Review Summary: Still Life is a detailed and powerful juxtaposition of the light and the darkness.
Freedom of choice is the cornerstone of humanity. It is what makes or breaks a person's lifetime. It can bring joy, regret, or even death. As intelligent beings we like to think that many of our decisions are based on logic when in fact the emotional entity inside us is at the helm. Opeth, the renowned Swedish progressive death metal band, are one of the rare groups who manage to find resplendent beauty within the most wretched of caverns. Their fourth album, Still Life
is a tragic story of yearning that encapsulates the timelessness of love and the insurmountable complications that come along with it.
not only tells a riveting story, but it also serves to accentuate Opeth's gift as the omniscient storyteller. Both the arc of the narrative and the incredibly dynamic shifts in mood give Opeth the opportunity to take their sound into unanticipated directions. What really sets Opeth apart from other metal bands is their idiosyncratic juxtaposition of the darkness and the light, the elegance in life and the unrelenting dread. Opeth's expansive songwriting paves the way for conflicting passages that reflect this dichotomy. Some passages involve harsh, growling vocals alongside pulse-pounding guitars and percussion and others embrace softer moments of desolation cloaked in acoustic guitars and Mikael Akerfeldt's tenderhearted voice.
This awe-inspiring balance brings a high level of unpredictability to the album. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, but even when the light seems to dominate the picture, there is always a skulking shadow. Right from the very beginning of this LP, the listener is immersed in the waters of instability, given that any moment of gentleness could give way to demonic outbursts and that any stretch of brutality could transform without warning to understated consolation. In one of the band's most cathartic intros, "The Moor" opens with an uncanny ambience that is gracefully nudged by a soothing acoustic guitar. As the tension builds, the listener knows that collapse is imminent, but it is difficult to pinpoint when or how it will happen. Once the pummeling riff breaks down the door, the intensity reaches an apex of anxiety and angst. Most of these songs unfold over relatively long lengths, during which Opeth's music drifts between clashing emotions of anger and sadness.
Furthermore, the band explores various elements of progressive rock over the course of the album. One can hear faint traces of bands like Yes on the melodic interludes of tracks like "Moonlapse Vertigo". Also, Opeth rarely adhere to conventional song structure, instead allowing their songs to germinate of their own accord. Thus, the band ventures so far into the abyss of humanity that the songs themselves take on a life of their own, constantly encountering forks in the road and constantly developing. This forward momentum fuels heavy tracks like "Serenity Painted Death" and "Godhead's Lament". On "Godhead's Lament", for example, the guitars seethe with ferocity and present a barrage of memorable solos. However, even this track takes a more delicate and reflective turn. From beginning to end, Opeth's compositions are multifaceted and highly detailed to the point where each listen can lead to new discoveries whether it be Martin Lopez's fevered drumming or Akerfeldt's vivid lyricism.
Although Still Life
is a story that ends in death, it takes the time to explore the emotional depths of tortured souls. On the peaceful acoustic track "Benighted", the lyrics read like the love letter of a man haunted by his unforgiving environment who seeks to fulfill his most primal desire of unconditional love. Once "Face of Melinda" begins, Opeth displays a reignited chemistry between two forbidden lovers and set the stage for their downfall. Whether Opeth are caressing the ears or beating them into submission, the fervor of love is at the crux of their music. Thus, even when the harrowing death growls forcefully make their way into the scene, there is still an air of pity and understanding.
proves that love can outweigh the will to live. On this engrossing concept album, Opeth allow passion to guide their musical progression. Finding the charm buried within dour soundscapes, the band evoke imagery that is both poignant and indelible. Through and through, the album's scale is nothing short of breathtaking.
Serenity Painted Death