 long afterwards wondering how these guys can make music so brutally captivating and catchy at the same time.

“When” has one of the best intros ever. That echo-laden clean guitar picking and slide just adds to the puzzling feel of the entire album. Spasmodic headbanging of the highest order will probably occur post 0:27 however, as the song launched into one hell of a brutal assault. Ahhh Opeth doing what they do best. The gorgeous acoustic/lead sections at 2:44 and 5:40 is something most bands can only dream of composing at least once in their respective lifetimes. Epic, simply epic. Nothing more needs to be said. The same applies for the last song “Epilogue” a beautifully captivating closer to the album. I mean just listen to those leads towards the end and tell me if you still can’t feel yourself floating way. I know I can

The concept doesn’t interrupt the music at all and actually adds to the overall dark and foreboding feel of the album. Just magnificent. I truly long for more such albums in today’s bland and over-saturated music scene. If I had to nit-pick, I’d say that Akerfeldt had yet to perfect his clean vocals (Still Life and Blackwater Park were yet to be released after all) which he subsequently would on the following albums, so it’s all good. But that’s too small a quibble so it can be easily ignored. Although you may have certain favourites of your own, the best way to experience the outstanding glory of this album is to listen to it from beginning to end. A truly underrated masterpiece in every way folks. I cannot stress this enough. Consider my mind blown.