Review Summary: An often maligned album that is actually far better than many people give it credit for, standing out as a very strong release made up of triple A musicianship and a stellar vocal performance.
Widely considered to be among the weakest links in the Opeth discography, Deliverance was a release that found the band charting arguably their heaviest waters to date. Whereas on their past releases, the band had used a relatively even ratio between clean and heavier sections, Deliverance tips the scale massively in favor of the more brutal side of the Swedish prog-death metal band's music to make for a very interesting release. Following hot on the heels of the band's breakthrough album, Blackwater Park, Deliverance is a release that I honestly feel gets a little too much criticism.
As has become custom with Opeth releases, this album uses a mixture of acoustic sections and skull-crushingly heavy metal instrumental segments whilst front-man Mikael Akerfeldt leaps back and forth between growls that sound forced from the bowels of Satan and a rather nice clean singing voice. Five of the six tracks on this release exceed the ten minute mark in length, leaving a lot of room for the band to showcase their signature unrivaled ability to transcend genre boundaries and show off their many influences. The guitar work sometimes relies heavily on chords being left to ring out, whereas there is the occasional more technical riff that involves a lot of singular notes, whilst the guitar solos featured on this release are not as fast as could be expected from many bands with death metal traits. Instead, the solos on Deliverance are used as another tool to hack away at your brain and remain stuck in your head, as the title track shows eight minutes and twenty seconds in.
Deliverance opens with what some consider to be the heaviest track the band have put out to date in the form of Wreath. This song is a phenomenal work, seldom letting up in the aggression. The atmosphere is absolutely devastating, sounding like the musical equivalent of a fine work of art depicting the end of the world. The drumming makes heavy use of double-bass work, whilst the ever-changing guitar work ensures that you will not get bored of this track. Around fifty seconds into this song is a highlight of the entire album, when the lead guitar work seeps through and weaves in and out of the rhythm to make for one of the sweetest dual-guitar assaults in musical history. Another obvious highlight would be the fourteen minute title track, which opens up with a ringing guitar note and some really nice drumming which then dissolves into an absolute steam-roller of a song. This track has one of the nicest clean sections the band has ever employed when they slot a blues section in the middle of the musical chaos at around one minutes and twenty seconds.
This album is one that many have noted as trailing off toward the end, but this is not strictly true. As the running time gets longer and longer, the band continue to pound away at their instruments, drilling their over-the-top brand of music straight into your head with a lot of conviction. The two minute instrumental song For Absent Friends is a track that a few people have stated as being entirely pointless, but in fact it serves as a neat way to bridge the gap between the two halves of the album and gives your ears a rest from the mindless brutality that much of this release is made up of. By The Pain I See In Others is the closing song on this release, clocking in at just short of twelve minutes in length, and is yet another amazing song in Opeth's near flawless catalogue of masterful accomplishments within the music industry. This is a track that takes a little time to build up, continually evolving and adjusting itself until Mikael's vocals come in over one of the most fantastic riffs the band has ever written. The riff-craft on this song is the stuff of absolute wonder, but something that is equally astounding is the bold move the band took in using a clean passage straight after such a fantastic riff with no real warning. Over the acoustic guitar, Mikael continues to shriek his lungs out in his harsh vocals, leading to a rather unsettling atmosphere before a drum fill leads the song into an absolutely incredible fast-paced section. An entire essay could be written to analyse this song, but perhaps it would be better to just label it as one of the best songs the band has ever put together, and a classic of progressive metal.
One point that a lot of individuals have made about this release is that it drags on a lot, and that the songs are too long, but this isn't really correct. None of these songs are any longer than they have to be, hitting hard with a vast selection of well written riffs, fantastic drum patterns and marvelous bass work whilst Mikael gives the vocal performance of a life time. One thing that is startling about this album compared to, say, its predecessor is how unrelenting it is. This album is ridiculously heavy for the vast majority of its duration, but this isn't a problem, and it ensures that when the softer sections are played, they impact you a lot more. A crisp production job is the final piece of a puzzle that Opeth strived to assemble on this release, with each instrument being mixed perfectly and none of them having anything but the finest guitar tones out there. This is a spectacular production job, and one of the best in their discography.
Opeth's Deliverance is an often maligned album in their discography for numerous reasons, when it really isn't bad at all. Whilst this definitely doesn't topple works such as My Arms, Your Hearse (not a lot does top this) or Morningrise, it is still certainly a strong work in its own right, with some incredible songs that have their place in the Opeth catalogue in the same way that numbers such as Harvest and The Leper Affinity do.