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Opeth - Ghost Reveries CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.25 | 1450 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars My first Opeth acquisition was "Heritage" which I really admired for its bold take on retro-prog. But I knew this was not the Opeth known to most and I stepped in a got "Blackwater Park" and "Still Life". Thanks to these two albums, I started to enjoy and even appreciate death growl vocals. Then came "Pale Communion" and now I had two albums by the old Opeth and two by the new. It was time to reach in between and bring home "Ghost Reveries".

Now while the newer albums impressed me for their creative arrangements and explorative song construct, the older albums had a rich power with blast beats, ominous riffs and those vocals that could give Beelzebub the shivers. Though the old albums included some acoustic guitar, piano, and clean vocals, I often felt there was still such an extreme between the light and the heavy dark. How did Opeth make such a huge transition in style and sound from way back then to now? Yes, I heard about "Damnation" but that was more toward the "Heritage" extreme (maybe?) and not so much the middle ground between the two. But "Ghost Reveries" answers my question.

The opening track "Ghost of Perdition" is essentially one of Opeth's intense and dark death metal songs but blends in clean vocals and softer parts in a more natural way that flows well with the music and doesn't seem so obviously placed as an opposite extreme to the heavy side.

"The Baying of the Hounds" carries this thread by adding something typical from the old albums in the slower clean vocals segment but I feel there is a clear understanding within the band of how to shift from gruff and heavy to clean and slow to acoustic much more naturally. Overall I feel the musical creativity is on the rise and the band want to expand further than they went with "Still Life" and "Blackwater Park". Furthermore, the guitar sound in the heavier parts seems rich and bottom heavy (perhaps thanks to the bass and production) and Åkerfeldt's vocals are as earthshaking as ever. You'll also notice the use of Mellotron in the "Baying" and if not then certainly at the beginning of "Beneath the Mire".

It's here in this third track that I feel the progressive death metal act known as Opeth are really building on what they had been developing. The exercise with "Damnation" must have taught them a lot about how to expand their non-death metal capabilities and develop the heavier parts as well.

"Atonement" avoids any metal contact entirely and could have been a precursor to "Pale Communion". Notice the hand drums which will show up more on "Heritage" and "Pale Communion". In particular, I find the percussion section is a key factor in the development of the band's newer sound as it's the drumming on "Heritage" that especially caught my attention.

Then follows "Reverie/Harlequin Forest" which returns us to the explosive metal sound but with clean vocals. There's an awesome riff that comes in shortly after the death vocals start. Both "Still Life" and "Blackwater Park" have one song with a killer riff that I love to hear and on this album that one riff for me is here in this song. This song (or song pair) is so far the most varied track on the album and though it doesn't resemble anything from "Heritage" in rhythm and is too heavy at times to be like that future album, this track really sees Opeth taking their music to new heights, blending a bit of everything they've been working on so far (as far as I can tell and I've since acquired "Orchid" and "My Arms Your Hearse" as well).

The track list continues with the very beautiful "Hours of Wealth" including some soothing acoustic guitar, piano, and Mellotron, perhaps a highlight in Opeth's softer side so far. By now, Åkerfeldt and company are showing how capable they are of stretching out and away from their heavy dark side, though at this point they haven't really reached the point that "Heritage" would find them at. The latter half of the song is comprised of clean electric guitar and vocals, and it is here where I feel the album has shown its first weak moment.

Not a big deal though as the song is followed by the monster track "The Grand Conjuring". I get the shivers every time this song begins. For me, this is where Opeth have pulled it all together into one phenomenal song. The Mellotron, acoustic guitar, and hand drums appear alongside the crushing death metal side, at times in tandem, at other times they are there to enhance the tense and brooding atmosphere of the quieter but dark moments. This quickly became one of my favourite Opeth tracks.

The album closes with "Isolation Years", the shortest track at just under four minutes. It's another slow and clean number with some surprisingly beautiful vocal melodies from Åkerfeldt. Not a highlight but not a weak point either.

I have to say that this must be my favourite Opeth record so far. I love the heaviness of the older albums but sometimes find the overall atmosphere miring. The newer albums have more texture, flavour, and interest but don't have that awesome heaviness. This album does very well to capture what it sounds like Opeth was striving to become while also hinting at the future to come.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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