OPETH Discography Revisited

As one of my favourite bands (and the band that got me into death metal in general,) I had listened to Opeth quite a bit before moving onto their first record; ‘Orchid.’ With a raw production and a sound that can be likened to blackened death metal, ‘Orchid’ has many of the traits that got me to fall in love with this band’s music; just unrefined. This early on there trademark melodic hooks, brutality interspersed with acoustic segments and an eerie vibe to the music. What makes this release a bit of a step down from latter albums however, is that it doesn’t have that overall feel of cohesion and function alot of the others do, as well as being a little too long for it’s own good.

With five of the album’s seven tracks clocking in anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes, it can be difficult to listen to the album from start to finish without some level of fatigue. Each of the tracks (including the two interludes) have qualities about them, but they don’t sound so much like effective compositions as they do a collection of (albeit good) riffs and inspired sections clumped together in different tracks. This is not at all to say the songs are not ‘good,’ but it’s hard to tell most of the songs apart from one another.

The grand exception to this rule however, is the highlight to the album; ‘The Twilight Is My Robe.’ Although the first listens to this interesting album didn’t distinguish this song from the others, it quickly grew on me that this track was quite a bit more accomplished then the others in terms of composition. A galloping intro and mournful verse structure segues into one of the band’s most beautiful acoustic passages before erupting into a headbanging instrumental section reminiscent of Iron Maiden. While the song set up is much akin to the other tracks (heavy/light sections,) the riffs here are more vibrant and above all; memorable than on the other songs. The metal instrumental section rates as being one of the highlights of the album, as it had me pumped from the first intent listen onwards.

The good news here is that Opeth would go on to perfect this style with their next album ‘Morningrise’ and lead to a much more functional album. As far as ‘Orchid’ goes, it’s clear that Opeth was still trying to work out some kinks in their act, and while this debut is impressive and gives a good idea of what the band is about, the compositions (and eventually, the production) would be cleared up to make way for some of the best heavy music ever written. A great album for riffs and some really inspired sections, but not quite as good as some of the real gems Opeth has to offer in their repetoire.

Opeth have proven themselves over time to be one of the most innovative and quality-consistent bands out there in the metal world. Even as early as their debut, Opeth was writting some pretty great material. However, it was not until 1996 when this band from Stockholm, Sweden released the first album that was truly representative of what the band could do together.

‘Morningrise’ is best described as a ‘flawed masterpiece.’ There are some of Opeth’s best ever songs on here, and the acoustic work on this album has never been topped on any other Opeth album. This album also has the first song that makes primary use of Mikael Akerfeldt’s clean singing abilities. The ballad ‘To Bid You Farewell’ is the best ballad Opeth has ever done, and it builds up to a great, dramatic climax that is both intense, emotional and moving.

The highlight of the album is the epic ‘Night And The Silent Water,’ which is a masterpiece on it’s own. It’s possibly the greatest Opeth song ever done, and never gets old. It covers the entire spectrum of sound, going from heaviness, to a more acoustic sound, to a slow but steady buildup that erupts into a gut-wrenching finale that cannot be described as anything other then epic. Not only is it one of the best Opeth songs of all time, but it’s one of the best progressive metal songs ever written.

The ‘epic’ of the album, ‘Black Rose Immortal’ while it’s definately good and interesting for the most part, is a little bit of a dissapointment. When thinking of a twenty minute Opeth song, I thought of something that could possibly rival ‘A Change Of Seasons’ or ‘Supper’s Ready.’ What ‘Black Rose Immortal’ ends up being is a song that while being a good song, doesn’t meet up to my standards even close of what I thought it would shape up to me. Not to say it isn’t good, and I know alot of Opeth fans who think that it’s the greatest thing, but it’s never hit me as being a mind-blowing song. Some of the parts in the song (after a few listens) get a bit sickening.

‘Advent’ and ‘Nectar’ are both songs that never hit me the first few times listening to them. The only difference is that as of writting this review, ‘Advent’ blows my mind, whereas ‘Nectar’ ranks as just being alright, and sort of forgettable.

This is still a work of a band that’s growing and developing, and Opeth wouldn’t find their perfect voice until the masterful ‘Still Life’ a few years later. But this album is the greatest of Opeth’s early works, and while it might not have the flow or grace of a masterpiece, it’s still a great album, from a great band. While some may have a problem with the production quality, and the ‘black metal’ feel of the music, it’s a very intelligent work.

Following their flawed masterpiece ‘Morningrise,’ Opeth decides to turn up the brutality and heaviness a notch with this album, as well as introduce the idea of ‘concept albums’ into the bands catalogue. As a running song cycle without breaks, this became the first album they ever released that let the whole compliment the parts, so to speak.

The first thing one might notice by listening is the great improvement in production quality. While certainly not up to par with the Wilson production era starting with ‘Blackwater Park,’ theres a very audible development. The traditional formula (heavy/soft passages) Opeth has become known for is still here, albeit in less balance than usual but if you have heard an Opeth album before, there isn’t going to be anything here that sounds out of the ordinary.

‘My Arms, Your Hearse’ was the last Opeth album I bought before I completed my discography, and even though it’s nowhere near their greatest, it somehow feels like their most consistent effort to date. ‘Demon Of The Fall’ seems a fair contender as the highlight track, but aside from that, everything balances out a rather uncompromised level of quality; a feat for any album on it’s own.

The predecessor to Opeth’s first perfect album ‘Still Life,’ ‘My Arms Your Hearse’ shows Opeth experimenting with a binding narrative that would later be improved on with the next. In terms of lyrics, Mikael Akerfeldt weaves together a story that fits the music very well, although it isn’t quite as engrossing or effective as the story in ‘Still Life,’ it helps to tie the album together. More or less, the story revolves around the spirit of a man who died looking down on the woman he loves and being dismayed that she does not grieve for him. However, it is later revealed that her love has blinded her to the reality that he has in fact died, and is therefore in a state of denial. It’s a very simple concept, but Akerfeldt works both his music and lyrics to maximize the dramatic effect.

‘My Arms, Your Hearse’ is probably the Opeth album I’ve listened to the least overall, and while it has it’s share of faults and problems, this is an excellent album and things would only get better as time went on for this brilliant band. A great example of what a four star album should look like.

This is the first Opeth album (their fourth chronological release) that can widely be considered to be a near-perfect masterpiece. While albums such as ‘Morningrise’ did show signs of brilliance, the overall execution was imperfect, and there was still room for improvement. ‘Still Life’ is a fine representation of what a dose of intelligence can do for the metal industry. The end result is a cohesive, beautiful and technical album that seamlessly blends metal, progressive, and jazz leanings into a rich musical tapestry. However, possibly more so than any other album in my collection; this album took a long time to truly sink in, but it was certainly worth it.

At first few listens, I found the album to be technically ‘good’ but lacking in structure, and void of the mind blowing quality I felt while first listening to ‘Ghost Reveries’ or ‘Watershed.’ It was only after my fifteenth or so listen of ‘Still Life’ that it suddenly clicked in… The truly profound enjoyment of the album first sprouted in listening to the album’s closer ‘White Cluster.’ The jazz contrast with the metal riffage was interesting and beautiful all at the same time. This newfound appreciation quickly spread to the other songs, and before too long I was listening to the album start to finish and loving every immersive second of it.

Paired with the haunting music is an equally haunting storyline. I won’t go into detail about the plot in fear of spoilers, but the album revolves around a man banished from his village, returning to find his lost love. As you might imagine, there are some unfortunate consequences and the lyrics (beautifully written, especially for a death metal record) help to heighten the sense of drama until the heartbreaking, tragic end.

It has been said that the only way to truly test the quality of an album is how well it ages over time. This album is only getting better with time, and although it was a bit hard to truly appreciate and get into, it was certainly worth it, and since then, ‘Still Life’ has since risen to become one of my favourite records of all time.

Throughout my time as a relatively ‘hardcore’ Opeth fan, I have been always trying to appreciate this album more. It’s been called the ‘greatest album of all time’ but I still have never truly been able to appreciate it as being more than ‘pretty good.’ There are some very good songs on here, like the quintessential Opeth classic ‘The Drapery Falls’ but there are also some songs that are nothing more than mediocre, such as the rather boring ‘Dirge For November.’

Up until quite recently, I never even liked the epynomous title track ‘Blackwater Park.’ I thought it was far too repetitive, and didn’t really go anywhere. Nowadays, I think it builds up rather well, but it’s still not fantastic. The only two songs that would be found on an archetypal Opeth ‘masterpiece’ are ‘The Leper Affinity’ and ‘The Drapery Falls.’ Besides that, there isn’t any fantastic material here that would warrant calling it the majestic work of innovation that it’s been called by so many others.

The fact that Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree fame) produces this album is an obvious plus. The sound quality is great, and a sharp improvement from their earlier works. Still, there doesn’t feel like theres a real magical evocation on this album. It’s great, yes. But it’s not something I would ever compare to true masterpieces, like ‘Still Life’ or even ‘Ghost Reveries’ (which got me into Opeth in the first place.)

If I’m missing something about this album that makes it a masterpiece, that so many other people have recognized, please message me and tell me what I’m not recognizing. Otherwise, this album remains a great, but not superb Opeth album.

As the heaviest of the Steven Wilson produced albums, ‘Deliverence’ showed Opeth’s more primal, heavy side as opposed to the emotive rock leanings ‘Damnation’ would aim for. While the album may have been inconsistent in terms of the song qualities, there would be three songs from the album that would really stand out to me. This title track is one of them (along with ‘Wreath’ and ‘A Fair Judgement,’ for those wondering) and while it may not have the subtle dynamics of the other ‘masterpiece’ Opeth tracks, ‘Deliverence’ blew me away with it’s furious percussions, tasteful riffage and some of the most brutal vocals frontman Mikael Akerfeldt has ever done. To top this all off, the last four minutes of the original track comprised one of the most majestic outros I have ever heard in a song.

While this ‘radio’ edit certainly robs the track of alot of it’s magic, you can still get a good idea of the power and intensity the band was driving at when making this song. There is no more majestic outro to speak of, but the track instead focuses on the more song-based elements of the track rather than the ‘epic’ feel of the full thirteen minutes.

Fans of death metal or other heavy forms of music may very well take a liking to this music; however much better things await a prospective listener on the actual album of the same name.

The greatest thing about this prog-rock release from death metal masters Opeth is it’s sheer personal approach. This is an album that is a shattering contrast to the band’s usually heavy material. For those unfamiliar with the group’s work, it might come as a suprise that there is actually no trace of metal, save extreme metal in any of the songs. Instead of longer, more technical compositions, Mikael Akerfeldt conveys his meaning through more conventional outlets, concentrating more on sheer emotion as opposed to ‘brutality’ or progressiveness, although the progressive elements are certainly evident.

The personality and intimacy comes through in the stripped down feeling of the album. That’s not to say that there aren’t complex parts in the music (there certainly are) but for a good part of the album, there is more of a focus on bare songwriting as opposed to musical virtuosity. This gives more room for the feeling to shine through, and the resulting effect is breathtaking.

Another evident strength this album has to offer is the sincerity of the music. There are songs here that obviously have great personal meaning to Akerfeldt (for example; the song ‘Hope Leaves’ is about his grandmother dying) and that’s what really makes this album such a gem; a pure uncompromised sense of feeling that is hard to find in progressive music nowadays.

Where the album faults might have even been inevitable. Keeping the music mellow means that alot of the album ends up being more one-tracked then an Opeth album usually is. While alot of the songwriting is top-notch, a few songs (‘Death Whispered A Lullaby’) could have been tweaked somewhat more to get the best possible outcome.

This is an album where Mikael Akerfeldt really put his heart out on the line. For making such a courageous move, and combining that with songwriting brilliance, and beautiful performances from all members of the band, ‘Damnation’ deserves no less than to be called ‘fantastic.’ If it wasn’t for it’s few small faults, I would have no issue calling it a masterpiece. Beautiful, deep, introspective, and moving beyond words.

At first spin of this album, I was quite taken aback by it’s unique blend of heaviness and progression. However, I wasn’t quite in love with it just yet… In fact, it took me almost a year and a half to completely let the album sink in, long after Opeth had become one of my favourite bands, and I was an owner of a considerable portion of their repetoire. Then one day, I decided to take it back out and give it another few listens. To say I was ‘blown away’ is only the beginning. From then on, ‘Ghost Reveries’ has since become one of my favourite albums of all time, and arguably my most enjoyed Opeth release yet.

This album has everything that could be asked for in a Progressive Death Metal release… There is a sufficient level of weirdness to maintain interest for many, many listens, and there are parts that can only be described as earth-shatteringly heavy. However, despite these heavy leanings, Akerfeldt still manages to sneak in some more mellow, melodic ballads (such as the vocally powerful ‘Hours Of Wealth’ and the ever beautiful ‘Isolation Years’) into the album’s tapestry.

‘Ghost Reveries’ has very few, if any ‘boring’ moments. The result of which is an album that is in no way a chore to listen to from start to finish. Songs like the grandiose ‘Ghost of Perdition’ and the depressingly romantic ‘Isolation Years’ stood out for me as being truly worthy of brilliance.

A great album to start your Opeth fanhood with, and one of the few modern classics of metal.

With 2006′s ‘Ghost Reveries,’ Opeth burst out onto the world stage and became a household name in the world of metal. Now, with new members and a fresh new perspective, Opeth has released yet another fantastic album. Falling just short of perfection, ‘Watershed’ offers a dose of some great Opeth material, paired with some rather half-baked material. There are some instant classics on this album, such as the innovative track ‘The Lotus Eater,’ which stands as being both the highlight of this album and one of the best, strangest songs Opeth has ever recorded.

The new band members, while they will obviously meet criticism from hardcore purists regardless, are in fact incredibly talented. The new drummer, Martin Axenrot is a fair improvement from his predecessor, and although the jazz percussive influences can’t be heard as much anymore, there’s an added dose of metal to be heard here, which compensates for the added focus on prog-rock. This album can be thought of as one part ‘Ghost Reveries’ and one part ‘Damnation.’ While Opeth is typically thought of as a death metal band, only three of the songs to be found here have death growling! This is a sign of the future for Opeth… Potentially they will come to the point where they scrap death metal altogether? Hopefully not, because the growls on this album are some of his best yet. ‘Heir Apparent’ offers some of the most bone- crushing death metal Opeth has ever done, and stands as being one of their heaviest songs yet.

The beautiful ballad ‘Burden,’ while being something of evidence of Roadrunner’s commercial pressures on the band, still works out to be a really nice prog-rock song, reminiscent of classic 70′s prog. The only song on this album that dissapoints is the closer ‘Hex Omega,’ which although having some good riffs, doesn’t really pass as being a very fitting closer. In fact, if ‘Hex Omega’ had been replaced with a better finishing song, this album would have received five stars. But as a final impression, it injures the album’s overall effect. Despite this shortcoming, the album pulls through however, and stands as being a great Opeth release, and does not dissapoint. Definately worth the purchase.

Opeth is a band that is famous for turning metalheads into prog rock fans. It was the other way for me; these Swedish titans introduced me to the world of extreme metal, a sound that I found myself averse to at first, but have since come to embrace as a realm where some of rock music’s most visionary talents dwell. Although ‘Morningrise’ and ‘Ghost Reveries’ in particular have since engrained an indelible etch on my heart though, the past year saw my appreciation for this band has waned, virtually leading me to renounce my Opeth fandom; while brilliant at first, their style wore thin for me, perhaps from one too many listens to the now painfully familar soft-heavy dynamic. With that being said, let it be known that this reviewer may have had a slight bias against this band’s work now. Hopefully however, my fatigue of Opeth hasn’t stopped me from judging their latest album ‘Heritage’ on its merits.

While Opeth is best known for epic progressive death metal with strong acoustic elements and melancholic atmosphere, they are also known to deviate from that course, albeit only once in a while. The first shift away from metal was heard on 2003′s ‘Damnation’, a mellow and depressing interlude between the heaviness of ‘Deliverance’, and the refined mastery of ‘Ghost Reveries’. Although this was certainly a step away from what the band was used to doing, there was still the distinct Opeth-y vibe to it; the riffs were definitely the creation of Opeth main man Mikael Akerfeldt, and the feeling of the music remained relatively unchanged from the band’s earlier incarnations. After 2008′s ‘Watershed’, it was clear to many fans that Opeth was on the brink of another change- after all, only three of that album’s seven tracks featured any death growls at all. Let me cut to the point; it came as little surprise that Opeth was now going to do something different with their sound. I loved what they did with ‘Damnation’, but as far as hearing that Opeth was planning on doing a ’70s retro rock album, I was disappointed, even months before the album came out. All too many bands already in prog were looking back to the 1970′s for their sound, and I was not enthralled by the news that Opeth was following suit.

After hearing ‘Heritage’ finally, I have a lot of things to say about it, and simultaneously I am both impressed, yet immensely disappointed. I am impressed for the fact that Opeth has been able to make a new style here while maintaining many of their trademark sounds, and the music here does not sound nearly as ’70s derived as I feared it would be. On the less positive note, I have been immensely disappointed by the fact that- above and beyond, this is the most unbalanced thing that Opeth has ever done, and hopefully ever will do. I cannot see myself ever having the same appreciation for this record as I do for anything else that Opeth has done. Even still, amidst all of the confusion and disappointment that this record has created for me, there are still things that pleasantly surprised me along the way.

As far as their style goes, we still hear the interplay between acoustic parts and heavier moments, but the big change here is that all traces of death metal have been extracted out of the formula. Unlike ‘Damnation’, Opeth can still be heavy here, but it is heaviness in the same way that a band like Uriah Heep was heavy; gritty and over the top, with all the bombast but lacking the extremity. It is clear that- true to the reports- Opeth aims for a vintage proggy hard rock style, with pros and cons included. Even by looking at the cover of this album, it looks to me that Mikael Akerfeldt is giving a tongue-in-cheek tribute to his prog rock idols with this one, and it is reflected in the music as well; bluesy rock riffs, jazzy drumming, and plenty of keyboard textures. All the same, Opeth is clever enough here to lean towards a certain sound, without necessarily copying it note for note.

While I was pleasantly intrigued by the fresh take on the ’70s prog style that Opeth crafted here, the songwriting that presents this style was another matter entirely. Even devoting several intent listens to the music on ‘Heritage’, I cannot describe the compositions here as anything but lackluster, underwhelming, aimless, synonyms, synonyms. The songs felt like a continental breakfast buffet at some second-rate chain hotel; there’s plenty of variety to choose from, but they don’t provide half of the equipment to cook the damned stuff. Much of these ideas felt like gimmicks rather than heartfelt musical observations, with a few moments making me wonder if Akerfeldt’s only goal here was to sound strange or obscure to his fans. With a band of this talent, there’s definitely aspects to the sound that score, but ‘Heritage’ is filled with a lot more misses than otherwise. Highlights of this album included the eerie title-track introduction, ‘Nepenthe’, parts of ‘Famine’, and the rather enjoyable climax ‘Folklore’. While I might even say that each track on ‘Heritage’ has at least one interesting aspect about it, none of these songs stand much against the true greats that Opeth has churned out in earlier years.

Like most of this album, the performances and production here is given a largely mixed result. The first thing I really noticed about ‘Heritage’ that impressed me was actually the drumming, provided here by Martin Axenrot. While drums are usually something that takes me several listens before I start really listening in on it, I was immediately struck by both Axenrot’s incredible jazz-tinged performance, and the richly organic way the drums sounded. I would even say that this is the best drumwork I have yet heard on an Opeth record. Coming in as my other favourite aspect of ‘Heritage’ is the keyboard wizardry of Per Wiberg, who doesn’t necessarily wow audiences with technical skills here, but instead makes his mark by using a wide variety of vintage key sounds (think Mellotron, or Hammond organ) and using them tastefully. This gives a nice layer over the otherwise disappointing, grimy, and dull-sounding guitar riffs, which- once again- are among the worst that I have yet heard on an Opeth album. With Per’s keyboard performance here being so vivid, it’s a real shame that this is the last we’ll hear of him with the band.

As I’ve said, the guitar riffs here are boring for the most part, and whatever pleasant aspects of ‘Heritage’ there are, are usually left to keyboards, drums, or other less expected instruments, like the flute. Lastly is Mikael Akerfeldt’s voice on ‘Heritage’, as well as the lyrics. I’m beginning to sense a pattern in my disappointment here; Akerfeldt’s performance here is mixed, with some moments benefiting from his warm tenor, and others feeling more like he’s forcing himself to sound like some obscure hard rock singer than making a necessary artistic choice. And the lyrics; while I considered Mikael Akerfeldt to be something of a death metal poet with opuses ‘Still Life’ and all else, I cringed once or twice with the contrived rhymes that Mikael was trying to pass here; take a look at some of the lyrics on ‘The Lines In My Hand’ and you might see what I mean.

So there you have it; with another year comes another Opeth album, and for the first time in my life, I’ve been really let down by them, the band I once thought could do no wrong. There are plenty of interesting ideas on ‘Heritage’, but while listening to this, I get the recurring image of sifting through Trail Mix when I was a kid; having to rummage through the nuts and berries to get the chocolate crisps. Opeth can certainly be hailed for trying something new with their sound, but as far as experiments go, I would consider this as lukewarm, rather than the dazzling masterpiece some may have hoped it to be.

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