Review Summary: Opeth produces an album that follows suit with previous works in what is an underachieving record entitled, “Ghost Reveries.”
As far as Opeth
listening went, for me, it all started with Blackwater Park. Hearing the cheers and the high fives over the presumed ‘classic’ Blackwater Park, I took a ride on the hype machine. I will admit; I was more than impressed. The music was varying with different emotions, going from chaotic death metal riffs to quiet somber acoustical sections. I was hooked for a couple reasons: this was something new to me, extremely accessible for a metal album, and the songs stayed fresh. Unfortunately, that all changed soon as I began to buy more Opeth albums. The next two purchases were Deliverance and this album, Ghost Reveries.
After multiple listens of all three, there was a sense that something was stirring in the waters. That is where the problem lay, stirring in the same water. What I meant by same water, is it hard to decipher songs and albums apart; it became a blur. After this, I could not listen to their albums anymore. I took all three albums off my online music player and pushed it to the side. After roughly two months, I put them back on and gave it a spin and I saw many flaws, especially with the latter release, Ghost Reveries. An album that sounded of recycled sounds and the same old vocal growl and harmonies. In addition, the same transitions between metal and mellow acoustical riffs. You cannot give me mind-blowing riffs and drumming and expect me to think it is the greatest thing in the world after I heard better riffs on their past albums. In addition, you cannot maintain so many songs over ten minutes and not expect it to become a little dull. With Ghost Reveries, I was actually checking back and forth to see how long it was until the songs ended. They make five minutes of excitement and energy turn into eleven minutes varying ideas and musical phrases. It is a long conquest at that.
Opeth’s newest journey begins with a powerful song entitled “Ghost of Perditions,” which starts loud like a song on a previous album…hmmm. Reminiscent, in my opinion, to the Leper Affinity’s introduction, “Ghost of Perditions” made a sort of all too similar impression (fast and brutal riffs that are loud and grab your attention right off the bat). In contrast, the fact that there was not a momentous build up was a plus because of the fact they cut the crap. “Ghost of Perditions” continues to progress for the next three minutes with fantastic riffs accompanied by an ever so piercing keyboard at times. Where the problem lay is the keyboard holds down a particular chord or simply accompanies the guitars and it can become rather unpleasant but it changes when the magic of the acoustical guitar chimes in and then shortly after, death metal once again! The pattern gets old all too quickly (see the end of “Baying of the Hounds”) after the same transitions repeated. Mikael Akerfeldt hymns his way through that acoustical section and then sings beautifully over aggressive riffs that leads to some contorted vocals that sound a little cheesy. It is a good thing he backs it up with a sick breakdown and his usual growling to make up for it. “Ghost of Perditions” continues with even more transitions that become overwhelming to consider the changes between one another and even incorporating the sounds together. It further solidifies the point that the songs can become overwhelming after seven minutes, let alone ten minutes.
In other aspects, some songs do not seem to fit the mold such as, “Atonement” It feels like a song taken out of the context of the whole album almost. It has very little going on throughout, as it switches between repeated guitar & bass riffs reverb and vocals with accompanying percussion. Unfortunately, it does not pick up after a while. The way it completely changes at the end perturbs me, because I do not know if that is a good thing. It changes abruptly into something that was just as sub-par as the beginning of the song. The change reminds me of whenever sports teams pick up an over-the-hill free agent and get little production. Yeah, it is that meaningless. It is like “Hours of Wreath” stretching to over five minutes because of a blues-style guitar solo that was apparently urgent when they wrote the emotional piece of the album. It is unfortunately too, because it really did have a good thing going at the start of the song. However, “Isolation Years” is the emotional staple of the entire album. It fits the album, regardless of its stamina as a song; after all, it is hard to have stamina after the grandest of songs on the album.
Regardless of how I put this album off in any way, “The Grand Conjuration,” is a song that always sticks out with every listen. The opening riff caught me and dragged me along. While the verse tends to drag, (carrying on with the albums theme) it picks up quickly around the three and a half minute mark when a lead guitar takes over and the change begins. They have three layers of guitars to begin (one acoustical, one rhythm, and one lead guitar) the transition. The drums and ridiculous scream soon take flight as the song builds up speed. Soon after, the keyboard breaks up the next section, which is nothing short of catchy (riff wise). It is hard to keep up with the song due to the amount of transitions between a progressive metal and somber metal elements, but it is a well-put together song and one to remember in their entire collection as musicians.
Opeth have succeeded in making a good thing go spiraling downwards into an infinite abyss of repeated transitions. No matter how technical, brutal, brilliant, or beautiful, if there are too many elements, it can exasperate the sound that was once mastered. Ghost Reveries is just a mediocre summation of everything they have grown to become. Let us face the facts; Mikael Akerfeldt has perfected his vocals for the music that is played it. In any case, it seems that there are boundaries left untouched and unexplored for the future since they have not advanced with this album. I have not given up on Opeth entirely and I do feel that they can improve to whatever they aspire to become after this album, but a change is needed. Until that change, their music is simply not as satisfying after the second taste or beyond. Sometimes Opeth seem to be too comfortable with the style of music they play and it is showing. Overall, it is just hard to believe that such talented musicians can produce such a letdown of an album for a once unique band.