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Demon Of the Fall - 90%

jeanshack, May 9th, 2010

The first listen to this record, get ready to be confused as to what to hate more, the production quality or the obsessive echoing of bass in the background. "Prologue" starts of in a beautifully misleading way only to explode into "April Ethereal". Initially the record does sound different but scratch off the surface and it is the same old Opeth terrain decked with brilliant death growls, acoustic guitars, melancholy passages, Iron Maiden inspired riffs, clean and whispering vocals. Needless to say all the songs are different permutations and combination of the above attributes.

With this record its more than evident that the black metal influence has completely faded to oblivion and its a dominating death metal sound which is most prominent in the vocals of Åkerfeldt. Unlike Morningrise this is not the obvious staring into face melody, its more subdued and there is a strange echo which adds to the ambiance of the whole experience.

The riffs on this record are faster but blunted by the booming background bass which somehow deviates the attention of the listener. I do not know whether this was intentional but at a superficial level you can call this a "versatile" record, a dozens listens down the line you realize there is nothing new here other than a record producer obsessed with bass sound which literally drown everything other than the vocals. I have to say that I have never heard bass stand out so much on any band's sound other than of course Iron Maiden, which definitely is intentional there, thanks to Steve Harris.

As always Åkerfeldt stands out with his unusual ability to shift between a multitude of vocal styles. Around one minute to "The Amen Corner" you can notice how perceptibly deeper the growling gets, the trend continues into "Demon of the Fall" which starts off with vocals which is exploding from an endless abyss. Even the omnipresent bass seems to get crushed with the Åkerfeldt sound which comes full cycle when it ends with strong clean vocals. To me "Demon of the Fall" is that quintessential song which defines the whole album.

My Arms , Your Hearse has mediocre compositions and is a half baked record if you are a progressive death fan. You get an impression that Opeth was truly at crossroads, there were less musical passages compared to Morningrise and even more lesser clean vocals and shorter songs, from this point on their sound could have gone in any direction. On hindsight the first step towards getting a more 'civilized' sound was taken with this record, remove the omnipresent echo and the mindless bass, you get "Still Life", interestingly both are concept works revolving around a woman pursued by ghost in the former and by a outcast in the latter.

There are two bizarre covers of Celtic Frost and Iron Maiden in the re-released version, I am no fan of Celtic Frost but they definitely crucified the Iron Maiden classic, Opeth definitely achieved the impossible when they managed to make a Iron Maiden song sound like the way it did.

It is very typical of metal fans to be cynical and call a band pretentious when there is an effort to make the lyrics tad poetic than just created for mindless growling which fills the gaps when virtuoso musicians shift gears. I have immense respect for Åkerfeldt for the lyrics in this record, the Opeth sound he formulated over the years and even more for the ethereal vocals which makes emulation of Opeth a near impossible.