Opeth

Picture of Opeth

Orchid

Opeth - Orchid ©1995 Candlelight
1. In Mist She Stands Waiting
2. Under The Weeping Moon
3. Sillouette
4. Forest Of October
5. The Twilight Is My Robe
6. Requiem
7. The Apostle In Triumph

One of the more stunning and devastingly powerful debuts of any metal band in any genre. Though Opeth's majesty has only recently reached American audiences via Century Media, this timeless classic is a great way to hear how genius is performed.

"So," you ask, "how do you really feel about this album? And don't hold back." Funny you should ask. This is downright one of the best pieces of work in extreme metal. Though they aren't wall-of-noise black metallists like many of their Scandanavian brethen, their roots in both black metal (noticeable mostly in Mikael Akerfeldt's vocals) do put them outside most circles of listeners, thus appealing to fans of bands such as Edge of Sanity, Katatonia (with whom Akerfeldt has been involved), In Flames, and others in the European scene. What sets Opeth apart from the rest is their enormity involved in the songwriting. Almost all their tracks are around eight to fourteen minutes long (with the exception of the interludes of "Requiem" and "Sillouette") and very intricate in terms of execution. Opeth writes some mighty guitar leads and very tasty riffage to base their music. Acoustic guitars spice up the material from time to time, along with some chants and clean singing. Though some death/black purists will dismiss Opeth, it's their loss. This outfit is destined for some great things down the road.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/1997

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Morningrise

Opeth - Morningrise ©1997 Century Media
1. Advent
2. The Night And The Silent Water
3. Nectar
4. Black Rose Immortal
5. To Bid You Farewell

Right there in the league of Swedish melodic death metal bands with really long songs (I need to coin a name for that genre and save a few keystrokes), Opeth releases this, their second album. There are five songs total on the album and not one of them is shorter than ten minutes. That right there should scare off the attention-span impaired.

Now that they're surfing elsewhere, let's discuss exactly what Opeth puts forth. If you happen to be an avid follower of the European, especially Swedish scene, the name Opeth isn't a total mystery. Singer/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt has appeared on Edge of Sanity records and in return former E.O.S. mainman Dan Swano helped record this epic piece. Musically, and even within one song, these guys go all over the map. Generally the songs flow well from one part to the next, though individual songs are not immediately noticeable. The twin guitars work well with each other, creating some great melodies in the guitars, and often lasping into very tasteful acoustic moods. In my opinion, it's difficult to write on guitar intricate songs that fully involve the listener, but Opeth manages to keep your attention. The bass tends to loop around the guitar lines and reminded me lot (in tone, maybe) of the old American experimental thrash band Watchtower. Singer Akerfeldt has a wide range of vocal approaches from hoarse black metal screams to somber melodies.

The best thing about this album is that each new listen further enhances the absolute majesty of the music. Soon you'll begin to anticipate the movements of the pieces and be drawn into it. I admit I fell in love with this album while listening to it during a huge sunrise lightning storm in Utah. Trust me, the music completely fit into the scheme of things. Absolutely recommended.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1997

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Review #2:

Opeth, the pioneers of kitsch and aimless pretention in black metal. Morningrise best exemplifies their stunning incapacity to arrange - not necessarily to compose - and quite predictably is swallowed whole by "melodic metal" enthusiasts with a penchant for worshipping anything this blatantly gimmicky. There are certainly some redeeming points, but they tend to go unnoticed, mostly because this album is about thirty minutes too long and so full of itself that mediocrity begins to seem like incompetence when it keeps getting repeated for what seems like hours on end.

"Advent", for example. A jumble of ideas, it is a messy collection of a million different apathetic riffs without any clear climax, direction. There's a nice riff, then a little break - maybe an acoustic interlude - and then a riff that might have come from any of their other songs, or albums, for that matter. Some of the songwriting seems forceful, and laced with subtle contrivances that tend to strip it of its emotional content because of its inability to absorb me: if the music bothers me, I tend to view it objectively, from the outside, and then the other flaws come crashing in from the periphery onto the centre stage.

There are often a lot of abrupt stops, and they're sometimes followed by acoustic picking patterns with off-key clean vocals. They're somewhat well done on the first two songs, but by the time "Nectar" is done, so is the creativity the band is able to exercise. "Black Rose Immortal" is intolerably boring and "To Bid You Farewell" is almost as bad. The vocals are rather generic, but there is a lot of potential in what the lead singer would be able to accomplish if he tried to sing in key. The production is fine, though the guitar sound is not quite thick enough to have a charismatic definition.

I'm not willing to say that Opeth are untalented, that would be rather inaccurate. Without any doubt, there's a lot of catchy riffage all over the place, and some of the acoustic inteludes are even pleasantly "atmospheric". "Advent" and "Night and the Silent Water" are nice listens, and if taken just as a collection of riffs tend to even be enjoyable. If only they had not tried to bite off more than they could chew, and edited out most of the pointless meandering, this would've been decent. They need to learn that composing "epics" takes a lot more than plastering guitar parts onto a conceptual rag doll of a song.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 04/2000

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My Arms, Your Hearse

Opeth - My Arms, Your Hearse ©1998 Century Black
1. Prologue
2. April Ethereal
3. When
4. Madrigal
5. The Amen Corner
6. Demon Of The Fall
7. Credence
8. Karma
9. Epilogue

Geez...this is a toughie. After being submerged into the dangerous beauty of Morningrise over a year ago, I've been hoisting the Opeth flag on many occasions. Skip forward to their latest release and I'm just a bit more ambivelant about matters. Certainly Mikael Akerfeldt can be considered, along with Dan "I got my fork in the stew" Swanö, to be of godhead status in the dark metal scene. Both prolific and immensely talented, Akerfeldt is a very solid reason to check out any of the Opeth opuses. (Say that fast.) But you might want to approach My Arms, Your Hearse with a bit more caution as the songs are somewhat shorter and a little less winding than its predecessor. Whereas Morningrise slowly weaved its magic around you with each new listen until you suddenly understood each second of the lengthy pieces, MAYH doesn't have that breakthrough of comprehension so easily. After a dozen listens, I'm still scratching my head and not always diving fully into it. I'm not sure if that's simply because I haven't heard it under the right circumstances or if it just needs more listens, but at this point I must report it is measurably less than Morningrise. Not by much, mind you. Opeth still stands head and shoulders above the crowd of metal folks thinking they're original. My Arms just proves that following up an incredible masterpiece is simply not the easiest thing to do. Regardless, you should be sure to put Opeth somewhere in your collection.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/1998

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Still Life

Opeth - Still Life ©1999 Peaceville
1. The Moor
2. Godheads Lament
3. Benighted
4. Moonlapse Vertigo
5. Face Of Melinda
6. Serenity Painted Death
7. White Cluster

It goes without saying that many people regard Opeth's Still Life as not only one of the most anticipated, but also one of the best albums of 1999, even before they had the chance to hear it. Such is the reputation of the mighty Swedish quartet, whose three previous opuses are no less than extraordinary. After listening to Still Life three times a day for the last seven days, I can safely say that Opeth's fans will not be disappointed with their latest accomplishment. Elements from both Morningrise and My Arms, Your Hearse can be heard on this release, though the greater part of the album develops on the MAYH sound.

On "Godhead's Lament" in particular, the songwriting approaches progressive rock, while "Benighted" is an entirely acoustic track. Otherwise, expect in Still Life what you would normally expect from Opeth: intricately arranged compositions with discernible musical progression and development. And as always, Opeth use lengthy acoustic guitar passages to counter the heavier moments of the album. Few singers can rival Mikael Åkerfeldt when it comes to sheer vocal expressiveness. The intercourse between his clean vocal delivery and his fierce, violent roars propels the music forward and brings it to a whole new level of excellence. In Still Life, Mikael writes seven songs that tell the narrative account of an exiled, disillusioned man who returns home to behold his beloved Melinda, only to learn that she has married another. He convinces her to run away with him, but sadly, they are captured at the last minute. The townspeople then execute the wayward traveler for his heretical transgressions, but not before repulsing him one final time. One can describe the tone of the poems as cruel and fatalistic, with a cynical and spiteful outlook on human society. The protagonist can hardly be called a hero, and yet we end up sympathizing with him, or at least with his onerous circumstances. Literary analyses aside, the reader will find Still Life's lyrics to be a fine testament of Mikael's often underrated poetic talent, and an excellent complement to the phenomenal music.

Still Life is no less than a total work of art. It probably won't be as timeless as Morningrise, but Opeth fans will undoubtedly find much to enjoy with this release.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 10/1999

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Review #2:

Over the course of three impressive albums, Opeth has managed to build up a fairly dedicated little cult following to the point that Still Life has become one of the most anticipated releases of the autumn season. But you know the drill with anticipation to this degree. It's quite possible the band will let you down and disappoint under the high expectations. However, Opeth has so comfortably burrowed into their songwriting formula that Still Life does not fail to impress.

For some (myself included), Opeth's previous release My Arms, Your Hearse wasn't quite up to snuff and was a difficult listen. Fortunately, Still Life relents a bit and returns more to the wandering, expansive reaches of Orchid and Morningrise. And by now, you should know what to expect. Opeth is still mired deeply in long, drawn-out songwriting, with alternating soft and hard sections. This of course includes Mikael Akerfeldt's continually improving vocal attack. It seems on Still Life that he uses his clean voice more often. The other thing of note is that there seems to be more soft passages. But on a whole, Still Life flows beautifully throughout and acts almost as one song rather than seven. Opeth is easily the master of flow throughout a record. In short, if you have liked and/or loved Opeth before, Still Life should be at the top of your want list. For new fans, Still Life acts as a perfect introduction to the band.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/1999

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Blackwater Park

Opeth - Blackwater Park ©2001 Music For Nations
1. The Leper Affinity
2. Bleak
3. Harvest
4. The Drapery Falls
5. Dirge For November
6. Funeral Portrait
7. Patterns In The Ivy
8. Blackwater Park

Judging by newsgroup activity in the past few months, Blackwater Park is probably the most eagerly anticipated metal release of 2001. The participation of Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson has raised all sorts of questions in Opeth fans' minds: Would Opeth turn pop? Would Blackwater Parksound like Meddle or Animals? What would Wilson add to Opeth's already well-defined sound? The real question, however, was whether Opeth would be able to accomplish the feat of improving upon their watershed 1999 album Still Life, with its compelling storyline, inspired songwriting, and overall stunning brilliance.

But there are few cut-and-dried answers, and this is no exception. Wilson's presence can be felt in a handful of touches of prog-style vocal and mix filtering and his pleasant backup vocals. But he did not alter Opeth's sound dramatically: there are no synth/Mellotron washes to applaud or drawn-out ethereal passages to deplore, for instance. An early-King Crimson influence pops un in various places ("The Leper Affinity"), with discreet vocal filtering and the vocal/acoustic guitar interplay strongly evoking In the Court of the Crimson King and In the Wake of Poseidon. It would be facile to ascribe this influence to Wilson alone - Opeth has repeatedly demonstrated that they are quite conversant in classic prog rock.

To conclude with a few brief answers, then: Is this album a turning point in Opeth's sound? No. Will it have the astonishing staying power of Still Life? Hard to tell, but this reviewer doubts it. Is it a worthy addition to an Opeth fan's collection? Definitely.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 01/2001

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Review #2:

The mass hysteria Opeth has created within the metal community has baffled me to no end. While I freely admit both Orchid and Morningrise were two remarkable, groundbreaking efforts from this Swedish band, the resulting three albums since then (My Arms, Your Hearse, Still Life and now Blackwater Park) have done little to capture my attention for anything more than a fleeting moment. Perhaps the only remarkable aspect to Blackwater Park is the fact that Porcupine Tree/No-Man leader Steven Wilson lent his expertise in production to slightly focus Opeth's meandering music into something that suggests maybe someday Opeth will actually produce a truly progressive metal masterpiece.

In the months since I've acquired Blackwater Park, I don't believe I have once been able to sit through the cumbersome, wandering release in a single sitting. Much like AC/DC and the Ramones before them, Opeth has a very definite songwriting formula which relies on the interchanging of soft/hard passages, clean/harsh vocals and occasional acoustic noodlings. The impression is that bandleader Mikael Åkerfeldt pieces together a hodgepodge collection of riffs rather than visualizing entire songs within his head. Blackwater Park interviews with Åkerfeldt have confirmed that this band could be something more if their work ethic were as impressive as their technical skills. In the August 2001 issue of Metal Maniacs, he confirms the band rehearsed exactly three times before the recording of Blackwater Park and would rehearse more, but "we're just too lazy!" As a result, Blackwater Park is akin to someone taking a leisurely stroll through a shopping mall. One may see some shiny trinkets in various stores but since there is no purpose to the shopping trip, there is little beyond ear/eye candy in store for the listener. The songs presented on Blackwater Park do very little to engage listeners beyond some very pretty or intriguing passages. Unlike Morningrise, where the songs somehow overcame the cumbersome arrangements to reward the listener with the feeling everything came together for a satisfying experience, Blackwater Park meanders. Opeth has proven with their last three releases that their songwriting consists of their aforementioned formula and that they are simply stuck in a rut. The one standout, memorable track on this release is the acoustic based "Harvest", which has Steven Wilson's influence plastered all over it. The mesmerizing beauty of the guitar movements and the heartfelt clean singing suggest that if Opeth truly worked at their songwriting skills, they easily be one of the most outstanding metal acts of this new decade.

The aggravating thing about Opeth is that they constantly tease listeners with their undeniable talent. However, given their apparent lack of work ethic towards songwriting (I maintain their last three albums sound as though they were thrown together in the studio, using various riffs Åkerfeldt had come up with goofing off around the house), Opeth is a band I tend to tune out and lose interest in partway through each given song. Opeth could indeed be a formidable and excellent act if only they completely applied themselves to bettering their craft rather than sticking to a safe, predictable formula.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2001

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Deliverance

Opeth - Deliverance ©2002 Koch
1. Wreath
2. Deliverance
3. A Fair Judgement
4. For Absent Friends
5. Master's Apprentices
6. By The Pain I See In Others

Out of respect for SSMT's readers, I will spare everybody the tired review cliché of wondering aloud whether Opeth would be able to top or equal the amazing brilliance of their previous two critically and commercially acclaimed albums, Still Life and Blackwater Park, and answer the question without posing it: No, they didn't.

That is not to say that Deliverance is a bad album. By no means. In fact, it is head and shoulders above the dross that can be heard all over the place, in metal and elsewhere. The songs are remarkably constructed, with memorable riffs, melodies and guitar lines. The album is significantly more aggressive than Blackwater Park ("Deliverance" in particular), and Åkerfeldt grunts quite a bit more than he has in recent memory. The drumming is remarkable, both in terms of its composition and its performance. The song structures and overall sound are typical My Arms, Your Hearse-era Opeth - and therein lies this album's main shortcoming: it has all been done several times before by this very band. The clean/death alternations, the Opethian harmonies and chords, the meandering riffs, nothing is truly new or particularly original for Opeth, so much so that my initial reaction upon hearing this album half a dozen times was one of sadness, disappointment and boredom; for the very first time in my Opeth listening career, I found myself skipping entire song sections, wishing somebody outside of the band had visited their studio nightly with scissors and cut out a few minutes of needlessly repeated riffs. Opeth crosses the line between majestic and redundant in quite a few instances on the record, a most unfortunate artistic decision that could have been avoided by, say, taking breaks during the grueling recording process and listening to the master tapes with fresh ears.

So what to make of this album? Contrary to my initial attitude, which was one of overall disinterest, I have grown to truly enjoy a good-sized chunk of this record, especially the title track and its devastating closing riff (in spite of the fact that it could have been cut down by half and turned out the better for it). I trust that other discriminating Opeth fans will quite possibly feel the same way about this record. New fans who came on board with Still Life or Blackwater Park will undoubtedly enjoy this album quite a bit. We old-timers will just be grouchy and impatient for the release of this album's soft counterpart in the next few weeks.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 12/2002

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Damnation

Opeth - Damnation ©2003 Koch
1. Windowpane
2. In My Time Of Need
3. Death Whispered A Lullaby
4. Closure
5. Hope Leaves
6. To Rid The Disease
7. Ending Credits
8. Weakness

It may not be the most stunning endorsement when the first thing that pops into mind is, "Well, at least I could sit through this record." By now, most of you are aware of Opeth's rise to prominence, strangely built on a series of meandering, pointless releases. The latest chapter(s) of their saga has found them splitting their personality into two separate releases. Deliverance, released last year, was composed strictly of the band's heavier material and was a completely tedious listen. In fact, I don't think I could force myself to sit through the entire record once. Meanwhile, 2003's Damnation is a completely low-key, mellow affair that allows the band to finally try something new and perhaps even attempt to live up to the definition of term "progressive". After all, "progressive", at least to me, suggests a band progresses from release to release and frankly, Opeth has spit out retread after retread for quite a few years now. Damnation is honestly the first album since Morningrise to suggest the band is willing to take a step.

Unfortunately, the album really isn't terribly enthralling, despite at least being pleasant to sit through.

The eight songs of Damnation are all quite easy on the ears and provide suitable background music if you are reading a novel or grooming your cat. In fact, you may find yourself petting and tending to your cat longer than normal since this album will lull you quite so. Your cat may appreciate multiple listens of this album. The biggest problem with Damnation is that despite having a wonderfully warm and lush production (courtesy of essentially adjunct member Steven Wilson), the songs are a bit pedestrian. Anyone who has listened to a handful of prog-rock records from the 70s will probably recognize all the elements and say, "Golly, I think I've heard this before. Now where's Kitty?" Mikael Akerfeldt's clean singing is adequate, but comes across somewhat flat in tone. It's as though he's not terribly enthused about the project either. Opeth seems unwilling to captivate their audience.

Granted, I have played this album considerably more than anything they've released in quite some time. It is nice to see the band attempt to step outside their incredibly formula-ridden music, but there are countless other current acts that will find my attention. Damnation is simply just "there" and never provides enough allure to excite me. Besides, I have just about the entire Porcupine Tree catalogue. No need for a Swedish offshoot.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2003

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Ghost Reveries

Opeth - Ghost Reveries ©2005 Roadrunner
1. Ghost Of Perdition
2. The Baying Of The Hounds
3. Beneath The Mire
4. Atonement
5. Reverie / Harlequin Forest
6. Hours Of Wealth
7. The Grand Conjuration
8. Isolation Years

After a lackluster pair of albums united by both a conceptual dichotomy and a singular absence of inspiration and songwriting oomph, Opeth finally shed the stultifying onus of Steve Wilson and released an album worthy of their past. Leaving behind most of the soporific Porcupine Tree leanings that polluted Damnation and Deliverance, Åkerfeldt and company hired a full-time keyboard player, ate a wheelbarrow of broken glass, and wrote a handful of superb songs that simply refuse to be played only once.

Sure, they're set in their ways, and other than the vintage (and discreet) keyboard tones and a couple of somewhat unusually happy-sounding vocal melodies, there's very little truly new material here. Whether that's a deplorable sign of creative sclerosis or a comforting fact of life from a mature band is subject to debate; but while bands suffering from acute forms of Iron Maiden syndrome should undoubtedly be laughed out of record labels' offices, such isn't yet the case for Opeth, who can still write plenty of remarkable material when they put their minds to it.

If you're familiar with Opeth, Ghost Reveries will sound very familiar (if you're not, go listen to Still Life a few times and come back when you're done). The growls are superb and terrifying, the clean vocals show Åkerfeldt's continuing commitment to improving his singing (although I'd suggest taking singing lessons for a few months and abbreviating the process considerably, but that's another story), and the riffs are exciting, coherent, melodic, and would make a mannequin bang its stuffed head in the dressing room for hours on end.

Sure, the mellow sections towards the end of the record suffer from typical Opeth sameness and could have been yanked out entirely to the album's benefit, but at least they have the decency to stay away from Porcupine Tree-style coma-inducing riffage. There's also a hair of excessive repetition here and there, as always, but overall the song structures are much crisper than they were on Deliverance (could Opeth actually be editing their songs?!).

That being said, this is Opeth's best album since Still Life, and it's crammed full of melodic gems, fun riffs, fantastic bass playing (hats off to Martin Mendez and the mix on that count - the bass lines are superb and very upfront throughout the record) and compelling songs. Metal album of the year? You betcha.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 11/2005

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