Opeth
Damnation


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
October 6th, 2010 | 200 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: “Close to ending it all, I am drifting through the stages”

Depression is an interesting condition of the human mind. It seems to affect more people across the world than any other emotion; and even worse, it is the most permanent. For me, it seems to strike right when I am at the pinnacle of my productivity, deflating the air in my tires and rendering me helpless and immobile. Then, it remains a fixture in my life for an unspecified, usually long, period of time. I have had more than my share of dealings with depression; and I’m not talking about the day-to-day happenings that bring you down. I’m referring to prolonged melancholy and dejection, usually over the course of an entire season. Winter is typically the culprit. Maybe it is the lack of sunshine, the bare trees, or just the dead feeling that accompanies the moving in of chill arctic air. For whatever reason, something in my psyche is altered come late December, and I almost start to see the world in black and white. Not highly unlike the cover of Opeth’s Damnation, there is something utterly vacant and plain about it all. At times like these I find it damn near impossible to take pleasure in listening to happy music. I simply don’t want to hear anything that suggests that other people are moving on with their lives, meeting friends, going on dates, you know…enjoying life. It may be my most self-destructive quality, but I prefer to have a companion that understands me; something that won’t try to change my mind or cheer me up. “Misery loves company”, and for me, that company has time and time again been Damnation.

Louis E. Boone, a business and economics author, once said “Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things.” Damnation is this advice put directly into action by the aggressive heavy metal band Opeth. Every work leading up to Damnation features growling vocals, extremely heavy riffs, loud drumming, and an overall feeling of beautifully organized chaos. Sure, there were hints of a gentler side to Opeth, but nobody could have predicted the bluesy, almost completely acoustic collection of songs that make up Damnation. It was clearly an intentional change in direction, and the results yielded what many feel is the best album in Opeth’s celebrated catalogue. Easily their most atmospheric work, the stripped down and slow sound works brilliantly with Akerfeldt’s harmonic vocals so that you can feel his despair and empathize with his pain. It is emotion in its purest form, and anyone with an ounce of passion for music can immediately appreciate the atmosphere that Damnation creates. I know this is the aspect of the album that I can relate to the most, even over the lyrics. The feeling I get when I hear the moody chorus to “In My Time of Need” or the haunting introduction of “To Rid the Disease” outweighs any reaction I have had from any other artist, album, or song.

For as concrete and touchable as the emotion is on this album, Damnation is complemented by strikingly memorable melodies. Whether it comes via Akerfeldt’s strangely comforting serenades or by way of instrumental perfection, every song has a unique and unforgettable characteristic. Like fingerprints on the same person, each song is completely distinguishable from the other, all the while tied together by unifying similarities of the qualities of that person, or in this case, album. “Windowpane”, for instance, is all about Opeth’s instrumental prowess. Akerfeldt delivers an absolutely masterful guitar performance, one that is complex yet accessible enough to be readily delved into. Mendez’s bass provides a dark backdrop, giving the song a fittingly dispirited aura to kick off the motif of depression present throughout Damnation. On the other hand, songs such as “Death Whispered a Lullaby” are more vocal-centered, with Akerfeldt’s repetitive, haunting chants of “sleep my child”. “To Rid the Disease” is likely an even better example, as it is also the catchiest track on the album. Regardless of what aspect of Opeth’s music takes the forefront, you can count on every song delivering a skillful blend of their multiple talents. This is what truly makes Damnation an atmospheric triumph, one that transcends the realm of music and directly effects the emotions of the listener...even if what is being portrayed is overtly depressing.

To make a long story short, if Damnation were a color, it would be gray. The cover art certainly helps this speculation, but it also goes much deeper than that. Gray is a perfect blend of black and white, just as Damnation is the perfect blend of dark, hopeless expression and light, silver lining. See, for as uniformly depressing as the album is, the simple fact that it provides something to relate to serves as an optimistic twist. Damnation is the musical equivalent of family: through the thick and thin, it will always be there to remind me that I’m not the only one feeling completely hopeless. Thus, in a rather contradictory fashion, the album can actually have a positive effect. The distinctively gray elements of Damnation make the record a far more rewarding listen when your atmosphere matches it; overcast, chilly, raining…one of those days where you just don’t want to go outside because it is too gray. And ironically on days like those, nothing makes me happier than listening to this completely depressing album.



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user ratings (3034)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2010


16008 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Whew. What a depressing record.

I have been reviewing waay too much lately, third straight day I’ve posted. I think I wanted to get to this 50th review before I go away for a long weekend. Actually had this written up some time ago, so it isn’t rushed or anything.

Obviously, this is an incredibly personal review for me, and I intended it that way. There are times where I like this album better than TDAG (gasp!)…also, if you haven’t heard this yet, I will hunt you down.


Digging: Yellowcard - Lift a Sail

Ire
October 6th 2010


41780 Comments


One of Opeth's best.

vanderb0b
October 6th 2010


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Always thought that this was one of the band's weaker albums, thought Windowpane, Death Whispered, and Ending Credits are awesome. Congrats with the 50!

Emim
October 6th 2010


26625 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Seriously though, this is a great album.

Gmork89
October 6th 2010


5510 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome review, one of the best I have read. It was as if I was writing it at first haha.

tiesthatbind
October 6th 2010


7374 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Awesome album, awesome review. Windowpane and Closure are my favorites on this but it's all great. Happy 50th.

Digging: xSPONGEXCOREx - How Tough Are Yah?

climactic
October 6th 2010


18936 Comments


Good review. Not a 5 imo

Romulus
October 6th 2010


8436 Comments


yes Sowing great review, fantastic album

eternium
October 6th 2010


16338 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome awesome awesome review.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2010


16008 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

thanks everyone for the kind words and feedback. this will always be my favorite Opeth album, although I know that it probably isn't technically their best

Romulus
October 6th 2010


8436 Comments


i agree completely

Deceptioneer
October 6th 2010


509 Comments


i haven't heard this yet

ShadowRemains
October 6th 2010


20734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

...what spirit said

Digging: Banks - Goddess

Ire
October 6th 2010


41780 Comments


dumguest

bailar90
October 6th 2010


16 Comments


blopeth.js

eternium
October 6th 2010


16338 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

what is this i don't even

qwe3
October 6th 2010


21362 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

meh

NeutralThunder12
October 6th 2010


8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Im actually with Eternium on this one you guys are retarded

NeutralThunder12
October 6th 2010


8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah you are

I don't see how this could ever be defined as "unlistenable"

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2010


16391 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is good at first but I think the ending drags. Windowpane, however, is really good.

Digging: Spectral Lore - III



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