According to some, Opeth may represent the pinnacle of modern musical interpretation and creativity. Through their song writing they break down musical barriers, transcend the uppermost levels of conventional thinking, and rise above the capacity of human intelligence. Their lavish, seraphic musical themes intertwine around the band's brutal, evil array of never ending riffage, as well as frontman Mikael Akerfeldt's demonic vocal performances. Their music is a display of extreme emotional depth, capturing the essence of the fiery pits of hell and complimenting it with the beauty of a bright spring morning in middle of the Shire. Oh and you can't forget the ultimate sense of dread and despair which they also convey rather superbly. Opeth is pretty much the most artistically talented band on the planet.
Now, even though such sentiments are pretty absurd, I'm not going to waste my time trying to put down such ideas. Because, aside from the whole blatant over exaggerating, the emotional depth, progressively progressive progressiveness, and the arsenal of musical techniques which Opeth possesses plays a major part in their sound.
And it arguably leads to the downfall of the bands sixth full length album, Deliverance.
The companion album of Opeth's opus, Damnation, Deliverance was intended to provide a contrast to Damnation's tranquil, somewhat depressing progressive rock with a far heavier sound (also with a touch of depressing overtones, though this is less prevalent than in Damnation). In some ways, Opeth succeed. Deliverance is definitely the Swedish band's heaviest recording and generally sticks to the brutal metal like the band promised. On the flip side, the album fails where Akerfeldt and his men usually succeed. Expressing themselves. If anything, it is this, even more so than the mellow-vs.-heaviness factor, which separates Damnation and Deliverance. The gist I get from the lyrical approach is that it is quite similar to that of Damnation's, and while you don't need mellotrons, clean guitars, and clean vocals to convey sadness, the needlessly heavy riff progressions don't exactly complete the job this time around. Songs such as Wreath or the heavy sections of Deliverance (this is most glaringly obvious in the intro) sound far more menacing and aggressive than they should, and it somewhat takes away the experience.
Another aspect where Opeth doesn't exactly impress is through its song structures. Deliverance suffers from attempting piece together too many unrelated ideas, making the songs sound bloated and overlong. The aforementioned Wreath should have ended around the four minute mark. One of the most sombre sounding distorted riffs to be heard on the album would have closed off the song perfectly, as well as provide it with a nice transition into the title track. But instead, the band chooses to plod on for the next four minutes, making use of unnecessarily repetitive riffs and a solo. It slows down for about half a minute, introducing some rather strange yet admittedly entertaining drumming from Martin Lopez before launching into a rather fast Iron Maiden-esque passage that fits the song about as much as some electronica section would. Read: not at all. Such problems also affect the likes of Deliverance and Master's Apprentices, though not quite as severely as in the opener. The maximum amount of ideas in a minimum amount of songs idea seems like something a talented progressive band like Opeth could make good use of, but more often than not it just feels as though they come up short.
This isn't to say that Deliverance is wholly dull, overlong, and contrived, however. Opeth's sixth album never really amazes the way Still Life, Blackwater Park, or Damnation do. But it definitely has its strong points. With all due respect to Lopez, the standout member of the band is definitely Akerfeldt. His growl, which remains to this day one of my favourite in the death metal scene, is deep and guttural. It fits Deliverance's heavier feel extremely well, and provides the dissonant riffing with excellent texture. Also impressive throughout the album is Akerfeldt's clean singing. His voice, while not necessarily impressive as it is on Damnation, is extremely calm and soothing. Because of Deliverance's more metallic stylings, the clean vocals are less utilized, but when the listener actually does hear them, such as in A Fair Judgement or the title track, they are extremely powerful in their delivery and perhaps compliments their respective passages the best out of any trick in Opeth's arsenal.
Song-wise, the most impressive offering Deliverance has to offer is definitely A Fair Judgement. The track starts off softly, rather unorthodox for the album, somewhat similar to what a song on Damnation would sound like, but around two minutes in Opeth injects some heaviness and melody into it. A typical offering from Opeth, A Fair Judgement fluctuates between heaviness and softer, acoustic moments rather seamlessly, summing up the two different sounds of this album and Deliverance rather excellently. Again, the song does get a little repetitive a little once and awhile, but for the most part, A Fair Judgement accomplishes the most out of each of the five 10+ minute songs, and displays Opeth's flair for progressive music rather well as each of the track's different passages and sections compliment each other rather well.
Overall, Opeth's sixth album is fairly disappointing. Surrounded by such excellent offerings such as Blackwater Park and Damnation, the six track, sixty-one minute record is a little on the underwhelming side as it doesn't live up to the song writing standards the Swedish band has built up. The music is itself is decent, the transitions between separate musical pieces are performed fairly well, the individual performances (especially the vocals) are well done. But the brutal heaviness featured on Deliverance just totally fails at expressing the emotions behind each of the songs. That virtually every song found on Deliverance also sounds a good five to seven minutes longer than it should doesn't exactly help its case. Opeth may write beautiful, complex, artistically likeable music which transcends the average music fan's music understanding. But that just might be the problem with a record like Deliverance or Morningrise. The music just sounds too ambitious and pretentious, leaving the band's progressive indulgencies fairly unenjoyable. Deliverance isn't necessarily a bad album, but Opeth can do a lot better.
A Fair Judgement