Review Summary: Next time you come to a fork in the road and you're not sure whre to go, think of this album.4 of 4 thought this review was well writtenI took the road less travelled by and that has made all the difference
For me, the above quote is an essential element of music. It seems in this present day too many bands are taking the road more travelled by rather than taking a chance and embarking on a path with not so many footprints. You see, the compulsion to explore new things and invent is a wonderful thing, but it seems most bands would rather try and recreate what has already been created. Repaving a road is one thing, but forging your own path, well that’s something else entirely.
Opeth are well known for their tendency to experiment and combine different genres, crafting their own hybrid of sound. When being interviewed vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt had this to say about their sound. “I don’t see the point of playing in a band and going just one way when you can do everything. It would be impossible for us to play just death metal; that is our roots, but we are now a mishmash of everything, and not purists to any form of music. It’s impossible for us to do that, and quite frankly I would think of it as boring to be in a band that plays just metal music. We’re not afraid to experiment, or to be caught with our pants down, so to speak. That’s what keeps us going”
is a perfect exemplification of the philosophy you’ve just read. Aside from being unique in the sense of instrumentals, vocals and atmosphere it’s also quite unique in the lyrical department. Still Life
tells the story of a man who returns to his hometown after being exiled from his former home for being a heretic. Upon returning to his hometown the man seeks out his childhood sweetheart, Melinda, in the hopes that she’ll elope with him. The man sneaks to Melinda’s house under the cloak of night to discover she has already married. Consumed by his lust, this does not deter him as he urges Melinda to run away with him. Still in love with him, Melinda agrees, but as they flee Melinda is killed for crimes against her husband. Utterly devastated, the man swears revenge, but never gets to make good on his vow as he is soon after lynched. I’ve always been somewhat partial to concept albums because apart from being albums they are also stories, which makes the album more of a musical experience rather than just music.
The album’s instrumentals suite the lyrical concept perfectly. At time they’re tremendously grave, much like the death of the man, but they’re always beautiful despite their mood, much like the presumably benevolent Melinda. There’s loads and loads of exquisite medieval sounding acoustic guitar parts intertwined in the thread that is this album. Benighted
is a perfect example of this. The whole song is done on acoustic and is packed with magnificent finger picked parts. Combined with Mikael’s clean, yet powerful vocals Benighted
is easily one of Opeth’s most beautiful songs. Naturally, there are much heavier parts of the album, as well. Easily the best song on the disc, The Moor
displays this adequately. It starts off slowly, but don’t be fooled, this song is a powerhouse. There’re many menacing riffs scattered about, that coupled with Akerfeldt’s vocals create a near demonic ambiance. One thing this album didn’t have too much of was solos, though with all the complex riffs and extravagant acoustic interludes they weren’t really needed. However, there were a couple solos jammed in there. White cluster
had an excellent solo. Not overly flashy, or complex (as that would not have suited the songs atmosphere) but still very good. Mikael showed good knowledge of his fret board and some swirls of tapping he threw in made it all the more enjoyable.
Considering Opeth tend to use a vast arsenal of instruments in their music, I was somewhat disappointed with the extra instruments presence. On some of the band’s other works, such as Ghost Reveries
, instruments like mellotrons were much more involved. The album is still fabulous, but had the wide variety of instruments been put to better use this album would be basically unstoppable. I must say, however, whether they could be heard or not all instruments had well written parts. The drums in particular were great. I noticed a lot of unique beats and interesting fills, which was awesome.
Vocally, this album is a masterpiece. Mikael has damn near implausible range. He can go from a choir like voice that’ll melt your heart to a ferocious growl that will make your bowels erupt all in an instant. Serenity Painted Death
is a fine example of this. During the heavy parts Mikael was like a rabid dog and during the soft parts a gentle lamb. His voice is a monumental factor in carving Opeth’s unparalleled atmosphere.
Besides the fact that Opeth could has made better use of all their instruments this album has only one snag. There are a few songs that while being of spectacular quality lack replay value. It’s like I listen to it and then a few minutes later cannot recall what it was like. This only applies to one or two tracks, mind you, but it still drags the album down a tad.
All in all, this album is amazing. It was the first time since their debut album that Opeth recorded with a set band rather than stand in musicians and it definitely showed. The whole album sounded really tight and well put together. Not too mention the song writing was brilliant. So, here’s to Opeth for taking the path less travelled by.
Nice lyrical concept
Amazing song writing
Underutilization of some instruments
A couple songs are forgettable