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Opeth - Ghost Reveries CD (album) cover

GHOST REVERIES

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.23 | 1066 ratings

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3 stars A Step in the right Direction

Where "Ghost Reveries" differs from much on offer in the realms of Prog Metal, is the organic and spontaneous feel given to the composition by judicious use and re-use of existing thematic material - and avoiding the traps of going off at ludicrous tangents by considerately using material that provides a true contrast, as opposed to yet another riff.

And so it is that "Ghost of Perdition" gives us the first glimpse of this truly progressive style, with only a few minor hiccups.

The opening is a rather nice mellow guitar that suddenly explodes into a Doom style riff, although somewhat elongated and stretched in time, with vocals that, while appropriate in style, don't seem quite "right" (whatever right is - you just feel it) - too comic book for my tastes. This has nothing at all to do with the "growling" style in itself, which has been used to great effect by other bands, but the manner in which Akerfeldt uses them here.

This is followed by a kind of quasi-funky bouncy riff, over which the flat vocals appear. Fortunately, the riff is engaging enough to distract from the vocals, which are just there - the lyrics aren't coloured in any way by the music, so we take them to be there because a song needs lyrics - and they are repeated, which kinda emphasises this.

A flurry of related and developing rifferama follows this, and takes us to the A section - the growling vocals, which are difficult to make out. Just as well, really, as when you know what they are, you wonder why the vocal tone was necessary - it seems to have been used more to underline the feeling of different tonal colours in the section than to drive the lyrics forward.

A new, lighter idea follows, more smoothly than it has any right to really, and emphasises the progressive feel of the piece well by some excellent word colouring on "winding ever higher".

The riff that follows is derived from the first and second - a nice piece of development - although the vocals don't really add much except a rhythmic counterpoint. In keeping with the soft/loud sections structure, this is stripped back, then built up to a more intense section with processed vocals.

What follows is a nice surprise, texturally - the Mellotrons are brought forwards for some nice tonal colours, but then it goes a little Pete Tong - there are vertical "splats" in the riffs that follow, not the nice crunchy and squishy parts, but the sudden moments of discomfort and utter wrongness that tantalisingly drift into and out of view. This would be a fine section to the song if it wasn't for those.

More development of thematic material follows, implying a relatively complex structure to the song - but with still too much emphasis on individual sections for me to consider full-blown Prog.

Nonetheless, there is much intelligent thematic development, so a Prog Metal song it is - and a really good one it would be, with decent lyrics and vocals.

The Hammond on "The Baying of the Hounds" gives a creepy Uriah Heep goes Death Metal flavour - which, again, really is rather good. The vocals fit perfectly - somehow the comic book aspect is not so apparent here as elsewhere. The lyrics are a cut above the average Death Metal band - but still a little 6th-form. As before, in the melodic section that follows, the melodies are flat and uninteresting - and at some points, the words seem crowbarred in, as if to underline their insignificance in the song.

However, the instrumental section that follows is texturally fabulous - a crunching, dischordant guitar idea gives way to... if can imagine, for a moment, Gentle Giant with only the fundamental notes left in, you'll get an idea of the overall texture. An atmospheric vocal section then chips in, followed by a more intense riff section.

Ah.

The sections thing is rearing its head again - and the feel of a "one-trick pony" would be stronger if it wasn't for the fact that Opeth create such interesting riffs and ambient ideas.

The guitar solo is surprisingly Spinal Tap - I've got to plug this one again for Uriah Heep fans ;0).

What follows the guitar solo is a bunch of interesting ideas strung together very well, and followed up by a quite surprising return to the verse, and a pointless-seeming instrumental break which lets down the overall quality of this piece - which otherwise would be higher.

It's good to hear so much Mellotron, and you can't have enough of the riff to "Kashmir", especially when it's 'Tronned up to the max. Opeth drop this before it feels like a rip- off, and plunge into a rather mushy sound - the mire?

The lyrics don't really suit the vocals, although the vocals do suit the music - Akerfeldt really needs to work on balancing it out, in my opinion - and this album certainly shows a great deal of potential.

And so the album goes on really - after a while, a certain sameness begins to creep in because of the overuse of the same techniques in every song, and the lack of colouration in the music to provide any kind of emphasis to the lyrics - which are the album's weak point anyway, so maybe the band were wise to do it this way.

The rest of the album does have its moments - the intro to "Atonement", for example (although it does sound a little derived at times - Within You Without You, Eat That Phone Book and more!), the riffing to "Reverie" is among the most spontaneous and inventive I have heard of late, with great energy, "Hours of Wealth" is extremely derivative, especially in the "Shine On" guitar, but an unexpected find on a Prog Metal album, "The Grand Conjoration" has some great riffs and superb textures, and works quite well as the album's overall climax, while "Isolation Years" rounds it all off with the prescribed cool-down.

All in all, a very well balanced album - although the majority of the compositional fireworks seems to be concentrated in the first two tracks, and the remainder are essentially more of the same with less attention to detail - what would be a good collection of songs, if the vocals were up to snuff, in a logical order that reflects the ordering in the composition of the pieces themselves. I'm not at all keen on the vocals - the "Growling" style is an approximation of what it could be, and the "melodic" vocals are flat (in style - vocal correction software is an amazing thing) for the main part, with a few notable exceptions.

However, this album pans out to be something worthy of the name Progressive Metal, with real artistry in composition, in the first couple of tracks particularly, despite the somewhat derived feel of much of it, and occasional "glitches", especially in the realms of harmonic progression.

If this review was based on "Ghost of Perdition", then it would achieve an Excellent addition rating - and I would strongly recommend both this track and "The Baying of the Hounds" to any fan of Prog Rock that wants to hear some decent Prog Metal - and expects to hear Metal, not some cacophonous approximation.

Very nearly 4 stars - it just didn't hold my interest for long enough. But there's still a way to go before Opeth catch up with Gentle Giant as composers.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |

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