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Opeth - Still Life CD (album) cover

STILL LIFE

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.31 | 1521 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Opeth's fourth album, 'Still Life' is for many where the band finally established their classic sound in all its glory. 'My Arms, Your Hearse' brought in two new musicians and a serious alteration in the band's music writing style: heavier, more brutal, and with a more natural inclusion of lighter parts into their now heavier songs. But Mikael Akerfeldt was deeply influenced by progressive music by this point and claims that 'Still Life' was their most progressive album up to that time.

What is interesting to note on this album is how the heavier guitar chords are very well balanced with higher tone riffs, allowing for complex riffing to coexist with the more thunderous side of the band's heavy sound. As if intentionally in complement, Mikael's death vocals also show two sides: a deep guttural bellow and a wet, back-of- the-throat, blasting roar. These two vocal styles are best heard in the chorus to 'Serenity Painted Death', where the first part is sung (or vocalized?) in the deeper voice and the second part in the higher, shredding voice. In fact, it is this song that finally made me appreciate the skill and talent behind death vocals. Previously I had likened this style of vocalizing to a demon with severe stomach troubles the night after an ungodly pasta binge and heavy drinking. Perhaps somewhat unfortunately now, all death vocalists I hear will be compared to Mikael Akerfeldt.

I'll admit that in the beginning this album was a slow grower for me when I brought it home four years ago. At first, only 'Serenity Painted Death' and 'White Cluster' stood out as memorable. But earlier this year, I this album on frequently and my brain become awakened to its overall charm. Mikael's clean vocals are stronger than they were on the previous three albums and can now create an atmosphere. The acoustic part in 'Godhead's Lament' makes me think of Jethro Tull a bit, and the use of acoustic and clean electric guitar passages in the heavier songs has really become a natural development within the song frameworks. Daring to go further than before, Opeth give us 'Benighted', an all-acoustic track plus some clean electric guitar with a smooth jazzy feel and all clean vocals. 'Face of Melinda' also spends the first four minutes delivering an easy-swaying acoustic number with light jazz-influenced percussion. The inclusion of these tracks shows that the band is not driven towards an album of brutal auditory assault like many or most of their death metal contemporaries but is instead striving for texture, mood, and melody alongside the expected aggressive music.

Looking at 11 lists ranking Opeth's albums, 'Still Life' has an average rank of 3.1, second only to 'Blackwater Park' with a 1.9 average rank. It is, in my opinion, one of the four essential Opeth albums from their progressive death metal period, along with 'Blackwater Park', 'Ghost Reveries' and "Watershed". And 'Serenity Painted Death' is one of my top 3 favourite classic Opeth period songs! I'd love to give this 4 1/2 stars but I'll settle with 4.

FragileKings | 4/5 |

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