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Opeth - Watershed CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.95 | 1109 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars For those with a short attention span, I'll put it bluntly. Watershed, Opeth's ninth studio album, is their best effort since the masterpiece that is Blackwater Park, far surpassing the attempts of the last three albums; Deliverance, Damnation and Ghost Reveries.

The major problems of the most recent albums have been eradicated here and combined with a distinct shift in their approach to the music. Gone are the needlessly extended songs, as is the poor judgment that they displayed on one or two occasions in the accompaniment, and back comes the dark and melancholic atmospheres that have been missing since the aforementioned Blackwater Park. Since the release of Ghost Reveries, Opeth has undergone a fair bit of upheaval in the line-up with Drummer Martin Lopez being replaced by Martin Axenrot and Guitarist Peter Lindgren with Fredrik Akesson, changes that seem to have done something to re-invigorate the bands music. These changes have led to a noticeable increase in the technicality of the songs on offer here. With both new members coming from a more traditional style of Death Metal band where technicality can be king, this isn't overly surprising, but it is welcome and in no way, shape or form does it detract from the feel of the music. Its also noticeable that Keyboardist Per Wiberg also has a much more prominent role on this album than he did on Ghost Reveries, where he was rather unnecessary, and nowhere does this come through better than on Burden.

I've already touched on the reduction of song length being a good thing. Nowhere on here does Akerfeldt feel the need to extend musical passages for minutes at a time and this has lead to what is a very concise album with no fat, resulting in it weighing in at only 55 minutes. This has also affiliated the return of the dark, melancholic and gloomy atmospheres of the past, replacing the unsuccessful attempt at a more upbeat mood on Ghost Reveries, and the concise nature of the albums musical themes allows this mood to breath, to flow without feeling contrived. Its this point that I feel is the most important of the album as Opeth's unique, dark atmospheres were always the bands Ace up their sleeve, though it still falls short of the feel of Blackwater Park.

The increased technicality of the band is also a very good change here. I'm finding that those intriguing and excellent touches that all great music has is more abundant on here than previously. A few highly intricate acoustic parts, the sound of an acoustic guitar slowly falling out of tune at the end of Burden, the inclusion of female vocals, courtesy of Nathalie Lorichs, on Coil, the keyboard solo(!) on Burden and many more besides make for good listening here. Many people have noted that their is a wrong note early in Hessian Peel that gets repeated, but personally I don't hear anything wrong there at all, the same goes for the sudden changes between heavy and soft. Opeth have always had these changes and quite a few of them have been very sudden, for me it still works very well. The big surprise is that there is considerably less use of Akerfeldt's growl on here with Coil, Burden, Porcelain Heart and Hex Omega all been clean vocal only. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what to make of this as the music is still great and Akerfeldt still sounds good whatever voice he uses.

Overall a very good album, but not quite a match for Blackwater Park or Still Life, and equal to My Arms, Your Hearse. That last part might be telling, because My Arms, Your Hearse was a transitional album for the band and Watershed feels as if it might also be just that, so watch this space.

sleeper | 4/5 |


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