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Opeth - Blackwater Park CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.25 | 1563 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Its not hard to find, these days, comments making out Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) to be a man possessed with some sort of Midas Touch, that everything that he works on turns to gold. Whether I agree with this or not is besides the point, what is beyond doubt for me is that he has given Opeths Blackwater Park a very liberal sprinkling of Gold Dust.

As the successor album to the very impressive Still Life, Blackwater Park had a lot to live up to, and not only does it not disappoint but it exceeds expectations and dishes out one of the best albums of the last 10 years. The formula is pretty much the same as before, bone-jarring riffs intertwined with hauntingly beautiful, melodic acoustic led pieces creating deceptively complex and dynamic music that can grab the listeners attention with ease. So how does an album that seems to employ the same basic formula as before attain such an impressive stature? The answer is simply the small things, the little changes that have been made/added to the way that Opeth create music and the guiding hand of Steven Wilson's production.

Opeth have always made melancholic and haunting music that befits their sonic style, but here it has been greatly enhanced by a few changes. The most noticeably outward change is that an E-bow (I suspect) is being employed to the guitar constantly throughout this album giving us long, dramatic notes that flow without surcease that supplies the perfect touch to create an absolute feel of haunting melancholy, while sonically offsetting the crushing riffs wonderfully. I would normally try and suggest were you would find this done best on the album but, with the exceptions of Patterns In The Ivy and Harvest, it is done brilliantly throughout the album. The atmosphere that pervades this album is greatly helped along by the touches of Steven Wilson, particularly the calmness of his piano playing, such as at the end of The Leper Affinity, and the way that his voice offsets well with that of Akerfeldt. As you may have guessed by now, I consider this all encompassing, bleak atmosphere (making the title of the second track very appropriate) to be the strength of Blackwater Park because it is created so exquisitely and without ever become overwhelming and depressing the listener.

Technically, Opeth are a relatively proficient band with their instruments, you will not likely find the technical fireworks of bands like Dream Theater, but nor will you find them to be a simple band. Their compositions reflect this by being very riff driven and with only a few changes, but when those changes come they really hit you. This doesn't apply just to the change between heavy and light, metal and acoustic, but between the different riffs employed in the songs. One thing that I always try to look for in music is the little touches, the clever little bits that stand out for as little as a second but are remembered from then on. This has them, the most memorable of them for me is the slap bass line at about two thirds of the way through the title track, Blackwater Park, which never fails to capture my attention.

Throughout Blackwater Park there are some absolute gems. Bleak, The Leper Affinity and Blackwater Park are three of my favourites and I firmly believe that The Drapery Falls is one of the best songs to have been recorded in the last 10 years. The tranquil beauty of Harvest and Patterns In The Ivy are nice soothing songs and, though Dirge For November and The Funeral Portrait are not quite as strong, weak is the last word that I would ever use to describe them. A year ago I spent a long time trying to make my mind up on whether I should take the plunge with Opeth, being rather hesitant of the death metal vocals (a style that I still do not totally like) but I'm definitely glad that I did decide to buy Still Life, and then Blackwater Park, as I have found some of the best music being made currently and now more than tolerate the death metal vocals, but actively appreciate them when performed with the gusto and taste of Akerfeldt, who is now less raspy and even lower pitched than on the bands first couple of albums, Orchid and Morningrise. This is a must buy album and I urge everyone to at least give it one listen, I doubt you will be disappointed.

sleeper | 5/5 |


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