Review Summary: If aliens landed on earth and asked us to show the best record for every genre, this is a hot contender for metal.
Imagine a picture of an old Transylvanian castle. Not run-down, no, it's still standing, but it has aged like fine wine, having stood the tests of time and history. Magnificent bushes surround it, trees wave in the winds of autumn settling in, and ravens encircling croak loudly as they predict the fall of the sun from the sky. The nearby lake glimmers in the waning moon's reflective light, the only form of illumination to grace this monument of terror. It is the only method for a mere mortal to perceive this bulwark of sheer, harsh majesty in all its splendor.
Step inside, and you see just that what you expect. Arched rooms with high ceilings, stained glass, altars, and statues like Dracula in marble around every corner. Everything gives off an aura of a kind of impenetrable malice, not so much forceful aggression as a tragic beauty, a kind of lament for lost loves and souls that dwell in this unholy sacrament. The pure of heart will be scared to death as they recognise the power and vengeance oozing from every nook and cranny. The blasphemous revel in the atmospheres of death and solitude pervading the hazy mists and air.
Does this sound enticing to you, dear reader? If not, I beg you turn back now, before Satan rears his head ugly head from the bowels of the earth to trap you and grip you through an amazing yet ultimately terrifying journey across the vilest yet most delicate places of the Earth. If you salivate and mouthwater at the very prospect of such an odyssey, enter the castle gates and immerse yourself into what is the world of a band named Opeth, Tower of the Moon.
Speak not, but hold your breath only as Messrs Åkerfeldt, Lindgren, Mendez and Lopez, almost human incarnations of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, guide you through a world where every musical imagination you thought impossible comes true. Every intense altar you view is guided by the immense guttural roars of Åkerfeldt, your main guide for this journey. Yet when you reach the solemn backyards and bask in the light of Luna's crescents casting rays of white onto the withering autumn flowers, he sings softly and ethereally as if the devil whispered verses in your ear.
Every corner you take through its vast and winding tunnels is another pummeling guitar riff, every stair a crescendo to new heights, every ladder into the cellar a decrescendo into the deepest cellars of the world, containing rooms of such magnificence that everytime one views it one bows down to the almighty Gods above that they have graced the earth with such a musical blessing. And once you reach the lake softly acoustic guitars strings ripple in the nightly breeze, if only to remind you of the menacing presence of evil present in these parts of the world.
Need the foundations of the castle yet be mentioned, as solid as only the best stones that are found on the earth, graced with neither extravagance or outrageous designs, but protruding forth from the darkness with a confidence boasted only by the most talented of artists, nearly unrivalled by any of their peers, impossible to be recreated by any other than the Ultimate One in the Sky himself?
And within this setting, the most haunting tale of love and loss occurred, the most defiling freak of nature desiring the most beautiful maiden, the outcast longing for the hand of the daughter of the king who once ruled this palace when it was not yet a beacon for the demonic minions of Samael. And he failed to live up to the promise, for they executed him for his outlandish wizardry, and hung his loved one for all the world to see. In anger he screamed as he took the lives of many, finally to succumb by the sword. Only in death would the two lovers finally be united.
Nay, say no words, for you will only call the spirits of the underworld for you to end up in the same story, with the same maddening fate. Listen only and wonder, for what has graced your ears when you stumble upon this release, transcends humanity as a whole, and begs the question how the next creation of these Swedish artists rose above this poetic, lyrical, aggressive-yet-so-subtle, incredible piece of art. And once you have revelled in excellence and basked in this record's glory, you will finally judge the world by the truly divine standards of this Still Life, and be led into a mental state of euphoria surpassing your wildest dreams. This is not merely music, this is not merely four men on a stage, this is truly breathtaking art of the highest quality, and we should consider ourselves blessed that such a band graced us with this kind of intelligence.