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Opeth - Watershed CD (album) cover

WATERSHED

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.94 | 894 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars With so many reviews of this album appearing every day, I'll try to limit myself to a brief comment here.

I came to this album with high expectations. After all, I just saw the band playing life a few weeks ago, and they blew me away. Their previous albums were all at least good and two of them ("Ghost Reveries" and "Still Life") are masterpieces in my opinion.

The expectations, I have to say, have greatly surpassed the results, as "Watershed" is, by far, OPETH's weakest album to date (not counting the first three, which I haven't heard). The abuse of the soft- loud-soft-loud approach to building songs, plus the awful tendency to write longer- than-needed tracks are the reasons for this opus' failure.

Let's cut to the chase and say a few words about the songs, where I will illustrate my points of view.

"Coil" (8/10) starts with a quite melodic acoustic intro, with Akerfeldt and Natalie Lorichs singing together, in one of the band's most beautiful moments. Of course, people can say that this is not highly progressive, but I think this is good, which is better than just being "prog." That debate belongs someplace else, not in my review , so I'll continue to describe my reactions to the music.

"Heir" (9.5/10) must be one of the heaviest, most death-metal songs in all OPETH. The opening is just overpowering, impressive; the music then recedes to a quiet interlude with acoustic guitars and synths. The music picks up in violence and then goes back again to the dissonant interlude, but now it feels more ambiguous and dangerous. The first time one hears this, it feels like a chaotic mess. It takes a few listens but the song eventually appears as what it truly is: one of the band's best moments this side of "Ghost of Perdition". The final coda-like ending just releases the tension, and even if it feels a little out-of-place at the beginning, after a few hearings it makes perfect sense (music of any decent quality can't be seriously appreciated in just one sitting, a fact proven by the way the brain works). It's a shame that after this track, everything goes downhill.

"The Lotus Eater" (7/10) starts with a blast after a few humming noises by (presumably) Akerfeldt. The alternative use of clean and death vocals here works perfectly. The second section has a lot of energy and drives us towards the third, where the keyboards in the background add to the eerie atmosphere. Next we have one of the more sing-along-parts ever in OPETH, followed by more chaos which ultimately recedes into a very soft moment, which is not as successful as the preceding ones in the track. Next we have a very awkward sort-of psychedelic dance (?!) which leads to the final section. The song is somewhat uneven, and it's longer than needed. After such a terrific start, it starts to meander aimlessly halfway through.

"Burden" (8.5/10) brings back memories of OPETH's acoustic album, "Damnation". As with most of that record, this track is somewhat predictable but beautiful. No growling, a very strong classic-prog feel, all of which makes this the most retro song in the album, and maybe in all of the group's output. The song ends with an acoustic guitar section where the instrument is gradually detuned. It sounds weird but in OPETH's constantly-dark sound, it somehow manages to sound coherent.

"Porcelain Heart" (6/10) starts with a weak riff that eventually gives way to a quiet acoustic moment. As said earlier, If there's one thing I have to criticize in this record is the exaggerated use by Akerfeldt of this heavy-acoustic-heavy-acoustic structural approach, which takes the surprise factor away from some of the music. In "Ghost Reveries" the interludes worked better, as they were used more scarcely and not always in the same places. After this, another undulating riff starts, but it doesn't carry the weight to save this song from being mediocre. I've always had problems with bands that play either always loud or always low, or that play always fast or always slow. Note how many times I used the word "always" there. "Always" is not good for music . When something "always" happens, music loses surprise and power. This song is hurt by that: it's always "play it loud, play it soft, play it loud, play it soft." Boring song. And a waste of good ideas.

"Hessian Pearl" (5.5/10) starts with an interesting acoustic-atmospheric intro. When the electric guitar attacks with a nice little figure, the famous "wrong note" mentioned by another reviewer appears. In this case, I'll be forced to agree with the opinion that the note really adds neither "progressiveness" nor ambiguity to the music; it just makes it sound odd. What I won't do is blame the problem in poor musicianship. I think it's just an experiment gone wrong, a bad idea, something that could've happened to countless other artists. The song evolves into a weird kind of narcotic triple-dance that has a few moments of interests, namely the section when it fully sounds like Swedish (or Scandinavian) death metal, halfway through. A nice piano-solo interlude adds tension to the track, but the payback we receive is less compelling than it could have been, as the attack of the violence and the growling vocals is too sudden, and mostly, too recurrent in this album. It would seem that OPETH had lost the ability to go from soft to loud gradually; they can only do it by means of "big explosions" now. Also, this song feels like it was made longer artificially, as the final sections add nothing to the musical-story being told with notes, and just create chaos where a little coherence was necessary. It started with the weird "wrong" note, but actually, the beginning of the song was the better part. This song is another misfire, and again, mostly because of the repetitive structural technique of loud-soft and the artificial enlargement.

"Hex Omega" (4.5/10) starts slow again, but with no energy. Yes, energy can be found in soft, quiet acoustic passages: that stored, saved-for-later kind of energy, the energy of restrained tension, which may be the ultimate and most effective kind of force. But this sounds just like a poor attempt by Akerfeldt to sound "progressive", instead of actually being progressive, as he was in "Ghost Reveries" or "Still Life". The ideas are weak and uninspired, and we feel we're listening to an album that is at least 18 minutes longer than necessary. The worst track in OPETH's career. Horrendously boring.

It would seem that Akerfeldt has lost creativity. Apparently, his old association with Steven Wilson has come to be detrimental for the music, as it would seem that the Swede is trying to chase and catch the English's ghost, without ever actually doing it. In previous albums, the music was much more atmospheric, much more progressive. Nowadays it seems OPETH just wants to record as-long-as-possible albums, no matter how many senseless notes they have to add. This doesn't work as a good progressive-death-metal album and the last three tracks are horrendous as honest-to-god (or-Satan) death-metal.

I hope the great OPETH get back on track with their next release. I hope Akerfeldt realizes music can be progressive without being boringly long, and surprising without the "surprise" being always the same.

I give "Watershed" 2 stars. In a perfect world with a better rating system, I'd give it 2.5. But I give it this rating because I think the last three tracks (especially the atrocious final one) destroy everything that the first tracks in the first half of the album accomplished. I give it 2 stars because this is a band that has proven to be capable of much, much more. I give this album 2 stars because, sadly, it's what it deserves.

The T | 2/5 |

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