OPETH

"Sorceress" (Nuclear Blast; 2016)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Man, I don't know what I expected when I was tasked to listen to Opeth's "Sorceress." But I can honestly tell you it sure wasn't this.

"Sorceress" is a mesmerizing soundscape consisting of music from nearly every genre I can think of. There's metal, of course, but there's also acoustic, electronic, progressive and more. It's a mind-blowing combination of sounds that becomes even more mind-blowing with how well it all comes together. Throughout the album, you are reminded of legendary progressive bands like Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull, but every once in a while a harder-edged tune, like "Chrysalis," will muscle its way through.

Overall, though, "Sorceress" will be remembered as an atmospheric, sonic journey. It's a riveting recording, with incredible musical skills at play, and a soundscape I think I will enjoy exploring often in the future.

For more information visit http://www.opeth.com 

"Watershed" (Roadrunner Records; 2008)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Opeth's "Watershed" plays like a Gothic movie full of dark and perverse images. The music is full of high quality metal and anyone who is familiar with the band's work will not be disappointed. 

Our East Coast Editor, Christopher J. Kelter, introduced me to this and other Swedish metal bands and really changed the way I look at heavy music. I have grown fond of dark metal bands such as Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and Soilwork (just to name a few); however, I think I like Opeth the best. The range of emotions that Opeth utilizes goes from the serene to the diabolical in a heartbeat. Not too many bands can pull that off. 

When I was buying this CD, the person behind the counter gave me another bonus disk. I thought it was a DVD that came with my purchase of the original CD. When I got home and put it in my DVD player, however, I discovered it was not a DVD but actually another CD with just one, unreleased song on it. How cool is that?!

Opeth once again proves they are not only one of the most talented heavy bands out there, they are also one of the most prolific. 

"Watershed" is easily one of the best recordings I have heard since ...well, since the last Opeth recording I bought. 

For more information visit http://www.opeth.com

"Ghost Reveries" (Roadrunner Records; 2005)

Reviewed by Snidermann

I know that our East Coast Editor, Christopher J. Kelter, is into Opeth and I found out by doing some research on the web that this band has been around since 1990. Personally, I have only come to the band since the day their CD, "Ghost Reveries," came to me for review. 

Since then, I have listened to very little of anything else. Be it on CD or in Ipod form, I think I must have listened to this four or five times a week (no shit!). I am simply amazed at the sheer power, majesty and scope of this project and yet, at the same time, it can draw you down to the simplest of musical ideas in the mere matter of a single beat. 

One thing that I know for sure is that "Ghost Reveries" is the kind of CD that makes you immediately go out and hunt down the band's previous work and I will be doing just that. This Swedish group is well worth the effort; they are a truly remarkable band.

Of course, I have yet to figure out what the sophisticated "Ghost Reveries" is all about, but -- let me tell you -- I will have one hell of a good time trying. 

Opeth: Mikael Åkerfeldt - guitar and vocals; Peter Lindgren - guitars; Martin Lopez - drums; Martin Mendez - bass.

For more information visit http://www.opeth.com

"Damnation" (Koch Records / Music For Nations; 2003)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

After the crushing "Deliverance" was released, Opeth fans had to prepare to face a full album of Opeth's 'lighter' music in the form of "Damnation." Anybody who has followed heavy metal in the past few years knew that this exercise in 'heavy' and 'light' was going to be interesting.

I had originally feared that "Deliverance" would be too heavy and one-dimensional; my fears were allayed after only one listen when it was revealed that Opeth kept the heaviness interesting throughout its diverse six tracks. Congruently, I also feared that "Damnation" would be too mellow and lethargic; as you might guess those fears were allayed when Opeth managed to keep the eight tracks on "Damnation" interesting and full of vigor despite their mellow delivery.

Of course, Opeth would not be Opeth without the mellow parts integrated into the heavy progressive death metal that they are known for. Opeth's mellow sounds provide added dimensions that few bands can match - "Damnation" is ample proof of that. While it was reasonable to suggest that a full album of heavy material from Opeth wouldn't be remarkably different that prior Opeth volumes, a full album of mellow material was certainly to be considered a radical departure. 

After a few spins of "Damnation" I'll admit that I was hoping for a bit more of the elements that make 'progressive' metal a favorite genre of mine to appear on the disc, but I can hardly argue with the results. The eight tracks are easily distinguishable from each other and each song stands out in its own right (not the eight "Harvest"-like tracks that I thought I might be hearing). That might be the highest compliment that can be said of "Damnation." The sequencing is nearly flawless (I'd mention what I thought the few flaws on "Damnation" were, but I'll chalk that up to writing a review after only a half dozens spins - I'm sure in a few months everything will seem natural and the perceived flaws will melt away). The melodies are sad and mournful - just what I was hoping for. Some of the sound exhibited on the two acoustic tracks on the expanded version of the "Blackwater Park" disc are present on "Damnation," but that really shouldn't be a surprise.

Steven Wilson's involvement in Opeth's musical journey continues to be an integral part of the evolution of Opeth's sound. While nothing on "Damnation" sounds like it was lifted from a Porcupine Tree album Wilson's deft touch is unmistakable. Tracks like "Death Whispered A Lullaby" and "Closure" are prime examples of Wilson's ability to elevate Mikael Akerfeldt's already strong songs to stratospheric heights.

"Damnation" is an impressive addition to the Opeth cannon. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that should Opeth call it quits that "Damnation" would represent an appropriate closing chapter to Opeth's impressive body of work.

While I still find myself wondering what kind of impact and impression "Deliverance" and "Damnation" would have had if they had been released simultaneously or as a double-CD, I certainly haven't lost out from listening to the two CDs being released separately six months apart.

"Damnation" was produced by Steven Wilson with Opeth.

Opeth is Mikael Akerfeldt on vocals and guitar, Peter Lindgren on guitar, Martin Mendez on bass, and Martin Lopez on drums. Steven Wilson contributed guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes, and mellotron.

For more information visit http://www.opeth.com

"Deliverance" (Koch Records / Music For Nations; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

"Deliverance" is, without a doubt, one of the most anticipated releases of 2002. Not to be deterred by the high expectations of others, Opeth managed to bash out two albums worth of material in one intense recording session - with "Deliverance" being 'heavy' in the normal Opeth manner and the second disc, titled "Damnation," containing a full set of the band's mellow material ("Damnation" is tentatively scheduled to be released in Winter 2003).

Most Opeth discs start off with slow building intros, but "Wreath" demolishes that ritual to bits. After a crushing intro of brutal guitars vocalist Akerfeldt utilizes a deep death growl that sets the tone for the entire record. There are no clean vocals on "Wreath" – that should give you an idea of the tune's overall heaviness. And it's not just plain heaviness – there's a dark and foreboding mood to the album and "Wreath" sets that tone easily.

The title track starts of with 'heart-being-electrocuted' blasts before quickly settling into some of the dreamiest passages they've ever played. I'd listened to "Deliverance" about 50 times in mp3 format before the album was available – however, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to hear the song's nuances that got lost in the handy, but limited, compressed mp3 format. "Deliverance" also features some of the finest clean vocals of Akerfeldt's career. Also, fans of the band's earliest days should take note that "Deliverance" ends with prog-metal riffing that harkens back to the days of "Orchid" and "Morningrise."

Opeth delivers an overwhelming does of doom and gloom with the patient yet powerful "A Fair Judgement" – this track reminds me of what English doomers would sound like if they were influenced by Swedish death metal. It takes a while to warm up to the darkened corners of "A Fair Judgement,”" but the effort is well worth it. The drawn out doom-laden passages rely more on sustained chords and mourning keyboards rather than the frenetic chord/riffing alternation Opeth is famous for.

The obligatory instrumental "For Absent Friends" follows "A Fair Judgement.”" If you heard the bonus tracks added to the 'special' edition of "Blackwater Park" you'd have an idea of what the melody in "For Absent Friends" sounds like. As the title suggests, the melody is a somber, mournful longing for something that no longer exists – Opeth are simply masters of evoking emotions from even the most hardened music fan.

"Master's Apprentices" heaves with deep pulsing chords and snarling guitar accents. Akerfeldt's harsh growl is in fine form on this track and he effortlessly shifts to cleaner passages make the chasm of the song's sinister protagonist shifting between madness and calm all the more disturbing. The song's mellow parts evoke the moody atmosphere of Pink Floyd at times.

"By The Pain I See In Others" veers in all sorts of directions while remaining one of the most brutal songs in the Opeth canon despite the fact that the song has the most overt influence of Steven Wilson's dreamy prog-rock (as heard in Wilson's main band Porcupine Tree). The song's silent-then-mysterious ending leaves you straining to hear what is going on – but that may be the band's aim: to either heighten anticipation or confuse listeners as to what's coming next with the mellow "Damnation."

Vocalist and guitarist Akerfeldt, as the band's chief songwriter, pours everything he has into Opeth records. Guitarist Lindgren is the perfect complement to Akerfeldt as he never seems out of place with his playing. Akerfeldt and Lindgren compose some of the most melodically perfect solos and lead lines ever heard on a metal album. Bassist Mendez seems more relaxed and buoyant this time around even during the parts that are full of staccato aggression. Drummer Lopez may just be the secret weapon of "Deliverance." Lopez gets a workout and his double-bass assault is impressive. Steven Wilson's continued involvement with "Deliverance" has brought even more layers and beauty to Opeth than he provided for "Blackwater Park." Wilson's piano, mellotron, and backing vocals add colors and varying shades that make Opeth's sweeping majesty even grander than on "Blackwater Park."

It's still too early to tell where "Deliverance" will fit in the grand scheme of Opeth's observations. In my opinion the band has yet to duplicate the perfection of "Still Life," but Opeth is still producing music that is far beyond what other bands are capable of.

"Deliverance" was produced by Opeth and Steven Wilson. Andy Sneap provided the mixing magic that only he can do. Travis Smith provided the artwork like he has for the previous two Opeth discs – but this artwork is in a different vein that presents hazy, grainy black and white images. Once again Smith captures the mood of an album in the artwork – very impressive.

Opeth is Mikael Akerfeldt on vocals and guitar, Peter Lindgren on guitars, Martin Mendez on bass, and Martin Lopez on drums. Steven Wilson contributes piano, mellotron, and backing vocals.

For more information visit http://www.opeth.com

"Blackwater Park" (Koch Records; 2001)

Reviewed by J. Kennedy

Named after an obscure prog rock group from the mid 1970s, "Blackwater Park" is a simply stunning release from its unpredictable start to its unpredictable finish. In fact, "unpredictable" basically sums up the entire one hour, sixteen minutes and two seconds of classic music that the band has crafted here.

From death metal growls, to soft and gentle crooning, to almost mournful singing, vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt certainly provides some ample range. Not content to be a one-trick pony, the man has stretched his voice to find some beautiful tones and yet some more brutal moans. Newcomers to Opeth will find solace in the familiar metal riffing of "Bleak" while more seasoned members of the band's following will look to the amazingly structured title track for inspiration. 

It's apparent that Opeth like length in their songs. Most tracks on this album fall between seven and ten minutes. Probably one of the best death metal bands around,  their melodic sound encompasses across several genres. Sometimes folk, sometimes all out brutal death metal  - there is no real pattern to Opeth's music. Adding piano solos to the mix (as at the end of "The Leper Affinity," for example) and acoustic guitars which are dotted throughout the CD, this is experimentation at its finest. 

Opeth have one simple message for all experimenting bands: "Know no limits." They certainly have no limits here. The band can switch from a beautiful lament one minute to an all out, riff-fueled frenzy topped by guttural vocals the next. Then, before you know what's hit you, it's back to the soft sounds of a band totally at ease with their musicianship. You get the feeling that there is a band coming into its own with this record. 

"Blackwater Park" is one for newcomers and veterans alike. It's a true experimental classic.

Opeth: Mikael Åkerfeldt (Guitars/Vocals), Peter Lindgren (Guitars), Martin Lopez (Drums) & Martin Mendez (Bass).

Find out more about Opeth at: www.opeth.com

"Blackwater Park" (Koch Records; 2001))

Reviewed by Kate Smith

Opeth definitely has a clear progressive metal quality on their new CD "Balckwater Park." Steven Wilson's (from Porcupine Tree) participation on the tracks did not change their style at all but added to their already well-defined sound. Michael Akerfeldt's style ranges from gritty death-like growls to clear melodic vocals that shows off his talent.

Every song flows very easily on this CD and I think my favorite tracks are "Leper Affinity," "Bleak," "Harvest" and "Funeral Portrait." The guitars shred on every song and add to the vocals.

For those who have enjoyed Opeth's previous albums: "Morningrise," "Still Life," and "My Arms, Your Hearse," you will also appreciate "Blackwater Park."

For more information visit http://www.opeth.com

"Still Life" (Peaceville; 1999)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

After hearing "My Arms, Your Hearse" I began to wonder how Opeth would even begin to conceive of surpassing that CD's expansive scope and brilliance. While "Still Life" no longer presents the band in a ground-breaking light, Opeth are still considerably better than nearly all other bands in metal. 

"Still Life" is a concept piece and it gives the disc even more gravity. "Still Life" tells the story of man who dies only to come back to this veil of tears to find Melinda, the object his affections, with another man. A murderous rage ensues with paralyzing bouts of hopelessness. A man in the afterlife struggling with his emotions - there's a recipe for drama. 

Opeth have taken their music into more somber realms and ditched some of the speedier parts that have characterized their music over the last three releases. The music is harsh at times, hauntingly beautiful at others, and sometimes even both. The greater use of acoustic guitars gives "Still Life" a more expansive, symphonic sound. 

Epic-length dirges are still the order of the day for Opeth. Only the acoustic ballad "Benighted" can be considered 'short' at five minutes long. Songs that ignite the imagination are the death and black metal marriage of "Serenity Painted Death" and the revealing sadness of "Godhead's Lament." Also, "White Cluster" explodes with enough fury and passion for an entire disc's worth of songs. 

Vocally there are more clean passages, but not to the point of dominance. The dichotomy of the vocals gives "Still Life" a see-saw feel that adds drama and tension to the proceedings. Lyrically, the story's theme is shrouded in vagueness and will keep the story unfolding even after multiple listens.  

After three albums Opeth have gained confidence and poise with "Still Life," their fourth volume of majestic metal. Opeth's proven track record means high expectations for the future, but there's little doubt to the upward trajectory that is the Opeth canon.  

Opeth's "Still Life" is highly recommended for those of you wanting (and willing) to listen to something that is as grand as it is good. "Still Life" is widely available in Europe, but is only available as an import in North America; this is one of the great injustices of the world when Opeth doesn't have a North American distribution deal. 

"Still Life" was produced by Opeth. Fredrik Nordstrom (In Flames) handled the engineering along with Isak Edh.

Opeth is Mikael Akerfeldt on vocals and guitars, Peter Lindgren on guitars, Martin Lopez on drums, and Martin Mendez on bass. The stable line-up from "My Arms, Your Hearse" to "Still Life" has undoubtedly allowed the band to maintain their undeniable momentum. 

For more information visit http://www.opeth.com

"My Arms, Your Hearse" (Century Media/Century Black/Candlelight Records; 1998)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Admired the world over, Opeth are one of the more eclectic groups to ply their trade in the mysterious realm of black metal. "My Arms, Your Hearse" combines black metal with death metal, folk metal, classical music, and acoustic instruments into one all-encompassing tour de force that is not easily understood, but is also not easily forgotten.

With uncommon savvy Opeth create enduring music that can only be described as breathtaking. During the true black metal parts the music is never too fast as too be 'blurry,' but is played at a tempo quick enough to heighten the senses. The slower parts are brightly recorded with great attention to detail.

"April Ethereal," "When," "The Amen Corner," and "Karma" all bear the trademark Opeth style: long songs with complex rhythms, various moods, and gut-wrenching emotional honesty. "Credence" is a somber little number that doesn't need to resort to typical black metal excessiveness to convey depth of emotion. The other three tunes are quick mood setting pieces that show off the band's flair for the quietly dramatic. 

Like fog lifting as the sun beats down on the earth Opeth's liquid transitions are as smooth as glass and seem as effortless as anything you've ever heard. The vocals range from being rich and warm to raspy and foreboding - one of the more versatile voices in the scene today. 

Even though I was already familiar with two of the songs on "My Arms, Your Hearse" I may have still underestimated the scope of Opeth's competency. "My Arms, My Hearse" is as compelling an example as any to establish the black metal genre as a force to be reckoned with. 

"My Arms, Your Hearse" was produced by Fredrik Nordstrom (Soilwork, Dark Tranquility, In Flames), mixed by Anders Friden (In Flames), with assistance by Opeth. 

Opeth is Mikael Akerfeldt on guitars and vocals, Peter Lindgren on guitars, Martin Mendez on bass, and Martin Lopez on drums. Keyboards played by Fredrik Nordstrom. "My Arms, Your Hearse" represents the first appearance for Mendez and Lopez (formerly of Amon Amarth) on an Opeth disc. 

For more information visit http://www.opeth.com/

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2016 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 16 Oct 2016 14:38:38 -0400.