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Pretty much the only reason I don't bash Opeth. - 89%

lord_ghengis, November 1st, 2007

Opeth are generally pretty bad, I know this because I've paid for, and felt ripped off by, almost all of their albums. However this one I have other views on, this a very good progressive death metal album, and easily their best. Hell, My Arms Your Hearse is so good that Opeth have made another six disappointing albums worth of profit off me since I heard it.

What Opeth did to make this album so good is that they took an original view on their earlier works, and made something truly new. The vocals are low and guttural, like they are today, changing from the slightly blacker ones on the first two records. The instrumental passages are shortened significantly (in comparison to Orchid and Morningrise). If you've noticed, this is very similar to everything they've done since. That's because they haven't changed at all since 1998, which wasn't a huge surprise, since Morningrise was just Orchid again, with less riffs and longer songs. They've always been fond of sticking to their own style, even if it does get old. Since My Arms Your Hearse they've really just kept making the same album over and over, without the good lyrics, and stale. The only thing different from their newest works is that they knew when to end a song. Yes, this is before Mikael got overboard with his "We still have long songs, so we're still truly against the mainstream". This leads to the songs feeling like natural, seven minute songs, rather than forced 7 minute songs with 5 minutes tacked on throughout.

The songs are hardly short though, and they do get out to nine minutes, but they are limited due to the lyrics. One interesting aspect of the album is that Akerfeldt wrote the lyrics before he wrote the music. Not only is the concept, about a guy who dies, and then tries to remain in contact with his wife (or similar, that's what I got), really very good, it means that once the lyrics for a part were used up, the song has to end. This forced limitation is something that the band should really try to get going with again. Unfortunately, some segments of the lyrics, actually 3 of them, are used up on instrumentals, meaning that story presented is missing a lot of content, and does seems little disjointed. Prologue in particular really did need it's lyrics used to make... well, the whole album make sense.

My Arms Your Hearse is one Opeth's heavier efforts, which if you've heard Deliverance should set of warning bells, but I assure you, this works much better. Due the more aggressive nature of the songs, they are shorter, and played with some actual conviction, which is so direly needed from them now. The softer sections don't just fade in, they smoothly transition in, and maintain a solid bond with the song, generally not going off into random places. Everything is written with a purpose, and for that reason doesn't sound so randomly cut and paste. Not to mention the music played is actually good, with some emphasis on writing catchy grooves and rhythms along with the atmosphere they constantly strive for.

The band still isn't a riff based monster though; the guitars still rely on making notes that create an atmosphere to fill up time rather than rock you senseless. So well, if you're a fan of short direct headbanging riffs, you won't find much to enjoy here. Even the quite powerful Demon of the Fall still relies on the proggy Opeth style rather than standard Death metal riffs. The drumming of Martin Lopez is really at his best, still sitting the background, but playing really very technical and intelligent stuff. Really, as overrated as most of this band is as musicians, he is a very good prog drummer.

Mikael delivers the lyrics in a much more fitting way than he used to, his low growls are a little easier on the ears than before, and they suit the bands style more. This album is really the first time he showed himself off as a good clean vocalist, with a good enough range for the doomy style of prog rock they play. Credence is without a doubt the bands best ballad track, which creates a truly depressive feel through it's simplicity and Akerfeldt's vocals. It almost seems as if the fact that he had a cold during the recording helped him sound more sombre.

I really don't like Opeth, honestly, it's not because they're not death metal (Which they're not), and it's not because I don't like progressive rock. It's that they generally don't have anything like enough ideas to fill up 20 minute songs, but they do here. This is fantastic, I can understand why standard DM fans would dislike them, but Opeth fans must be idiots or something, because this is their pinnacle. But then again, they tend to like Morningrise, the low quality version of Orchid, and Still Life, the low quality version of this.

Honestly, get this, and Orchid, and you've got all their worthwhile content. Everything else is taken off one of these two albums, and stretched out until it is a lifeless mess of a sleeping pill.