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Opeth - Watershed CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.98 | 1139 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars A provocative title for a provocative album, OPETH's 'Watershed' is indeed a transitional work.

Two new members means the music sounds different, and kudos to AKERFELDT for allowing this difference to show through. As a follow-up to 'Ghost Reveries', their US breakthrough record, this is astonishingly risky, with an emphasis on PER WIBERG's keyboards and some outright lunacy in the composition, but I think many of the choices made here are ill-advised. One example: the transition from standard to de-tuned acoustic at the conclusion of the otherwise straight-laced 'Burden' is straight-out disconcerting. It spoils the effect they've created, and if it's an in-joke, it's surely an example of poor judgment. The relative lack of growling is another error, in my opinion, lightening the atmosphere too much. Other innovations - a verse from a female vocalist in the gentle opener 'Coil', for example - work much better.

The fact it's a transitional album doesn't make it a great one. In fact, I believe it's a step down from 'Ghost Reveries' and, for all its good qualities, not a patch on 'Still Life' or 'Blackwater Park'. Lovely production and all that, splendid musicianship (AKERFELDT's clean vocals are now perhaps the best in metal), but there really isn't more than a couple of memorable songs here. 'Coil' and 'Heir Apparent' make a good beginning, 'The Lotus Eater' is a quintessential progressive metal track, and 'Burden' may well be the best of the gentler, 'Damnation' type songs OPETH have done, but as an album, this is mediocre, lacking a vital spark - this from a dedicated OPETH fan, who rates 'Blackwater Park' as the best metal album of all time. Mediocre because the compositions are over-fragmented. There isn't enough time for either the heavy or the gentle sections to develop. There aren't the plethora of staggering riffs here, and the few that crop up (at 1.30 from the end of 'Porcelain Heart' for example) aren't sustained. Develop the ideas! At their best OPETH crush the listener flat beneath giant slabs of sound. Not on 'Watershed'. Here I can breathe, and to my mind that's not a good thing. Destroy me, OPETH. Grind my soul into the dust with your sonic assault. Pile it on without mercy. Don't tease me like this!

That's my personal reaction. But I'm aware on an intellectual level that this album is actually the most progressive thing they've done. 'Hessian Peel' and 'Hex Omega' finish the album with a pleasingly sophisticated blend of gentle soundscapes and prog metal, and the latter has a killer finale, but again, hardly vintage OPETH. Perhaps this is a market-broadening exercise, or perhaps I'm missing something, but visceral, stomach-punching OPETH this is not.

Of the bonus tracks, 'Derelict Herds' is the most worthy, and ought to have been included on the album. The others are covers, curiosities at best. OPETH does the blues.

To sum up: there is little of the genre-defining stellar songwriting on display here. What they do is done well, but after repeated listens I'm nowhere near convinced that this deserves to be called a watershed. Too much has been given away to make a few gains.

russellk | 3/5 |


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