Review Summary: Opeth are stuck in the 1970s with a broken time machine, for better or worse.
For the past two albums, Opeth have been toying around with a hit-or-miss sound straight out of the '70s. In the process, they managed to show how versatile they are in terms of sound. Remaining in this outlet, they may have lost some fans, but at the same time they also demonstrated a willingness to further explore more styles other than their trademark progressive metal/death metal sound. With Damnation
, it certainly proved how Opeth had the ability to actually try something different and it still exists as a testament of how amazing a slower Opeth album completely free of growls can be. However, despite Damnation
being so exceptional, Heritage
and its somewhat disappointing successor seems to miss the target. While the band may not have completely missed it, Heritage
falls flat at many points and the derivative Pale Communion
proves to be no different. The listener definitely gets the sense of what the band is going for in terms of sound here, with dated equipment being used and an even slower vibe than Heritage
, but it doesn't change how some of the songs tend to drag and how the forced, dated production doesn't quite measure up to how it looks on paper. Granted, Pale Communion
does boast some exceptional pieces of music as well as the record as a whole being a pleasant listen, but it nonetheless exists as a remarkably unimpressive misfire.
As stated before, the record conveys a vibe straight out of the 70s progressive music scene with the King Crimson influence being undeniably apparent. It’s as if some of the material on Pale Communion
could feel right at home on their famous record, Red
. Right off the bat, “Eternal Rains Will Come” places more of an emphasis on using a dated drumming sound, keyboards, harmonies, and a more psychedelic feel. The introduction to the song is exceptional with some fantastic drumming and a nice build up to the more harmonized vibe of the song. The sudden burst into the many layers of Mikael happens to be quite jarring at first, but his harmonies gradually get better as the song goes on. These elements carry over into “Cusp of Eternity” with some brooding guitar work and Mikael’s well done clean vocals. However, the song's chorus proves to be nothing but a corny take on vocalizing and it completely takes away from atmospheric vibe of the song. From here on out, the record continues to show off their King Crimson influences that could only be called hit-or-miss.
“Elysian Woes” and “Faith in Others” definitely take home the awards for the song most likely to appear on a '70s progressive rock record because of their chilled out atmospheres and slower drumming performances. “Faith in Others” gives the listener a taste of the beauty the record can convey with gentle strings paving the way for Mikael’s soothing voice and touching guitar work. It’s without a doubt a highlight for the record and while the song is certainly nothing outside of the box by any means, it’s well played and really makes the listener feel. The same can be said for “Elysian Woes” which features some of the same elements mentioned here. “Goblin” also provides a great listen with it being the lone instrumental on the album and having some engaging guitar work and an intriguing atmosphere.
Though the record is without a doubt worthy of being called enjoyable, they really could have been more imaginative with the '70s sound. With the amount of influences that include Camel, King Crimson, and Yes being displayed here, they truly have so much to work with for what kind of record Opeth are trying to make. It’s nothing more than derivative and it certainly doesn't help how Pale Communion’s
“epic” track that happens to be nearly eleven minutes only manages to accomplish in boring the listener to death. With that said, everything across the board is played super well and Steve Wilson’s mix gets the job done as usual. However, the band’s desire to make the album feel dated will undeniably be a gamble for them, but those who loved Heritage will quite likely love Pale Communion
. Unfortunately, those who disliked Heritage
will most likely have similar feelings towards this album. As of now, Opeth are stuck in the '70s with a broken time machine so hopefully the next time around they’ll come up with something a tad more creative like all Opeth fans know they could.