The setting could best be associated with a dark, weathered forest, with Opeth’s fifth studio album, Blackwater Park
, being a perplexing shadow. It’s not the first album like this, but the distinction here is what Opeth casts their shadow on. Rather than dimming the lights on religion and violence, Blackwater Park
takes lost love, mourning and even bits of nature to their uniquely dark place. “Bleak” leers like a thick fog, verses creeping alongside the eerie mist that makes up the album’s surroundings. “Patterns in the Ivy” is more vaguely sinister, blending pianos and acoustic guitar to bring a more subtle atmosphere to the album.
The sound here is layered and heavy, balancing gentle acoustic passages and clean vocals (“Harvest”) with progressive metal sections and fierce growls (“Blackwater Park”) in a brilliantly deep abyss that beckons (and almost requires) several focused listens. Generally the growls go excellently alongside the heavier parts, but in the case of “The Drapery Falls” it fits clean vocals into the package yet still inherits the strength of the songs before it. Likewise, “Dirge for November” sandwiches a heavier core between an acoustic intro and outro, and “Blackwater Park” executes a stellar progressive blend between the two.
Opeth fuse atmosphere with excellent instrumentation to create something thick, something that draws you in to submerge yourself and rewards you the entire way in. Blackwater Park
feels like wandering through foliage at night, a sound that is organic but puts your mind into dark, pensive thought. The album is grim but it’s neither threatening nor a predator, almost elusive to attention but so very deserving of it.