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Opeth - Still Life CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.30 | 1640 ratings

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The Pessimist
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Well, I have a very strong opinion on this album. My opinion is of the very highest as well. This is easily the best prog metal of all time. It may well be the greatest prog rock album of all time also. And the greatest ALBUM of all time? I even think that is debatable, as this is coming from the greatest band of the 21st century and maybe even the best band ever. I honestly mean this, I am this album's biggest fan, and here is why:

First off, there isn't a single weak track on here. Naturally, it has it's weaker moments, but even those stand out as some of the best prog I have ever heard. The strongest tracks however, are the outstanding The Moor, Godhead's Lament, Face Of Melinda and Serenity Painted Death. These for me have many listens still ahead of them, despite being already listened to a few hundred times. I find something new every time, and that is what matters most in any song.

Secondly, Opeth's unique style of brutal death metal and beautiful mellow sections combined is magnified here and taken to its full potential. I know this style has been done before, but this album does it with a certain quality and class that no other album has until now. Next off, the musicianship is flawless. Martin Lopez is at his creative peak, the guitar solos are astounding, the bass playing is tight and Mikael Akefeldt really sings/growls with a tortured passion that truly grips the concept, which is the final factor of this amazing album. It is fantastic, dark and very well written. It competes with even the greatest of storylines in prog, making it even more of an enthralling experience. The main character, played by Mikael and is not named, is on the run from his home, a renegade, because of his love Melinda. A lot of terrible things happen, a lot of twists until the juggular twist at the very end which leaves you astounded and slightly upset. I would even go as far as saying it is Shakespearian. That is how good it really is, and many people will agree with me.

Now onto the tracks:

The Moor - A mystical opening of dissonance drags you into the story gently and subtly, with two guitars playing a repetitive, yet effective duet. It's quite frightening also, very brooding, especially when you know what is coming next. It then leads into an acoustic passage, and you can hear the band's folk influence very clearly. This is then broken with a brutal, complex arrangement involving some of Mikael's clearest growling, most catchy melody lines, Martin Lopez's very beat and one short mellow passage. There isn't a single bad point about this song; even if i try to pick holes, i can't.

Godhead's Lament - My favourite Opeth song of all time, and probably the catchiest. The song opens in the My Arms, Your Hearse vein, a duple-compound timed musical adventure that, once again, has no flaws. This is also the very first piece of Opeth i ever heard, and i haven't looked back since then. The brutal section has the greatest riff Akefeldt has ever played on his guitar, and finally cuts and eases down into the best melody he has ever written, after one of the greatest and simplest guitar solos he's ever played. You can see what i'm getting at here ;) Moving onwards into the song, it has an instrumental break with guitar arpeggiating over a lead melody. That then birdges into another melody, on parr with the first on: world class. Then into another riff, then the outro section that delves on the main themes of the song. Utter genius. I cannot put it any other way. Listen to it a few times and you'll see where i'm coming from.

Benighted - As with every Opeth album, there is a mellow/acoustic track with no growling or distorted guitar. This is my personal favourite. The jazzy guitar solo around the middle is lush, Mikael is at his emotional pinnacle and everything else merging into a perfect background. This gives us a breath of fresh air from the previous two head-f***s. Marvellous head****s if i may say so.

Moonlapse Vertigo - Probably the proggiest of the selection, this is another masterpiece and somehow the most accessible. They balance the growling to singing on a balanced ratio, thus proving my point. This is a brilliant example of what Opeth stand for: pushing boundries, whilst keeping to the existing ones at the same same. How on earth they managed to compose a death metal song with a small band jazz guitar section bewilders me! This is almost Wes Montgomery stuff here: it's bliss, I assure you. For those who say that Progressive Death Metal isn't actually prog at all, should take a good listen to this track. They will swallow their words!

Face Of Melinda - This is a romantic song, where I picture the part in the film where two lovers start having a real emotional chemistry. Need i say it, this is what Akefeldt wanted. He captures the mood perfectly, whilst still keeping the brooding air around. Not many composers can do that with ease, yet this song seems so easily written. The lyrics are the main feature of this song. Poetic at worst, one of the main reasons it is an album highlight. There are two parts to the song. The first part is mellow, where the guitars are the clean/acoustic combo used in Benighted, a fretless bass is present and some jazzy brush work is also, giving once again that small group feel. The second part is my personal favourite. This is where the protagonist unleashes his pain for Melinda upon the world, and celebrates it by picking up his electric guitar and dishes out a rondo form of awesome riffs. I cannot put it better than that, still no growling, but they employ their rage in a different form: clean vocals. This has only been done before on the classic Opeth song, To Bid You Farewell. Great preparation for the next and most savage song on the album...

Serenity Painted Death - A crisp drum solo brings us into this masterpiece, and Mikael growls down the microphone as if he has just lost a precious loved one (no clues there people). He then enters a straight rap-like chorus that is repeat worthy. The way he screams White face, haggard grin, this serenity painted death is just so menacing, he only tops the savageness of it later on in the song. We then enter a 5,5,5,6 rhythm which was also used on Drapery Falls a few years later, where Martin Lopez shows off some impressive beats. Then the first melodic section begins, and is split into a vocal line, then a guitar solo and a avante-garde section with good use of the wah towards the end. We are then plunged into Akefeldt's murky growling once again, and this time he's even more menacing. If you look into the story, you will understand why, and whoever said that growling holds no emotion... We are then blessed with an infamous Opeth solo that is my very favourite. The climax of the song. Finally, a catchy melody kicks in and the song finishes on a bombshell outro that repeats the main theme and gives us a short guitar passage at the very end. Purely a genius arrangement, nothing less.

White Cluster - This lets us know the climatic ending to this journey. It is phenomenal to say the least. We are attacked by metal riffs, death growls and some insane drumlines. This goes through a lot of complex stages, including and main theme, panning acoustic guitar, some of Lopez's finest work, fast guitar solos, one off time section (similar to Metropolis by Dream Theater, but we won't go too deep into that) and a fantastic finale. This is the perfect ending to any album, and leaves us hanging with a short clean guitar accapella as a closer.

I cannot truly wrap up in words how much of an impact this album has on me, but i tried my best. To be truly honest, however, you have to listen to this yourself. The greatest prog album of all time. Period. A, utterly flawless album and an exstatic, emotional rollercoaster, this is a must have for any prog fan that is willing to delve into the darkness of the Tech/Extreme Metal genre. Those that won't... are missing out.

The Pessimist | 5/5 |


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