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Opeth - Watershed CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.98 | 1146 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Despite Opeth losing the lovable Martin Lopez and the essential secondary guitar player, They still produced another masterpiece, definitively their best since Still Life. However, this album should not be compared with Still Life, it is quite different and I was surprised when I heard it. The album uses the brutal elements of My arms, Your Hearse while mastering the dynamics and non-metal songwriting of their previous two albums. There is quite a bit of 'prog' experimentation, mostly on the softer moments of the album, but there is no mistaken that this is still Opeth.

There are many surprises here. The first is how well the new musicians fit here. The guitar player is more technical, but his playing is generally restrained and harmonizes with Mikael very well. The drummer is also more technical, but it actually helps as he makes fantastic drum patterns throughout the album. Secondly, Per Wilberg's keyboards take a larger role and are well integrated with the music. His playing is restrained and very tasteful, with no cartoony synths nor cheesy orchestra sounds. Lastly, it surprised me that while the leader hyped this as the heaviest and darkest album, it has minimal use of growls, and has some 'less sad' parts. This helps create a soft/heavy balance that is ideal for me, as I need my death grunts to a minimum, and want plenty of soft sections in order to have the metal parts make a bigger impact when they come.

Other positive aspects of the album are the great sound engineering which helps make the metal parts more crushing, and the overall consistency.

"Coil" is an unorthodox introduction. It sounds like Mikael sending a letter to a loved one, who replied back. Yes, this song has a female vocalist and her voice shines. The fantastic singing is backed by gorgeous acoustic guitar work and other instruments appear during the choruses, which are absolutely beautiful. Orchestral sweeps, complex acoustic patterns, and great vocal delivery mark them. 10/10

"Heir Apparent" is easily the heaviest song in here, and one of the most evil and brutal songs they have ever done. It opens with a very evil Doom Metal riff and dark piano lines, until it leads into the first growls of the song. There is an amazingly brutal guitar riff later with guitar soloing on top which leads into the first soft part which has flutes and acoustic guitars. Afterwards, a very brutal theme alternates with a complex acoustic part. After an intense crescendo with strings, the song ends with a melodic metal theme. 9/10

While Heir Apparent is a nod of "My Arms Your Hearse", "Lotus Eater" is a more experimental piece. Experiments include having clean vocals over brutal metal, putting a funky keyboard solo, being extremely tight/dynamic, and ending with a very sinister mellow atmosphere with a crowd talking. 9.5/10

"Burden" is next and it is one of the songs where Mikael indulges himself with his progressive rock fantasies, but do not fear as this is another magnificent piece. If I can name three influences, they would be Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, and Deep Purple. The vocals are great, the keyboards are more prominent, and the guitar melodies and soloing are very moving. The ending is odd, with acoustic guitars detuning while they are still playing. Overall, this is my favorite Opeth ballad alongside Coil and Face of Melinda. 10/10

"Porcelain Heart" is the most commercial-sounding song of the album, but it works in all levels. The acoustic guitar verses are haunting, the guitar riffs carry a lot of punch, the drumming is fantastic, and the orchestrations in the last soft interlude are gorgeous. If you do not mind, a riff or two from "The Grand Conjuration" were recycled. Fortunately, they work much better here. 9.5/10

"Hessian Peel" begins bluesy. The first four minutes is made up of very well-constructed and well-arranged folk-classical music until an elegant metal riff appears, which gives a hint that the song will soon turn heavy. It does, and death metal vocals finally return, if briefly. What comes afterwards borders on genius, and I would let you hear for yourself. The song finishes with a staccato Hammond organ beat and a neat bass beat that gives it a slight electronica feel. 9.5/10

"Hex Omega" was a song I expected to be brutally heavy, but the song is a growl-less metal song with a heavy emphasis on clean vocals, soft atmosphere, and a bit off jazz touches. Not much to say here, except that it is another excellent tune. 9/10

As for Bonus Tracks: Derelict Herds is a quite neat song that sounds very much like Riverside with a growling section in the middle which sounds quite different for Opeth. The covers are quite nice and faithful to the originals. The one sang in Swedish is the standout for me. It is simple, but gorgeous. Bridge of Sighs also is worthy of notice due to the solos at the end.

It all sounds like if the band is very inspired and is not afraid to experiment. This gives it a 'transitional album' feel which gives hope in that the band could actually top this with a more perfected album in the future.

I do not know whether I like more Still life or this one. Still life is stronger on lyrics, coherence, and storytelling, while this one sounds more philosophical, reflective and mature instrumentally-speaking. If you're more of a metal-head and are not familiar with Opeth, start with Still Life, which is some of the best heavy metal you'll come across. If you're a prog rock fan, this one might be a better place to start as the soft and melodic elements are plentiful, balancing out the brutal parts.

Zitro | 5/5 |


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