Review Summary: A beautifully recorded progressive rock album from the progressive metal titans.
It's no secret that Opeth is an extremely well known and respected band in the genre of death metal. As someone who is not a fan of death metal, Opeth was one of those bands that I really wanted to love because of the overwhelming talent that are capable of. Blackwater Park has often been called a masterpiece on sputnik and outside of it as well. Once I read that the band had an album that did not contain their characteristic death metal elements, I rejoiced. Damnation is a beautifully recorded progressive rock album that is incredibly bleak while still being soothing and peaceful at the same time.
Damnation marks the third time that Opeth collaborated with Steve Wilson and he is the reason this album sounds so great. Everything is recorded so beautifully with no instrument having the spotlight over the other and whenever that spotlight it needed, the instrument is at just the right volume. It really shows Steve Wilson’s talent as a producer and he should have been commended for that. “Death Whispered A Lullaby” has lyrics that are even written by Wilson and sung by Mikael which is both a positive and a negative. The song is very Porcupine Tree like which is fantastic, but at the same time, this is an Opeth album and not a Porcupine Tree album. Thankfully, most of the songs on the album have a very unique and somber vibe to them that are extremely inspired by 70s progressive rock.
The album opens with “Windowpane” and it is without a doubt the best song on the album. The incredibly gentle guitar riffs scattered throughout have a very bleak yet calming effect and Mikael’s clean vocals are very well done. The beauty continues into the next track and it also showcases some of the record’s catchiness. “In My Time Of Need” features some fantastic verses and an overwhelmingly touching chorus with Mikael singing “And I should contemplate this change/To ease the pain/And I should step out of the rain/And turn away.” The song is has some great effects in it and every texture collides perfectly.
Make no mistake the overall tone of the album is quite soothing, but it also tends to be incredibly bleak too. “Closure” contains a sense of dread that most tracks on Damnation tend to not convey as a result of its mysterious guitar and sorrowful lyrics. There is even a track entitled “Hope Leaves” strangely enough if that doesn’t convince anyone who is reading this of the record's tone I don't know what will. Thankfully, “Hope Leaves” is also another highlight of the record because of its occasionally Pink Floyd like style of guitar and Mikael’s extremely gentle performance. He really holds his own on this record and he really shows that clean vocals are no problem to him as opposed to his death growls.
The record does not falter until the very last track of the album. “To Rid The Disease” is another catchy track with fantastic piano melodies and some stand out bass lines while “Ending Credits” makes for a very well written instrumental track. Unfortunately, the final half of the album is weighed down by the incredibly tedious “Weakness.” The song is basically the same boring keyboard melody over and over again with nothing substantial happening in between. It is a strangely uneventful track and it really disappoints considering it is the album closer.
Despite any gripes, Damnation makes for a great addition into Opeth’s gigantic discography dominated by progressive death metal albums. It definitely is not the best modern progressive rock album out there, but there is no denying that the album is well recorded and brings incredibly emotional vibes. For anyone wary of trying this out due it not being the genre of death metal, simply have an open mind. Due to the fact that Opeth possesses a staggering amount of talent, Damnation will impress you just as much as Blackwater Park.