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Opeth - Pale Communion CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.13 | 1190 ratings

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4 stars 3.8 Stars

Pale Communion (PC) is the 11th album by the veteran band Opeth and the second that fully abandons their Death Metal past in exchange for full 70s Prog (Damnation does not count). The previous album Heritage was in my opinion by far the worst thing Opeth had ever done, mainly due to the horrific songwriting and that hardly anything in the album sounded like Opeth! It was not easy to know when a song started or finished nor was there any flow within the songs or album in general. I initially gave it 2 stars but I have now reduced it to 1.

For these reasons I was very worried about this album as it would determine if I continued buying Opeth albums or not. My initial reaction to PC was that it was significantly better than Heritage but I needed time to fully get into it. And as I predicted PC has grown on me over time until I was finally ready to review it.

PC has many similarities to Heritage with its Classic Prog instrumentation, production and songwriting, but where it differs is the cohesion within each song and that they have re-incorporated some of the key aspects of the Opeth sound. Its now possible to know where each song is roughly going unlike before where it was very random and jarring. There are still some re-occurring problems which were present on Heritage, but its not as bad or frequent as before.

"Eternal rains will come" starts with a bang! There is a blast of keyboards, drums and guitars firing off in a complex arrangement. It then settles down briefly before going crazy again. A peaceful guitar instrumental follows which then leads into the main theme of the song. Here we find another thing Heritage lacked; hooks. The vocals are extremely catchy, uncluttered and leave a immediate effect. The song finishes as it starts with more intense instrumentals and some powerful singing from Mikael ┼kerfeldt. A great start!

"Cusp of eternity" was the single from this album so as you would expect its the catchiest and easiest to digest. Its a reasonably heavy song with some aspects of metal in the electric guitar work. The pace is constantly fast and restless but there are still some strong hooks to be found, especially in the chorus. There is also a tasty Prog Metal instrumental at the end which is a great pleasure to hear. They have not totally lost their metal edge, only suppressed it.

"Moon above, Sun below" also starts with a fast pace which then turns into one of the heaviest parts of the album. There is a point here where Mikael is on the verge of doing a Death Growl, but he stops himself. Its a bit of a shame, I would like him to use it every now and again (his voice is no longer strong enough to constantly growl). Things quieten down into one of those acoustic guitar breaks that were found on many of the Death Metal tracks. The song then goes though many load and quiet twists and turns as you would expect from a 11 min song. The key thing though is that the choices made all make sense unlike that found on the longer songs in Heritage. The ending is also very catchy and reasonably heavy. Fans of old Opeth will probably find this the best song on the album.

"Elysian woes" has a very strong Damnation vibe throughout the song (i.e very gloomy, quiet and guitar driven). So strong that if it were on that album nobody would have thought it out of the ordinary. The only slight deviation is towards the end which starts to get loader and more intense, but this quickly fades as the song ends. Its a decent track but no where near as interesting as the first 3 songs.

"Goblin" is a instrumental which is a big tribute to the band Goblin, so much so that it does not sound like Opeth at all but a 70s Jazz Fusion band. While the song is complex its still quite repetitive and forgettable. I see it as the weakest song on PC simply as they are not in their comfort zone and so cannot come up with anything very interesting or unique.

"River" starts with some amazing vocal harmonies that are incredibly infectious and powerful. The melody also works perfectly with it to make some of the best minutes on the album. Its not common for Opeth to sound positive and upbeat but if this is the outcome then I defiantly want to hear them do this more often! The songs progresses into some complex instrumentals which keep the energy present at the start of the song. During this time the song darkens somewhat, just to remind people that this is still a Opeth album. The best parts of this song remind me quite a lot of Steven Wilson's The Raven which is a big complement!

"Voice of treason" however is not very strong. Its more like typical aggressive Opeth without the Death Metal and that's the main problem with the song. Whenever they try to go all out it does not work properly. They have not mastered how to be really heavy without doing Death Metal yet. When I say this I mean like what King Crimson or Van Der Graff can do without going into metal. Its a alright song but easy enough to forget and ignore.

"Faith in Others" is very different to the other songs Opeth have written. It is very emotional and grand in sound and uses strings throughout a lot of the song. Its not really a ballad though, they still have several twists to ensure that fans don't criticize it as commercial. It takes a few listens for the beauty of the song to be fully appreciated, but once you do its one of the best songs they have written. A perfect closer.

So there are 5 songs on PC that I really like and 3 alright but far from amazing songs (which would be highlights on Heritage!), so 4 stars seems to be a fair rating. Its not a masterpiece as the current ratings show it, but a solid return to form. I was not optimistic for the future of Opeth beforehand but now I am. Its still not at the level of Death Metal Opeth though and I hope one day they will go back to that. But for now I am satisfied.

LakeGlade12 | 4/5 |


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