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Opeth - Damnation CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.96 | 1211 ratings

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1 stars So here I boldly go, in my never-ending quest to discover the "Prog" in Prog Metal.

Trouble is, the more "Prog Metal" I hear, the less I believe that I will actually find any "Prog" - and to date, Opeth have consistently failed to deliver.

Technical metal is not the same as Progressive Rock - it is not enough to produce riffs in time signatures that aren't 3 or 4/4, and it is not enough to include acoustic passages and Mellotrons - especially when the acoustic passages tend to be simple riffs broken down into arpeggios rather than intricate harmonic progressions utilising interesting melodies and arragements.

See how I don't even mention "Cookies" here...

So my expectations were not high when I tentatively pressed play - how many more groans could a metal band hyped up as somehow "Prog" elicit from this reviewer?

The opening bars - and, indeed, the rest of of Windowpane came as a surprise, therefore... but not for long. See, the sound canvas is set up nicely - there's a great proggy feel to the chord progression, in the acoustic feel and non 4/4 time sig... but hang on! It's repeated verbatim - it's not a progression, it's a bleedin' metal riff!

The change at 34 seconds is to another riff in a different key, later joined by a mellotron, and a Latimer-esque lead line at 1:11.

The guys are really trying hard to be prog - you've got to give them that. Trouble is, the underlying material is pure metal - repeated riffs.

The simple underlying structure is the biggest giveaway - this is not a spontaneously developing piece of prog rock, this is a standard rock song done inna prog-rock stylee.

After the standard A-B-A-B, the bridge - or rather a bridgette - kicks in nice and predictably around 2:24. It's an interesting-ish bridge, but everything starts falling into sections.

The bridge proper starts at 3:48 - but doesn't feel like it's developed from the previous material. This is a new idea (a really good one, but still, a new idea) that's been tacked on. The textures are superb - if somewhat repetitive - but then that's metal for you.

It matters not a jot that there are no metal sounds or textures - metal is as metal does, even when it's trying to be something else. Metal bands since Blue Cheer have been trying very hard to demonstrate to the world that they are not Blue Cheer; While they take pleasure in turning the amps up to 11, the inevitable quiet section must be included in at least a few pieces.

What a metal band typically fails to comprehend is the spontaneous and developmental nature of Progressive Rock - metal musicians only hear the superficial - and that is exactly what this piece is. Superficially prog, because it sounds a bit like it - but underneath, it's simple repetition with little direction.

It is very different to what I was expecting from Opeth - and it shows great restraint, but mostly, it shows the same desire as I explained above - it's metal showing its mellowest side. A step in the right direction, but still not Prog. Sorry.

Rather than bother dissecting everything else on the album, as I prefer to listen to "honest" music than metal pretending to be Prog - or anything pretending to be something that it's not, I'll just flick through some of the other reviews and pick out the two "proggiest" tracks to analyse.

Bear with me a moment... :o)


Here we go;

Sheesh! You Opeth fans make this difficult; The most bigged-up tracks are "Windowpane", "Closure", "Death Whispered a Lullaby" "Ending Credits" and "Weakness".

"Windowpane" is most mentioned, and I've just done that, so I'll go with "Closure", and "Ending Credits".

"Closure" begins with a familiar CSN style - particularly from the acoustic guitar's use of a harmonic pedal, but CSN fans will note that the harmonies are rather simple and only imply the greatness of the aforementioned trio.

The acoustic guitar's riff becomes more complex - but since it's repeated verbatim, we can forget any notions of real prog... funny thing is, so far, I haven't even mentioned the vocals apart from my comment about the harmony.

The vocals are just there really - part of the texture, and possibly the most honest thing about this entire album. Trouble is, they're bland. The reason for this, as far as I can make out, is the lyrics. You can't really sing lyrics like that and expect anyone to believe that they mean anything to you - hence that comes out in the voice. They're just lyrics because the song needs lyrics.

You can read into them what you like - that is what lyrics are for, but the music doesn't express anything in them - unlike, say, "The Knife" by Genesis, in which lyrics and music are inextricably intertwined. Because the lyrics of "The Knife" are far-reaching, way beyond the surface legend that is being related, Gabriel puts all manner of significance into each prhase - each word breathes soul.

However, consider this:

"Heal myself - a feather on my heart Look inside - there never was a start Peel myself - dispose of severed skin All subsides - around me and within There's nothing painful in this There's no upheaval Redemption for my pathos All sins undone Awaiting word on what's to come In helpless prayers a hope lives on 'Cause I've come clean, I've forgotten what I promised In the rays of the sun, I am longing for the darkness"

...well, they've got to mean something to someone, I guess - but I'd be embarrassed to sing them and keep them low-key as well - listen to the treatment of the word "pathos"; that's not accent.

Around 1:06, a noodly (but repetitive) riff is picked up. Nice flavour brought about by use of modes, invoking a kind of Eastern, psychedelia flavour, and good driving drums. There are other nice textural goodies in here - drifing synth pads, Floydian echoing guitar stabs, joined by heavy power chords around 2:20. This feels a bit more like prog - but is a minute and-a-quarter jam around a single riff - psychedelic rock, in other words.

Section A is picked up again, then we have a new jam riff. It's very nice, texturally, but altogether too calculated and devoid of actual feeling. There is no actual development, as we would expect from progressive rock - and the piece ends.

OK, on to Weakness.

Again, this starts well, with lazy echoing Vibe-type synth sounds.

Before I begin to analyse the music, though, I notice that the music makes me feel very weary - I just want to switch it off and feel the energy return.

This kinda interferes with my analytical process - but it's not hard to hear the use of simple, repetitive phrases, unimaginative melodies based on notes that move in steps - with just the odd intervallic leap.

I've listened to 3 minutes of this now, and the lyrics sing out "Save me, save me" - so I switch off, to save my sanity.

A few things to take out of this;

1) It's demonstrably not Prog. 2) I am indifferent to most of what I've heard, as there's nothing in the music that creates any energy in me - or any emotional reaction that interferes with my intellectual processing, with the notable exception of the last track, "Weakness". 3) In art, if you can provoke a reaction in your audience then you're doing your job as an artist. 4) However, my reaction to the last track was to avoid the music altogether - I doubt I'll ever listen to another Opeth album. The point of getting a reaction is to be talked about and thus promote your music - but I won't even mention this album to my buddies. 5) If this is your bag, then great - but don't come to a Progressive Rock site telling everyone how great and proggy it is - it demonstrably isn't proggy; although you may like the music tremendously. 6) It does sound very nice in many places - but not in the final track.

My recommendation to Prog fans?

Avoid, unless you love squeaky-clean digital production above intrinsic and artistic musical values.


Certif1ed | 1/5 |


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