Review Summary: Opeth's most overlooked album also happens to be one of their best
Opeth are, well and truly a band who need no introduction-virtually inventing the genre of progressive death metal through each and every album they have produced, they have risen to well and truly stand head’s and shoulders above most metal bands who ever existed. Bursting onto the scene with one of the most calculated and refined debut’s you will probably ever listen to in the form of “Orchid”, nine albums into their relatively short career and they have never ceased to amaze, never let up in their ability to draw you in with their gloriously rich sound. Having proved that in 1996 everyone else should watch out, with “Morningrise”, “My Arms...” continues in much of the same frame of mind. Not only does it top its predecessor, but in many ways it could quite easily top all but two of their albums.
Rain isn’t half depressing-here in England you’ll be lucky to go five days without a pitter patter sounding on your rooftop, and the album opens with the aforementioned weather formation. It’s an interesting enough opener, for what follows is hardly the cheeriest of concept albums you’ll hear. Based around a character that dies, he then becomes a ghost who watches over his loved one in increasing turmoil as he suspects she did not grieve enough about his passing. All is good though, as he gets what he wants with her never being able to accept his death. Sure enough, the album is not going to be the most upbeat thing you will hear-deep growling, sludgy metal riffs and depressing, Pink Floyd-esque guitars are everywhere, but this is a good thing. This is one of the most emotional and heartfelt records I have ever heard, created by some of Sweden’s finest musicians in the process.
The very fact that only three albums into their career, many people could tell Opeth were something special only certifies the quality of the music on display here. Being able to transition from doom-laden riffs to chilling cleans and acoustic melodies have never really sounded as dramatic as on the album being reviewed here. This is partially because it has never been done quite so well on its predecessor’s, but also because, at the end of the day only three men made the music. Everyone on this record, playing is top notch-there are admittedly one or two times where you think “that sounds like so and so” but the overall quality makes you forget minor details.
There is also a fan-favourite on this album-“Demons of the fall”. Imagine an almost Viking inspired marching riff, if you would, followed by expansive, melodic guitar work and some horrendously powerful vocals, and this is the basis for some of the sweetest six minutes and thirteen seconds of your life. Other mentions really should go to “When” and “April Ethereal”, both barrelling along at a hundred-odd miles an hour, accompanied by poignant drum ride fills and demonic vocals. Some of Opeth’s finest early moments.
There is, however, one or two niggles on display here that mean it doesn’t go at the top of Opeth’s admittedly brilliant discography. For a start, it is a nineties album, which means nineties tape mastering. At times, the drums overpower everything, especially if you have the first release as I have, and sometimes the sound quality drops dubiously low, especially during some noisy clean parts, which is a shame as they help to lift the record. Secondly, I listened to this after listening to “Blackwater Park” and “Still Life”. Silly I know, but it just didn’t quite live up to the exceptional highs of those albums, even with three of my all time favourite Opeth songs on it.
However, this can hardly significantly detract from what is one of Opeth’s finest hours. Setting out the blue-print for the fortress that would be “Blackwater...” and “Still Life”, this album really does contain some spectacular highs in it that meant it is one of the bands most inspired releases. Even with such a rich history, “My Arms...” stands out as something spectacular in Opeth’s book of memories, and even metal’s most casual listener would have trouble not being caught up in the whirlwind that is “My Arms, Your Hearse”. Highly recommended.
1. April Ethereal
3. Demon's of the fall