Opeth
Watershed


4.0
excellent

Review

by Professor USER (5 Reviews)
April 29th, 2010 | 17 replies | 3,924 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Twelve minutes into Watershed, any shred of doubt surrounding the band’s ability to maintain its remarkable momentum is erased. Obliterated.

2 of 2 thought this review was well written

There’s a reason why whenever Opeth releases a new album, the metal world stops whatever it’s doing and pauses with baited breath. For the last decade the Swedish band has been the standard bearer for modern metal, and as they’ve proven over the course of eight studio albums, they have shown no signs whatsoever of giving way to the next generation of young hotshots. And not only does the Swedish band excel like no other at combining harsh, towering blasts of blackened death metal with the intricacy of 1970s prog rock and the more subtle, gentle beauty of folk, but Opeth evolves at such a rate, and have become so unpredictable while craftily retaining their core sound, that the only thing for bands to do is to simply follow their lead, because they sure as hell don’t have any chance of overtaking them.

In addition, expectations surrounding the band’s ninth studio album are all the more lofty thanks to the departure of two crucial members. Guitarist Peter Lindgren, who had been a part of Opeth with singer/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt since 1991, shocked fans when he announced his amicable departure from the band a year ago. The perfect, understated foil for Åkerfeldt’s flamboyant style, Lindgren’s presence on record and in concert was something fans had always thought could be counted on. Also, Martin Lopez, whose fluid drumming had endeared him to many since 1998’s My Arms, Your Hearse album, was forced to step down for medical reasons in 2006. The consternation among die-hard fans, especially online, bordered on ridiculous, with many complaining that Lopez and Lindgren were irreplaceable. So with a pair of new members in guitarist Fredrik Åkesson (ex-Arch Enemy) and Martin Axenrot (formerly of Bloodbath) making their debuts on record, even some fans were questioning the direction the band was headed in, wondering if their best days were now behind them.

Twelve minutes into Watershed, any shred of doubt surrounding the band’s ability to maintain its remarkable momentum is erased. Obliterated. They haven’t simply proven they hadn’t lost a step; they’ve found an entirely new gear, sounding rejuvenated, and more audacious than ever. So adept Opeth has become at integrating both mellow and aggressive sounds, the shifts between the disparate styles so gracefully executed, that it’s easy for the listener to take their skill for granted. However, one cannot underestimate how remarkable it is that Åkerfeldt, Åkesson, Axenrot, bassist Martin Mendoza, and keyboardist Per Wiberg make these labyrinthine arrangements flow so naturally.
The two opening tracks “Coil” and “Heir Apparent” showcase the above as prime examples, starting out with a straightforward Fairport Convention homage (featuring a duet with Nathalie Lorichs), then segueing into some of the heaviest blastbeats since 2002’s Deliverance, shifting into a passage of acoustic guitar and mellotron, and eventually into an organ-driven jam straight out of Deep Purple. On paper, such stylistic changes seem completely arbitrary and pointless, but on record, especially this one, it’s a completely different story.

More than any other past Opeth album, though, Watershed places unprecedented emphasis on the kind of grim, mournful ambience alluded to so well on the band’s album covers. With Scott Walker’s 2006 masterpiece The Drift a major inspiration during the songwriting process, and the Zombies’ landmark Odyssey and Oracle during recording, the album is dominated by many small mood pieces that appear either in between songs or in the songs themselves. We hear someone quietly humming a sorrowful melody before the song in question kicks in for real. Doom metal chords vanish in an instant, only to be replaced by a lone, forlorn piano, keys pressed gently. There’s a minute of enigmatic conversation at the end of one track that’s reminiscent of Dark Side of the Moon, another song reprises a verse, this time played backwards, while another concludes as the acoustic guitar strings are slowly, eerily turned out of tune while it plays.

Studio tricks aside, the real draw, of course, are the songs themselves. “The Lotus Eater” is a tour de force exercise in extreme metal dynamics, the song rarely maintaining the same groove for more than a minute, the quintet alternating from maelstrom-like black metal, to expressive Floyd-esque solos, to a quiet bass solo/mellotron interlude, to the kicker, a jaw-dropping 30-second funk jam straight out of early ‘70s Miles Davis. Grounding the entire track is the vocal range of Akerfeldt. A more confident singer than ever, his strong “clean” vocals are utilized beautifully, his rougher death growl never overdone, only brought out to accentuate the harder passages.

The 11-minute “Hessian Peel” is as impeccable a combination of Deliverance‘s aggression with the more somber style of 2003’s Damnation, while “Burden” is flat-out gorgeous, an epic ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on either King Crimson’s Red or with Uli Jon Roth-era Scorpions. Of Watershed‘s seven tracks, only does “Porcelain Heart” come closest to sounding like Opeth-by-numbers, but the increased dependence on Wiberg’s keyboard work, which is so integral to this album’s success, adds a great deal more depth than his first record with the band, 2005’s Ghost Reveries.

Unlike Ghost Reveries, which comfortably, and impeccably, amalgamated the various sounds and textures Opeth had been toying with for a decade into a spellbinding realization of the band’s signature sound, Watershed is a major turning point for the band, as they’ve now made a significant shift towards the progressive rock sounds of 35 years ago, their extreme metal, which they used to be so firmly rooted in, now cleverly used more as a starting-off point than merely the groundwork of the music. It’s probably and arguably their most crucial album since 1999’s stunning Still Life, and its title could not be more appropriate.


user ratings (2968)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
bloozclooz
April 29th 2010



1770 Comments


something tells me this band has a quite a following

Professor
April 29th 2010



15 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Second review. Cheers to all of you!

Greggers
April 29th 2010



2375 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pretty great review mate, even if it is a tad unnecessary considering there are 10+ reviews for this already.

Professor
April 29th 2010



15 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thank you for the possitive comments Greggers. I proceeded with the above named review after it was requested by other users who had read the first review I had composed. Obviously what you are mentioning is true and is indeed an issue when dealing with popular bands and landmark releases. My third review will be a less obvious one and about an up and coming new act. Cheers.

DoctorNurse
April 29th 2010



475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I do enjoy this album a lot. I think Porcelain Heart is one of Opeth's weakest songs though. Having said that Hessian Peel is one of their best.

Bfhurricane
April 29th 2010



6197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very good review. I love everything about this album, especially Burden. That song quickly became one of my favorite of all time.

HenchmanOfSanta
April 29th 2010



1856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very well-written, just unnecessary and maybe a little overlong.

Also, blackened death metal?

FadeToBlack
April 29th 2010



10913 Comments


riiight this isn't close to death metal

also overrated album

IGotShotInTheFace
April 29th 2010



444 Comments


Damn good review. Have to get some Opeth. Their best?

FadeToBlack
April 29th 2010



10913 Comments


just get all their albums, they're all great

Motiv3
April 29th 2010



8921 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

best to start off with blackwater park imo but you cant go wrong with any of their albums as fadetoblack said.

IGotShotInTheFace
April 29th 2010



444 Comments


Will do... At the moment I'm dloading some Korn (Don't fuckin' judge me!!!)

ffs
April 29th 2010



4856 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

really good review. this is easily as good as bwp

webbtje
April 29th 2010



41 Comments


"then segueing into some of the heaviest blastbeats since 2002’s Deliverance,"


Er, there are no blasts in Heir Apparent (which is what is segued into from Coil). And Opeth used no blasts until The Lotus Eaters, let alone on Deliverance.

Good review otherwise. I personally thought the album went from brilliant to boring very quickly, but I can certainly see the appeal.

EDIT: Ah never mind, I see what you meant. Still, no blasts used previous to The Lotus Eaters.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2010



5976 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Damn good review. Have to get some Opeth. Their best?

Start with My Arms Your Hearse and Still Life

that's Opeth without the PT influence...

Digging: Lisa Gerrard - Twilight Kingdom

Waior
April 29th 2010



11442 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

love the review

ShadowRemains
April 29th 2010



20447 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

keep this up, man you write very good reviews...pos



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