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Opeth - Watershed CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.95 | 1111 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Everyone knew Opeth's ninth "observation" was going to be different. The group lost drummer Martin Lopez and co-founder Peter Lindgren and replaced them with Martin Axenrot and Fredrik Åkesson (respectively), metal musicians who didn't seem to have any progressive tendencies or experience. We trust Mikael's judgement, but a safe assumption would be that Opeth would be at their heaviest and fastest with their next release. So, with these new players in tow, Opeth have made Watershed their easiest listen yet...?

That's what I said! And it's true! Looking at the album as a whole, Damnation aside, this album has the fewest growls of any Opeth release to date. Three tracks don't have any! This was true of the band's masterpiece Ghost Reveries, but that album was 11 minutes longer and had one more track. This could be good news for music fans who have been stuggling to get into the band because of the death metal aspect.

Mikael serenades us with the aid of a female vocalist in the intro, "Coil." The music is in traditional Opeth fashion with a huge dose of 70's prog rock, but it does have a new atmosphere about it, one that almost has a trace of hope. That doesn't make sense! The female vocals are a nice touch, and a sign that this album will have a lot of experiments. This moves immediately into the heaviest track on the album, "Heir Apparent." I can't say Mikael's growl has been deeper than it is here. It's also clear that keyboardist Per Wiberg is finally going to get some attention with this release. This track is all over the place, and for a while you're not going to be sure whether this is a mess of riffs or a carefully crafted song. This is going to come up again, and it will suffice to say that this album doesn't have the flow of past albums, but it also is not a mess. "The Lotus Eater," being available before the album's release, really got the hype up. And it's no wonder why, this one is loaded with new ideas from, from blast beats under clean vocals to a macabre dance party keyboard riff. Oddly enough, this all works very well! The song proves to be the most interesting, fun and awesome one on the disc. By this point we should all be convinced that the band will be fine without the lost members. Truth be told, Axenrot relies more on the technical aspect of drumming and is consequently far less tasteful than Lopez, but I think the band works with the new members' gifts well. After a strange outro of voices with eerie keys, we are hit with "Burden," Opeth doing full-fledged 70's prog rock. Another track with all clean vocals, and loaded with Hammond organs, this one is going to be the track that arouses all the people on this website. But in the wake of the last track, I'm limp. I love the song, and I love that kind of music, but not as much as "The Lotus Eater." I get the feeling that "Burden" is slightly underdeveloped. Just slightly. This one has another interesting outro, but one that is much more interesting and creative. Mikael has someone manually detune his guitar while he plays the outro riff. Interesting indeed, but of course there is an unecessary laugh thing following the acoustic ditty. "Porcelain Heart" may be the most boring, mainstream oriented track on the record. It's only a bit boring in spots, but the fact that I'm getting bored is a bad sign. Not Opeth's best, but not bad. "Hessian Peel" brings the band back to where they should be. The long one here at 11+ minutes is largely reliant on clean vocals, but does have a few growls in the middle. So even the tracks with growls don't have many! I forgot to note that Porcelain Heart was the same way. This track is fantastic, though. Quite a bit of fun. Among the highlights on the disc, the closer "Hex Omega" doesn't stand out, but it is a worthy track.

After such an album as Ghost Reveries, and with a new lineup, it was time for a transitional album. Considering this is a transitional album, it is a darn good one. There is a lot to get out of the album, so it's worth grabbing, but it simply doesn't have the consistency of the band's best, some of the experiments aren't natural yet, and it's just not as compelling and powerful. There seems to be a lack of complexity in the finer areas of songwriting; the transitions aren't as clever, and the song endings don't seem to have been given much thought. For intance, look at the end of "Coil" being the plucked root chord and "Hessian Peel" ending in an unresolving way only made more so by a repeated keyboard chord from earlier in the song for 30 seconds. The emotion also seems forced in spots. These are things I hate to say but can't help saying. Fortunately, the musicianship is still top-notch, some of the experiments work very well and most of the infractions are minor. By any other band's standards, this would be brilliant, but for those who know Opeth, some of their sophistication is just missing.

If you're not an Opeth fan, this may change your mind about the band. If you're a fan, you're going to like this record to some degree. It's no Ghost Reveries, Blackwater Park or Still Life, but it competes with the rest of the catalog. It's score is kind of on a sliding scale, but it's high points are definitely high enough to earn Watershed 4 stars.

Moatilliatta | 3/5 |


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