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Opeth - The Roundhouse Tapes CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.10 | 217 ratings

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4 stars A word of warning here: this review does not come from a long-time fan of the band, or even from a prog-metal expert. As a matter of fact, I got into Opeth only recently, and so far I have only heard two of their studio albums ("Damnation" and "Ghost Reveries" to be precise). Therefore, I apologise beforehand for not writing a very detailed account, filled with accurate references to the band's output, or comparisons between studio and live versions. My review will mostly be based on my personal impressions as an Opeth and prog-metal novice, though one who is more than willing to learn more about both the band and the genre.

The first Opeth live album comes in a stylish, sepia-toned package that reprises the Gothic-themed artwork of their last studio offering, "Ghost Reveries". Far from being fixated with gore and violence as so many 'typical' death metal outfits , Opeth have always presented themselves as a classy, erudite band, taking their inspiration from fin-de-siècle literary sources rather than from anatomy manuals or serial killer stories. Their music reflects this image - a blend of elegance and aggression, hard-edged and complex, rich with classical and ethnic influences, the latter probably due to the mixed background of some of the members.

"The Roundhouse Tapes" is a great showcase for a band who haven't yet attained the peak of their creative powers. It includes tracks taken from all of Opeth's album except "Deliverance" - CD2 being somewhat shorter than CD1, and featuring only three songs. Per Wiberg's keyboards are very much in evidence throughout the record, adding texture and depth to the band's dark, sometimes claustrophobic sound. On the other hand, Opeth can do melody as well as other, less metal-oriented bands - their secret weapon being Mikael Åkerfeldt's amazing 'clean' vocals. Though I would be lying if I said that I am a fan of death growls, I have to admit that Mikael's growling is really in a class of its own. However, his 'singing' voice is undoubtedly one of the best in modern prog bar none, his velvety, melancholy baritone somewhat reminiscent of another great prog singer, though from a completely different genre - Canterbury icon Richard Sinclair. In addition to his skills as a vocalist and a composer, Åkerfeldt is possessed of the sort of dry wit that very few people would associate with death metal, which makes his between-song banter quite refreshing, even endearing. Check his presentation of elegant, melancholy ballad "Windowpane" - "this is a song that will get us chicks backstage"!

Even though some hardcore fans will object to the omission of some track or the other, the songs selected for "The Roundhouse Tapes" represent the best of Opeth's output. Most of them exhibit the band's trademark brooding, crushing intensity coupled with moody, rarefied atmospheres and exquisite melodic breaks. On the other hand, the aforementioned "Windowpane" (from Opeth's 'official' prog album "Damnation"), and the hauntingly gorgeous "Face of Melinda" (from "Still Life") forgo heaviness altogether, showing Åkerfeldt's more sensitive side.

While fans patiently wait for the release of the band's next album, "The Roundhouse Tapes" captures Opeth at a time of change, after the departure of two key members. In spite of that, they sound very tight and cohesive, and - even more important - they clearly enjoy being onstage and communicating with their audience. As an almost absolute beginner, I am curious to see what new paths they will take with their new release. In the meantime, open-minded progsters will find a lot to enjoy in this excellent live album.

Raff | 4/5 |


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