Opeth is a melodic death metal band from Sweden. They also happen to be one of the best melodic death bands, as further evidenced by Blackwater Park
. After their very well done Still Life
, they recruited Porcupine Tree member Steven Wilson to assist them with a few things and produce the record. It was a good call, as he's done a wonderful job. Occasionally, he'll add some vocals everynow and then, which are well done. The main brunt of the vocal force is Mikael Åkerfeldt. He's mastered the craft of going seamlessly from deep, growlinng death metal vocals to clean, melodic vocals. This adds another dimension to their songs, and makes them that much better. This album is similar in structure to their previous effort. Heavy, distorted riffs with vocals to match are featured prominantly. Every now and then, there's a beautiful acoustic passage which never fails to make me green with envy. The vocals are great, the riffs are deep and heavy, and the songs overall are quite good. Eight tracks of hard-hitting metal sprinkled with bits of melody and running a little over an hour, this is one great metal album.
The album kicks off with The Leper Infinity
. It begins with a dischordant sound that starts off quiet and builds up gradually. At the apex, it explodes into a heavy metal riff and some fitting drum work. Mikael adds some death metal vocals in, as he growls away. There's soon a little break for quick double bass and a change in guitar. The vocals come back, and are just as heavy as before. Another sudden change in the music, as the riffs and drums change. A little bit of shouting vocals, and then the song changes yet again. This happens a lot, and is ultimately a good thing. You can't have a ten minute song just stay on one course throughout. This change leads into more double bass and some good guitar. A high-pitched guitar comes over the top and does a bit of squealing.
A very short break is followed by the song going in another direction with a very evil sounding riff, followed by a different one and more vocals of the death metal variety. Despite being vocals of that sort, they never really get annoying. Another change mellows the song out a bit, as the guitar shines. Everything disappears and an acoustic guitar comes forth, along with some of Mikael's wonderful clean vocals. This is a welcome change after all that heavy metal stuff, which soon makes a return. The guitars wail away again, change, wail, change, and wail. It's quite a feat to describe it all, as it's constantly changing and never boring. There's a bit of jamming here, until the death metal side of things come back. I'm not quite sure as to what he's saying, but I don't suppose it matters when the music is good. Soon things make a return to the opening riff. Double bass makes an entrance, as Mr. Åkerfeldt shouts away. A slight break, with a few drum fills occurs here. This is followed by a change in riff, and then some great high-pitched guitar work. One of my favorite moments on the album. From this, everything dies out and a lone, creepy sounding piano comes in. This plays for a bit to end the track. There, two nice sized paragraphs and that's just the first track. This is a good song, and would be a nice place to start for those who are just starting to get into Opeth.
starts out with a whiny guitar and some drum work. A small fill, and then it launches into the main riff, which is very dark and evil sounding. Vocals come in, on top of some high guitar. The vocals are rasped, for now, and fit the song perfectly. The guitars change a bit here, and then return to the main riff. Things go back to the verse now, and the vocals are still the same and still nigh-understandable. "I am dying fast inside your tears" beckons a short little break from the heavy riffing. They soon return and not long after change again into a more light guitar line. Almost happy sounding. "Devious movements in your eyes" chimes in from Steven Wilson, of Porcupine Tree, who also doubled as producer for this album. After a line from Steve, Mikael adds a line. There's a melody acoustic break here, which lasts a decent bit. Then the music stops for a second, before coming back in melodic form. Some clean vocals join in, after some slow guitar wailing. Double bass and distorted guitar make a sudden entrace with a great metal riff. Another guitar comes over top of it, higher than the other one. Then there's a moment of clearly audible bass, while they jam for a little while. Out of nowhere, it returns to the riffs before the break. "Devious movements in your eyes" sings Steven again, as he's followed by Mikael. This is a great moment of clean vocals. They're both great here. Soon after, those evil death metal vocals come back. They speed up a bit for a few seconds before fading into a static-like noise which plays out to end it. This is another great song with a good mix of heavy and clean vocals. Some great guitar work, too. My favorite song of the album.
The soft, acoustic track, Harvest
is next, and is one of my favorite acoustic songs of theirs. It starts with some strummed guitar, as the drums provide a solid backing. Another guitar comes in and plays some melody over the strumming. Vocals come in with "Stay with me a while/Rise above the vile." Mikael's vocals are all clean, here, and are some of the best of the album. Great work, on his part. The chorus comes in with "Into the orchard I walk peering way past the gates/Wilted scenes for those who couldn't wait.." Back into the mellow verse with "Pledge yourself to me/Never let me be." It just follows the same structure throughout, but it's rather short (in comparison to the other songs) so it remains enjoyable and doesn't seem repetetive. There's a nice guitar interlude after the next chorus. Then a different guitar comes in and plucks away some high notes with passion. The verse comes back with "Spirit painted sin/Embers neath my skin." This is followed up by another chorus, ending with "Halo of death, all I see is departure/Mourner's lament, but it's me who's the martyr." Some more guitar pieces play around to end the song. A good one, at that. The vocals really shine, here, and add greatly to the song.
The Drapery Falls
follows the acoustic break. It kicks off with some strummed guitar for a short bit, which leads into a drum fill and the entrance of distorted guitars. The bass is clearly audible here, as the guitars interweave. A change in riff occurs after a bit, and gets a bit heavier. This plays for a while until it dies down into some more light, acoustic strumming. Clean vocals come in with "Please remedy my confusion, and thrust me back into the day." An abrupt inclusion of distortion occurs with "Pull me down again and guide me into pain." From this, it returns to the acoustic guitar with more strings twiddling in the background. The vocals return in same form as before, slightly distorted. Heaviness returns, but isn't the full speed ahead type. Some sort of vocal moaning occurs, before a bit of great guitar work. This transforms into a heavy riff, and is immediately followed by death metal vocals, thanks to Mikael. They're very deep and Cannibal Corpse-esque. This changes into an almost dissonant guitar riff. It's very evil sounding. Double bass and a return to straight ahead riffing follows. They return to the form before the break, as vocals make a comeback, just as heavy as before. Out of nowhere, everything dies and goes quiet. An acoustic comes around, along with some very nice clean vocals with "Spiraling down to the ground below/Like autumn leaves left in the wake to fade." A short heavy bit and then more clean acoustic work for a few short seconds. Then it's double bass and riff, riff, riff! More strummed acoustic, on top of a screeching guitar. Then drums and bass come in as they jam. Bass becomes clearly audible and adds to the jamming, as it eventually fades away to end the song. Another good one, this is. Certainly not the best here, but still good nonetheless.
Dirge for November
starts out very quiet, with acoustic guitar and clean vocals from Mikael with "Lost, here is nowhere." After a bit, the guitar goes into a bit more than a few notes, and another comes in with some slow high-notes. Things die to silence, but it's short lived, as the band dives in with distorted riffs and pounding drums. Double bass is added as the guitars get to their dual melody work. A slight change in music occurs, with the driving constant bass work succumbing to single foot work and guitar going a different direction. The riffing takes head again as death metal vocals join the mix. After a while of that, the guitars take a change into some dissonant sounding riffs. This doesn't last long, as it returns to the verse of sorts. While the vocals here are of the heavier variety, they aren't really annoying or bothersome. They belong to the deep throaty type of death metal voices. Then, out of nowhere, everything goes away and leaves some soft guitars, which play some lovely melodies. It pretty much just stays like it is now, and plays out the rest of the song before ending in silence. This is certainly one of the weaker tracks in comparison to the others, but not a bad song in and of itself.
One of the heavier tracks, The Funeral Portrait
, comes next. It starts out with some quiet guitar plucking. This gradually gets louder and louder until it explodes into the main riff, one of my favorites of the album. This continues for a little, and is soon joined by some growling vocals. A quick double bass burst signals a riff change. This one is nice and heavy, as well as being fairly good. More vocals, and these are somewhat raspy. I suppose if you listened to it loud enough it would get sort of annoying, but usually they're fine. Yet another riff change occurs, in accordance with some double bass. This leads into dual riffage, then another change followed by more hot riff on riff action. More growling death metalism from the vocalist, and then a break for a few seconds. Soon after, some evil sounding guitar is accompanied by random growling. Then comes the mellow, acoustic break mid-song. It doesn't last long, and is halted by a scream and some heavy metal. A bit of that, and then a long and sweet, screeching guitar solo. When it's done squealing, there's a repeat of the short acoustic line before it goes right back into the starting riff. Then they pretty much just repeat the different riffs a time or two before they go to a new one. It features some clean vocals with "And you are just like them all" sung by Steven and Mikael in unison, followed by a line from Mikael. From this, the music just fades away to end the track. Certainly not the best song here, but always good for when you need to headbang.
A short, mellow instrumental is up next, in form of Patterns in the Ivy
. Basically, it's just a couple guitars playing a nice melody for little while, and then then joined by some gentle piano. Around the halfway mark, the piano goes away and the melody changes a bit. Then the keys return to accompany the starting melody. I don't see this as a song, so much as break from all the metal. As this, it serves it's purpose well. It would also be well suited to be an intro of sorts to the title track. Speaking of the title track, Blackwater Park
, it's next, and is also the longest and heaviest. It gets right into it, with some thick dual riffing. One hammering away, and the other squealing away in the background. After a while of jamming with that, it rips strait into another riff, just as evil sounding as the one before it. That lasts a little bit until it quickly turns into a lone acoustic. With a grunt, the rest of the band comes in and wails away with another
riff, this one sounding just as good as the rest. Some deep growling vocals come in and lead the song for a bit. Suddenly, the instruments stop, the guitars resonate out, and it goes to a soft, guitar interlude. It sounds almost echo-y and distant, but it still sounds good. Over the course of one set of strings plucking away, another comes in the background and wails softly. They change the melody a little, and play it for a while.
After the lengthy break from the heavy, it right into another face crushing riff. Mikaels growling voice comes back, and drives the song forward. Then out of nowhere, the riff changes and is joined by bouts of double bass. They play through that a few times, and then return to as much of a verse as there is here. This leads into the chunkiest riff of the whole album. Another guitar comes in and solos over top. A return to the "verse" and then they switch gears again, with an acoustic guitar being strummed. Over which, is a wailing guitar with double bass to tie it all together. More vocals, that are still growled, come in as the speedy bass remains. Some more melodic guitar squealing as the acoustic remains underneath. Afterward, there's a pause, before they start hammering away again. Some strange sounding guitar lines play a few times, before it's reduced to a single acoustic which plays out the song.
In terms of riffs and guitar work, this is easily one of the best tracks here. There are no clean vocals, which is easily forgivable due to the immense amount of bitchin' guitar. A really strong track, well deserving of the title.
Overall, this is a great album for those who enjoy heavy music. They've done a superb job in creating a melodic death metal album. Or maybe it's a prog-metal album. Whatever genre you decide to assign Opeth, they will still be one of the best metal bands around nowadays. The wonderful melding of full on heavy riff attack and clean breaks from the fury all combine to make a great record. It's not for everyone, but those bits of melody and beautiful clean vocals could be enough to sway someone into listening. If you like metal, then definitely check this out. If you don't enjoy the "heavy stuff," then there's a chance you might not like this. To the rest of us, this should be seen as a classic, because that's what it is. Hopefully, in ten years, we'll look back on Blackwater Park
the way we do Master of Puppets
[+]Some really great riffs
[+]Vocals, growled and otherwise, are well done
[+]Great songwriting featuring plenty of twists and turns
[-]It's not for everyone
[-]Those death metal vocals will irk some people
[-]Dirge for November
could be better.
[?]Why would you want to go to a blackwater park? Seems as if it would be unsanitary. Wouldn't you rather go to a clearwater park instead?
1. The Leper Affinity -10:23 (All songs written by Opeth)
2. Bleak -9:15
3. Harvest -6:01
4. The Drapery Falls -10:53
5. Dirge For November -7:53
6. The Funeral Portrait -8:44
7. Patterns In The Ivy -1:52
8. Blackwater Park -12:08