Review Summary: This album shows great expansion on the barriers of metal and music in general. Every single aspect was at least good and most were phenomenal. I've truly been left in awe.Opeth
The Band: Mikael Akerfeldt- Vocals, guitar, additional mellotron
Peter Lindgren- Guitar
Martin Mendez- Bass
Martin Lopez- Drums, percussion
Per Wiberg- Mellotrons, organ, grand piano, electric piano
Webster’s Dictionary defines innovation as the following: The act of introducing something new
. No discredit to the fine people of Webster’s Dictionary, but allow me to expand on that as the definition is somewhat vague. Innovation is reaching out and touching things that have not been touched before. It’s exploring the unknown. It’s taking the standard form of your craft and branching out to create something that no one has yet dared to fathom. In the modern world of music innovation is scarcely seen. Musicians nowa days have been tending to try and recreate the past rather than progress towards the future. Now, don’t get me wrong I love the olden days of music as much as the next guy. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica, all good stuff. But people need to accept that those days have long since passed and it’s time to make room for something new. Recently, I was pondering whether anyone would ever push the envelope and create something new rather than eloping to the sounds of the past. Considering I hadn’t heard anything truly inspiring to me in over a years time my outlook was quite bleak. “Perhaps there is truly no escaping this vicious circle of mimicry”, I thought to myself one day after looking into yet another band to find nothing new, or exciting. My hope had almost entirely dispersed when I heard word of a band that was supposedly revolutionary, unlike anything else. Of course, this had been said many times before about many different bands, so I wasn’t expecting much. Oh, the wonderful surprise I received! I’d finally found what I was looking for. Something innovative. Something unique. Something extraordinary. Something unlike anything else. I’d found Opeth
It’s not been a fortnight since I first made contact with this band’s music, but already I’m obsessed. It’s simple brilliant, incomparable to anything else I’ve ever heard. One thing I immediately noticed about Opeth is that there music has so much dexterity and variability. In a matter of seconds a song can go from being incredibly powerful and chaotic, to soft and melodic. That might not sound like anything special, but you have to understand how big a jump in musical styling that is and just how smooth the transition is. More often than not a conversion like this would seem forced, but Opeth make it seem extremely natural. While making these transitions the music maintains a consistent, haunting sort of feel. A large part of this is due to Mikael’s voice. During the heavier parts when he’s screaming his voice can be demonic and flat out scary. In the softer parts his voice has more of an eerie ambiance. This eerie ambiance is furthered by the addition of mellotrons and piano. All of these things combined are what help give Opeth their truly unique, innovational sound.
Now you may be wondering, “What does a band with a sound this unique of a sound sing about”. Well, Ghost Reveries
was originally intended to be a concept album exploring a man’s turmoil after committing matricide (the act of killing your mother). However, Mikael wanted the track Isolation Years
to be included on the album despite its irrelevance to the plot. So, the album only partly embodies a concept, rather than one fully arranged in a poetic manner like previous Opeth releases such as Still Life
. The album does still maintain somewhat of a storyline throughout, however. There is a reappearing notion of characters falling in and out of the Devil’s enticements. Through the first five tracks there also seems to be a steady plot, telling the tale of a man being thrown from his homestead for having occult beliefs. Eventually this character decides to sacrifice his beliefs in occultism. Needless, to say the Devil is not at all pleased by this and burns down the forest in which the man has taken refuge. Later in the album -during the track The Grand Conjuration
- we learn that the man has returned to the Devil’s servitude. Certainly, this concept is not that of lyrical brilliancy, but it is definitely original and suites this albums demonic atmosphere. Not to mention with all the astonishment being served out by the instruments and vocals a not so fantastic lyrical concept can be effortlessly ignored.
Speaking of the instrumentals, let’s talk about them shall we? In a nutshell, they were stupendous. The impressive factor was unquestionably the unpredictability. The guitar seemed to have so many influences (with metal being the main influence, of course) that it’s damn near impossible to predict what you’re going to hear next. At times the guitar work could be rabid and sadistic sounding. For example in the chorus of The Grand Conjuration
. At times it sounded like something you would hear in the 70’s rock era. A prime example of that being the early goings of Hours Of Wealth
. Then at other times it was hard to even categorize what I was hearing. The introduction to Atonement
reminded me of a level of “Spryo The Dragon” for Playstation 1, but I won’t go any further with that reference as I doubt many other people on the site are familiar with the game. Regardless of what genre of music the guitar work seemed to represent it was all well-written. Not necessarily complex, however, but always suiting the albums atmosphere. Now, let’s talk about the lead guitar work. To say this album was jam-packed with lots of “shredtacular” solos would be a lie, but it did have a good share of solos. All of which were marvelous. Most were slow and melodic. This brought a sort of peculiar climax to songs. The majority of them were more bend orientated, rather than scale orientated. This gave them a somewhat passionate feel. There’s an aspect of the solos, or the guitar work in general really, that’s difficult to describe. It gave all the guitar work a haunting vibe. It was most likely due to the guitars tone. This was one of he biggest contributors the album’s atmosphere.
There’s not a whole lot I can say for this album’s bass work. It seemed to be nonexistent. I know it’s in there, I just cannot hear it. I’m finding this to be a rather tedious thing as I scroll through some bass tabs for the album. Why? Well, I’m seeing that the bass work is really well written. So, it’s kind of frustrating to see it kept under wraps. It could have escaladed this album into further greatness, but instead contributes very little at all. It is audible for brief seconds scattered about the album. There’s really no need to point any of them out, however. It was only audible for brief 3 to 5 second stints. When I could hear it I did like what I heard. I really enjoyed Mendez’s sound. I’m not sure whether he plays with a pick, or with his fingers, but either way he manages to pull off a good wholesome sound. All in all, the lack of bass had the potential to be a devastating blow to the album. Luckily, with all the piano and mellotrons on the prowl it’s really quite easy to get by.
So, let’s talk about the piano and mellotrons. They were definitely the largest contributor to this albums atmosphere. The two previously mentioned instruments can be extremely joyous at times and utterly gloomy at others. It is not at all hard to guess how they were used in this album, is it? I always love to see additional instruments in a band. It really is wonderful to see artists branching out from the tradition guitar, bass and drums lineup. But, in some cases these additional instruments can seem like frills, kind of like they really shouldn’t be there, like the artist just threw them in the mix for flavoring. This is not at all the case with this album. The piano and mellotrons fit in perfectly, like one of the gang. What I heard from them seemed to be quite well written too.
I’m feeling the need to say more about the vocals. Mikael Akerfeldt has more vocal range that any other vocalist I’ve ever heard. At times his voice was a incredibly low scream and at others it was high pitched and clean. The pitched screams are hard to describe. I’ve never heard anyone sing in an octave that low that I can recall. His voice was lower than Oprah Winfrey’s jeans around Paris Hilton’s waste! The high pitched clean vocals were also splendid. They showed that Mikael actually has a great voice. If I wasn’t already aware of his involvement with Opeth and just heard him sing in his clean tone voice I wouldn’t have a hard time picturing him in a church quire. It was quite elegant. Overall, the vocals are yet another thing that make Opeth unlike anything else.
Lastly, I’d like to briefly mention two things: filler and production. Filler can play a monumental roll in an how enjoyable an album is. If there are three or four great songs are the rest are of a lower standard listening through the album can be a dreaded task, indeed. When listening to Ghost Reveries
you needn’t worry about this. Some songs are better than others, but all are of a high-quality. Production can also play a key role in enjoying an album. If an album is overproduced it may seem cheesy, but if it’s under produced it may seem rough and difficult to listen to. Once again, worry not my friends. The production is perfect for the album. It’s not overdone, which would take away from the album’s dark sound, but it’s not at all underdone. If that were so the album would sound choppy and almost amateurish. The band managed to find a nice gray area of production, so that the album could maintain its dark feel without sounding to uneven.
Lyrically, somewhat solid
: Would’ve been nice to hear more from the bass