Review Summary: “Life is a constant process of dying.”
“Stop listening to *** tech death. Are you Jac?”
-With this quote, quasi-famous sputnikmusic user Climactic aptly pointed out the biggest flaw of the new Opeth album, Pale Communion
: it’s ***.
Opeth are essentially the trend-setting goth-proggers of their time, all black uniforms and ugly, crude makeup depicting the primal aspects and the tribe-like community of the technical death-rock scene. They were Cannibal Corpse with better guitar solos, which isn’t saying much. At some interim point in the band’s lifespan, they became a progressive jazz-rock band in the vein of King Crimson, Rush, or Camel (it’s really up to the audience at this point as to who they borrowed liberally from/were influenced by). The elastic desert-gypsy melodies of “Cusp of Eternity” help pinpoint the exact moment they started sucking, which was, as soon as this album started.
Don’t get me wrong, Ghost Reveries
is great, but Pale Communion
is the equivalent of a David Foster Wallace novel, specifically Infinite Jest
, in that it may seem complex and dense at first, but it’s really just heavy-handed wordplay and lengthy think-pieces about tennis. It is in some ways a very Opeth move, and in others an entirely not Opeth move at all. Who are we, as an audience, to quantify what actions the band makes as Opethian? Are there set parameters or is it just a product of the abstract phenomena of thought? The world may never know.
Akerfeldt is essentially a continental philosopher with dreams of being an analytical one, all bright-eyed optimism and populist idealism but yearning for indisputable facts and categorical knowledge. His approach of trying to mix the two is very much like the series The Big Bong Theory, wherein it tries to mix obscurest cultural knowledge with a broad, accessible appeal that just doesn’t quite work.
The album opens up with some jazzy bass playing and an extremely out of place organ. When did Rick Wakeman join Opeth? That was pretty much the entire singular thought I had running throughout the course of this album, or at least for the majority I stayed awake for. So yes, it’s not a great album for a band known for making some of the most hardcore death-rock this side of Cradle of Filth, but at least it’s a good album for taking lengthy naps.
Honestly though, would you rather listen to yet another trite, watered-down prog-rock beast repurposing the melodies of yesteryear or would you rather listen to something with some verve and energy in it? Pale Communion
would probably pass for a mediocre Kansas album, but as its own entity, it does not work within the parameters that the band has set for themselves. An extra 0.5 for putting me to sleep.