Review Summary: One of the best conceptual prog albums I’ve ever heard. The album that made the genre death metal widely more popular and appreciated.
“Still Life” is the fourth studio album of Opeth and was released in 1999. The line up on the album is Mikael Akerfeldt, Peter Lindgren, Martin Mendez and Martin Lopez.
Opeth was formed as a death metal band in 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden. During the years, the band has passed by several, but their front man, guitarist, and main songwriter, Akerfeldt, remained the Opeth's driving force throughout the years. The band has incorporated diverse musical influence like, progressive rock, folk, blues, classical and jazz into their usually compositions, as well as strong influences from death metal, especially in their early works. “Still Life” was the first Opeth’s album to be released through Peaceville Records, following their departure from the Candlelight Records, after the release of their previous and first three studio albums “Orchid” in 1995, “Morningrise” in 1996 and “My Arms, Your Hearse” in 1998.
As with “My Arms, Your Hearse”, “Still Life” is also a concept album. As Akerfeldt explained, “Still Life” isn't a Satanic but an anti-Christian theme. The story took place a long time ago, in the dark times of the Middle Age, when Christianity had a bigger importance than it has today. It tells the story of a man who was expelled from his own town by the council because he hadn't the same religion's faith as the rest of the inhabitants there, the Christianity. However, one day he returns for his love Melinda, but he finds out that she’s no more a free woman. So, it will be much harder for him to reach her again. He does his best to reach her, and once he managed to do so, she tells him that despite the promise she made, her heart is only of him. However, Melinda is killed by the council because she is associated with the banned man. Then the man enraged, goes on a killing spree to avenge and only succumbs in the fight due to the exhaustion. So, he was arrested by the council, condemned to death and executed. At the moment of his dead he feels a hand on his shoulder and he sees Melinda. Then he was ready to join her in death, and finally, he could reach the serenity that he so desperately needed. Each song on the album concentrates on the different events of the story.
Musically, “Still Life” is a great masterpiece due to its clean expression and where the title is very well given. Of course, for those who consider the Opeth’s music as death metal, this album will be hideously boring and dull. However, Opeth isn't properly a death metal band. In fact, the best thing in Opeth is their versatility and flexibility in the music. They created an album where the complexity and everything else are truly brilliant. But the main thing is their capacity of adaptability. Each track on the album is a monumental painting done on the most unusual of media. From the serene hues of nocturnal romance and desire to the grimmest stains of hatred, revenge, and bloodlust, the artist's palette covers all the colours that the mind can think of, not necessarily the ones the eyes can see. Emerging from times immemorial and sinking deep into times to come, the struggles of the soul from the universal myths and folklore are depicted by the oscillation between the heavy and the mellow parts. Experimentation with jazz, progressive rock and renaissance style, made the album the band's most technical one ever. As many of we know, Akerfeldt is one of the most versatile singers alive. He has one of the best natural death growls and he has one of the most amazing clean and beautiful voices. He uses both vocal styles to the maximum effect and he reached the perfection on it. Technicality, progression, complexity and many other great things can describe the final effect of the Opeth’s music on “Still Life”.
“Still Life” was the Opeth’s album that caught the attention of the Porcupine Tree’s leader, Steven Wilson. After “Still Life”, Akerfeldt and Wilson began a long standing musical partnership, beginning when Wilson produced the Opeth’s fifth studio album “Blackwater Park” in 2001, and both continued to work together until today. The two began writing together for a new project, Storm Corrosion, in 2010 and both released their eponymous first studio album, in 2012.
Conclusion: “Still Life” is a great album and one of the best from Opeth, and remains as my favourite. The lyrics are excellent and I love the concept of the album, which is very beautiful and sad at the same time, one of the best, I think. The music, ranges from very melodic symphonic sections, counterbalanced by breakneck power progressions and soaring lead solos. The slower sections allow breathing space. The musical inventiveness is unsurpassed for the extreme tech metal genre, but we can’t ignore its very complex structure and innovative approach, reinventing the extreme heavy metal style. “Still Life” is the album that defines death metal. With its fierce and aggressive sound, the album made the genre widely more popular and appreciated. Whether you like it, or not, it’s historically a very important album, essentially for whom wants to find a good place to start listening to Opeth and death metal genre, in general.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)