Review Summary: Opeth albums are storms of unsung art, reaching through barriers to touch all sorts of people in countless ways. Blackwater Park, often seen as Opeth's magnum opus, is a blindingly powerful record of epic passages and musical prowess.
The capacity of human intelligence seems to limit the capabilities to expand upon any possible creative aptitudes. Indeed, if one cannot even notice the facets that the ingenuities around him are comprised of, how can he be expected to fashion a beast of his own? This inveterate sense of constraint is a great blow to the veracity of mankind’s abilities. It restrains us and holds our minds to the ground below, averting any possibility of rising above ourselves to something greater; something not fathomed by the conventional mind. This concept of seeking to go beyond one’s self, known as “transcendence”, is essentially a gateway to unlocking pieces of ourselves that can lead to some of the most elaborate and significant creations of our world. For many, this quest to transcend and form creations that were once considered unthinkable and overwhelming consumes life. Certainly it is rare to find such people, but when they are found, creative barriers are destroyed.
I have only come across two albums in my lifetime that embody this ambition in full.
Opeth’s music can most accurately be compared to snowflakes. Every snowflake is unique; diverse; one of a kind. Each one has something special about it. On its own it symbolizes the advent of something beautiful and captivating, while as one of a flurry it falls serenely, forming a picturesque scene so stunning it defies words. Just like snowflakes, every Opeth song is special in its own right. Within an album, the music is like a flurry ensnaring the senses with emotionally charged progressive. Mikael Akerfeldt, alongside band mates Peter Lindgren, Martin Lopez, and Martin Mendez, have certainly broken down their share of creative barriers in the time of Opeth. No band has ever fused extreme Swedish metal with elements of jazz, progressive rock, blues, and folk quite like them. This will to create…obviously conquered on each and every release they forge, fashioning ambient soundscapes and epic musical blizzards for ten minutes at a time. Not unlike Vladimir Cochet, Opeth combines the most unlikely influences to create the most original and captivating music in metal.
, commonly referred to as the pinnacle of Opeth’s consistent career, was giant leap forward for the band on all fronts. Much like Carriers of Dust
, 76 minutes of progressive music is never easy to absorb in one sitting. The only way to truly enjoy a band like Opeth is to allow time to work its magic. It takes persistence and a real ear for creativity to notice the subtleties of the art that goes into the making of Blackwater Park
. Even though to full effect may not immediately strike, the more effort one puts into Opeth, the more rewarding the music will sound over time. Whether it’s a simple guitar riff, a melody, a solo, or something as simple as a well executed drum fill, Opeth never ceases to amaze with their artistic prowess in creating innovative progressive music.
Once again, singling out songs or moments on Blackwater Park
is no easy feat. While each one song is unique, each one also contains pounding atmospheres and deafening metal harmonies fronted by Mikeal Akerfeldt’s incredible vocal performance. A common misconception is that Opeth is a death metal band, most likely due to such songs as Blackwater Park
and The Leper Affinity
, both of which feature brutal metal riffs and solos with beastly growling. The latter is a perfect way to open the album, with its flowing metal guitars and excellent percussion by Martin Lopez. A swift, sweeping feeling dominates the song, swinging the listening from riff to riff leaving no time at all for the song to become boring. Notably, it also features one of the greatest solos Opeth has ever performed. The title track takes all the time needed to build into a powerful explosion halfway into the song, paving the way for ripping death metal vocals and pummeling guitar work. Dirge for November
also builds into an epic bombardment of metal by beginning with a tranquil acoustic guitar with a blues solo atop. A waterfall of ambient metal bursts, and somber guitar melodies with monstrous growling carry the song to a depressive close.
Gravitating away from brutality and into the realm of the truly progressive, songs like Bleak
seem to epitomize the essence of Opeth. Combining eerie guitar melodies with ominous acoustic work and gorgeous clean vocal harmonizes, Bleak
contains so much magnificence that words cannot summarize. The Funeral Portrait
seems to combine the heavy with the progressive, blending thrashing groove metal riffs with the wonderful lead/acoustic guitar interplay that Opeth uses to distinguish themselves. Never forget the chorus of singing towards the end, which defines “epic” in metal, layering voices over magnificent instrumentation to achieve a heroic sound.
also includes several unbelievable instrumental tracks. While Patterns in the Ivy
is an interlude lacing acoustic guitar with grand piano that is beyond suitable for Blackwater Park
, it is a shame that only those fortunate enough to have the Limited Edition of the album have the option of hearing Patterns in the Ivy II
and Still Day Beneath the Sun
, two sings that borrow the sense of sorrow from the Damnation
album, creating marvelously sad acoustic tracks with disheartening choruses. Allowing for a breath in between technical progressive songs is Harvest
, and aptly titled acoustic song that projects images of promenading through a peaceful autumn setting, with lovely fallen leaves lining the ground.
It is not unusual for Opeth to use the elements discussed above in the formation of their music. For one who truly understands the music of Opeth, any of their albums could garnish a perfect rating. However, given the excellent structures and production values of Blackwater Park
, the tidal waves of emotionally epic metal crash down harder than ever. As individuals, Opeth songs are fragments of masterfully crafted metal, going beyond the simple exterior of aggression and blinding technicality. As albums, they are storms of unsung art, reaching through barriers to touch all sorts of people in countless ways. Blackwater Park
isn’t just a music recording, it’s a full experience. One that, over time, will provoke thoughts and lift spirits beyond the abilities of any “chaotic” or “brutal” extreme music album.