Ben Kuettel

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Opeth Ranked

All Opeth is good Opeth
Pale Communion

Heavier than predecessor Heritage, it takes that sound to a new and exciting places. For example, as my good friend AngelOfDeath put it, "River" starts out like an Allman Bros. song and then goes like full on psych jam at the end." Despite being solid musically, Pale Communion is also cheesier and has some oversinging by Mikael Akerfeldt. However, the composition choices are still interesting, despite lessening the jazzier qualities of Heritage. The bookend tracks, Moon Above, Sun Below, and Voice of Treason are the highlights here.

Naturalistic vibes and explorative songwriting galore, Sorceress emphasizes adventure above all else. It manifests a warm, yet occult atmosphere, particularly within the gorgeous "Sorceress 2" and colorful "The Wilde Flowers." A rollicking progressive metal jam could fully transform into beautiful musical passages of acoustic guitar pluckings and ethereal mellotrons. There are unfortunately some bland lyrics similar to the weaker moments of Pale Communion, but vocals are improved overall.

After the masterpiece Blackwater Park, Opeth seemed to sacrifice some of the complexity in favor of a more straightforward approach. While every album they did before and a few after are superior, this is still an excellent album that deserves a better reputation. While far from their best, there's no bad songs here, and the whole middle section of the record is incredible. Master's Apprentices and the title track contain some of the beautiful acoustic material that would be fully expanded on within Damnation, the other side of this coin.

This takes a lot of time to grow on you, but once you give it a chance it's a highly rewarding listen. Some of the vintage elements fall flat, but this is not the 70s prog tribute album that some would have you believe it is. The songwriting itself is largely original, with incredible drumming and adventurous songwriting throughout. Haxprocess has a beautiful ending guitar solo, and Folklore is endlessly intriguing. The album as a whole is very warm sounding, perfect for summer and autumn months.

Watershed is better than most would tell you, despite the bizarre songwriting choices and jarring transitions. The highlight here is Heir Apparent, featuring stunning, diverse instrumentation and an incredible outro. Though most of the album's strongest qualities lie in the softer, creepier approaches it has; Hessian Peal embodies this beautifully. Burden and Coil are gorgeous tracks as well.

The bookend tracks are the best on here, as the middle run of songs tends to drags at times. Black Rose Immortal falls into this trap, but overall remains one of their best songs from this decade. Morningrise corrects songwriting mistakes from Orchid, while lessening the unpredictability factor it had. Both are around the same level of quality overall.

The songwriting is all over the place and the production is raw, all part of this masterful debut's charm. Quieter, meditative sections are the most sinister the band have ever recorded, with gothic, fantasy lyrics resembling bands like Swallow The Sun. Orchid may be primitive compared to the refined sounds of Ghost Reveries, but possesses a very unique sound that the band would go on to perfect during the turn of the century.

This sees Opeth release a nonmetal album for the first time in their career, featuring some of their best songs in the form of Windowpane, Death Whispered a Lullaby, and Closure. After the first half, this begins to run out of steam, even if they're still great tracks.
My Arms, Your Hearse

An amazing evolution from Morningrise, and one of their only albums that doesn't drag anywhere. There are almost no weak moments, and refines the songwriting from the first two records perfectly. I also love the guitar effects they use in here, they're very sparse but add a lot to the sound.
Still Life

Still Life increases the presence of progressive rock and has even more impressive instrumentation. Certain elements of this would go on to be perfected in Blackwater Park, especially the production and increased emotion. A good amount of their best songs are here, including White Cluster, Face of Melinda, and Moonlapse Vertigo.
Ghost Reveries

The best introduction to the band. This balances their extreme metal sound with softer progressive rock amazingly. Moments like the first half of Hours of Wealth, all of Isolation Years, and the middle section of Harlequin Forest are all examples of Opeth at their most beautiful and poignant. While Watershed is technically even more diverse, Ghost Reveries is the band exploring uncharted terrain and doing what they do best. No other Opeth release exudes such a wonderfully gothic atmosphere quite the way Ghost Reveries does, and the band has yet to top this since it came out.
Blackwater Park

Defying genre barriers, Blackwater Park is nothing short of incredible from start to finish. Easily their most emotional album, besides maybe Damnation, with tracks like Dirge for November and Bleak possessing profoundly tragic qualities throughout. Steven Wilson's contributions had a large part to play, and the production and added vocals bring a new side to the band. There are hundreds of reasons that most Opeth fans consider this their best album, but mine are mainly personal. This was my introduction to Opeth after hearing about them during my musical explorations as a preteen. When first hearing Blackwater Park at my young age, I was blown away by the stunning beauty and crushing brutality it harnessed throughout. Blackwater Park introduced me to a whole new approach in listening to music, as well as thinking and writing about it. It isn't hard to see why this is among the very best progressive metal has to offer and one of my personal favorite records of all time.
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