Review Summary: Ghost Reveries may not be anything drastically new for the band, but it has everything one could possibly want from an Opeth record.
There came a point in Opeth’s career where their critical acclaim reached a seminal level. Still Life
began to push the boundaries for modern progressive music and Blackwater Park
further solidified that claim. The band then decided to try something different with creating one of their softest records and one of their most hard hitting records before Ghost Reveries
, which earned them even more acclaim and popularity in the process. Therefore, Ghost Reveries
was released during the band’s critical peak and even eight albums later, they still managed to deliver. While it does drag quite a bit on some of the longer epics, this record showcased the best of both worlds, with the record providing some fantastic progressive rock ballads and the gritty evilness of the progressive metal epics.
Throwing the listener right into the fray in the first few seconds, Mikael belts out some of his most amazing growls, while at the same time showing off his signature metal riffs that never let up. “Ghost of Perdition” features all of this, but also still takes everything down a notch for a few instances, with the band’s now perfected heavy to slow contrast they’re known for. Make no mistake that this brilliance continues into “The Baying of the Hounds” while really driving home the effective use of Mikael’s growls. Aided by sinister guitar riffs, brooding lyrics and fantastic musicianship all around, he sounds genuinely evil here while delivering the lyric “I hear the baying of the hounds in the distance/I hear them devouring!” They explore more of what made Blackwater Park
such a masterpiece with these elements, but Ghost Reveries
sees Opeth doing what they do best. Overall, it truly isn't anything new, but that’s quite alright.
While the more grandiose songs surely serve as the centerpieces and bulk of the album, the slower songs also showcase more of Opeth’s tamer expertise. “Atonement” is a superb progressive rock ballad with absolutely ominous guitar work along with Mikael’s exceptional clean vocals and tribal drumming. These types of songs are always a nice change of pace on Opeth’s records so the listener can take a bit of a breather and take it all in. “Hours of Wealth” also happens to be another little piece that shows off more of the memorable positives mentioned here in an even gentler light.
Despite the exemplary nature of this album, there does exist a few problems. As opposed to Still Life
and Blackwater Park
, where there is not a moment wasted, some of the songs on here do meander quite a bit in some sections. For example, “The Grand Conjuration” is quite the carefully constructed progressive metal epic, but as for keeping the listener’s attention for its entire running time, it fails to keep it. The repetitive guitar riffs and overall vibe of not being nearly as interesting as the first two epics mentioned above really makes the song overstay its welcome. “Ghost of Perdition” also strays for a bit towards the end due to a bit of an excessive length, but the rest of the song easily makes up for that one. All in all, what it really comes down to is that the longer lengths of these tracks aren't nearly as justified in general due to hearing some of this before. However, the sheer power of Opeth’s soul for music and Mikael’s guttural performance can certainly make the listener appreciate songs like “Harlequin Forest.” Length aside, the lovely acoustic sections and stunning musicianship are more than enough.
Much like every single record they’re released before this one, Mikael and co. clearly poured their hearts and souls into this one. They've always been a band that did their own thing, but also wanted to keep their fan’s happiness in mind. Therefore, any fans wanting more of Blackwater Park
will surely find more of that in this record. It has everything one could possibly want from an Opeth record and that includes inhuman growls, charismatic musicianship and lush acoustic sections. It draws influences from the band’s seminal masterpieces, but also takes elements for their heaviest record and softest record in between. It’s Opeth attempting to be the best Opeth they can and they for the most part accomplish this goal.