“Ewww, that’s too yelly”, my friend will say with a sour face when death metal or even just metal music is acknowledged. People are sceptical about heavy metal, and I used to be, thinking that the vocals are terrible because they can’t be understood and they are too angry. Swedish metallers Opeth showed me the vocals are just another instrument capable of more emotion than lyrical content. My purchase of Blackwater Park began a long adventure into the band that is Opeth.
kicks off the album with the pitter patter of raindrops this pretty little moment of atmosphere soon fades into the eccentric melancholic piano notes. April Ethereal
is opened by Mikael crooning a long note. WHAMO!!!!!! Lopez kicks in with stomach-pounding machine-gun double kicks and a mighty onslaught of simple yet dissonant riffs tear through the air like a flock of bloodthirsty demons. This blistering insanity is strengthened by Mikael’s demonic death growls and this dense mass of music is only destabilized by the softer instrumental sections with plenty of variation in drumming and riffs. This is the beginning of My Arm, Your Hearse which is the third volume by Opeth.
Opeth contains Mikael Akerfeldt on vocals, guitars and bass, Peter Lingren on Guitars and Martin Lopez's first time with Opeth on drums. (Martin Mendez was new to the band and didn’t get to crank out his bass until they started touring for this album), but back to the album...
begins similarly to Prologue/April Ethereal except a vibrant guitar replaces the eerie piano. Suddenly Mikael’s irate scream makes a lunge for your eardrums fully armed with the rest of the band. An aggression which April Ethereal touched on is elevated on When, but the aggression soon recedes to expose the soft fragile acoustic sections. These sections weave in an out as soon disappear back into the vile aggression then back down into the luscious softness. There is a very pumping breakdown in this song which includes the assault of the lower E-string. Clean vocals are then applied by Mikael to great advantage, they are excellent and make the perfect contrast to his earth-shattering growls
begins slowly with very colourful yet glum acoustic guitar work. A wicked use of reverb makes it ghostly and haunting. The Amen Corner
kicks in with a powerful riff which repeats and embellishes itself over and over. This shows the guitar driven side of Opeth which is what they have explored with their later albums. The song breaks down features a delightful guitar solo and some clean vocals then fades out. I saw this song played live a few days ago the riffs are absolutely crushing - Opeth are a must-see live.
What is that terrifying noise"
Demon of the Fall
opens with random growls and a weird sampled-like noise (think the intro of Immortal Rites by Morbid Angel) then it hurdles into melodic guitar lines and some pumping drumming from Lopez. Demon of the Fall shows a more driving, epic and daunting side of Opeth. Mikael’s screaming is brutal featuring piercing screams as the music textures rumble and expand. “Run away, run away” sings Mikael amongst the chaos which gradually gives way to a sad acoustic melody. Credence
follows on from the acoustic beauty of the previous song, The acoustic hooks loop wildly around Mikael’s words of sadness and loneliness. This is a very sad yet beautiful tune and features some of my favourite soft acoustic playing on the album. Karma
kicks in fast, hard and furious with chaotic drumming by Lopez he pounds his bass drums like their going to rip his legs off. The furious Karma slows down with more growls and dips into the same soft revealing passages typical of Opeth. The brutality appears once again and features a climatic scream by Mikael which lasts pretty long, but just sounds like several screams overlayed. My drummer friend named his puppy after this song...
is born from the ashes of Karma and has a very reflective jazzy quality. It features keys by producer Fredrik Nordstrom with some nice effects and has a very different taste to whole of MAYH. None the less its nice to listen to after Karma bashed your head around. Mikael and Peter have a little jam time in this tune and play very loose and uplifting solos.
The bonus tracks Circle of the Tyrant
(Celtic Forst cover) and Remember Tomorrow
(Iron Maiden cover) are fine cover songs for the Opeth completist, but they screwed up the flow for the album for me and they take off that half star that would've made it a perfect album.
MAYH is a must for any Opeth fan with it’s flowing concept, lyrical story and excellent performances by the band, if you don't love the brutal arse-kicking heavy moments then the soft sections might appeal to you. Mike's vocals have improved incredibly since Orchid and Morningrise Anyone into metal should give Opeth a try, they have plenty to offer.
-Epic, dramatic and powerfully emotional music
-Interesting and well-written lyrical concept
-Mike's growls are aggressive yet coherent
-Sheer heaviness and intensity of the music is an acquired taste for some
-Unnecessary repetitions of the same riff in sections of tunes
-Growls aren't for everyones' ears
-Bonus tracks should be included on a separate CD as they screw up the albums flow
-Demon of the Fall