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Opeth - Watershed CD (album) cover

WATERSHED

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.94 | 927 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Are lotuses even that good for you?

Opeth's ninth studio album is quite a mixture of styles. While they're all familiar styles from the band, this album tends to be a more eclectic mix than some of their previous works. It seems that on this album the band really decided to make use of Mikael's singing voice instead of just letting him growl away (not that there's anything wrong with his growls, really), and the band makes numerical uses of severe speed changes to make the prog heads drool with excitement while keeping the metal fans entertained with heavy riffs. While the hardcore fans have been all over this release, praising it like there's no tomorrow the album has also met with more controversy than its predecessor, the acclaimed Ghost Reveries. Both sides have their merits and reasons for liking and disliking the album the way they do - since the album has love and hate parts abound.

One of the noticeable things off first listen is just how much the album likes to mess with speed and tempo. Apparently Opeth really didn't want to be accused of keeping their songs the same speed because every song will meet with its slow and fast parts to the point where it almost becomes annoying. While the prog head in all of us can appreciate the changes there's some points where one just wishes that Akerfeldt would have just let the song rock through its entirety so that the listener could raise the horns and rock out with it. There are some exceptional uses of the technique, however, as in the first song to be overly heavy on the album, Heir Apparent, one of the album's biggest standouts with its fast and blistering parts turning into smooth guitar riffs in the middle and nearing the end. The Lotus Eater was the album's first single, and for a good reason, it has a very fun guitar riff that picks up soon after the singing turns into growling. A good mix of vocal styles on this one makes for a nice transition for people who were more into the Damnation phase of the band. More heavy and silent combination on this track starts to test the patience of people who just want to rock out on this track, but in general it still works well.

But while the album has some very good moments it lacks something that could make it a real masterpiece. While there's a lot of heavy parts, some of the slower parts that come in feel a bit forced, and overall the album feels like the playing could have been kicked up a notch, but the musicians decided not to. Granted, there's some great soloing by each of the members, but after listening to a good dose of classic prog it's pretty easy to see that this is a good album that is no where near essential for a prog fan. Opeth may be the leading band in the Tech/Extreme Progressive Metal subcategory, but they've had better than this. The most memorable part of the album is actually the opening track, Coil, which is the slowest and most calm on the entire disc, this one harking back to the band's Damnation days. Some nice female vocal parts make this rather short intro track a wonderful tune to gets things started. Burden follows up this sound sometime into the album with its slow moving progression, making for another quite good moment - with some wicked keyboard soloing in the middle bringing memories of old-school prog, but that out of tune guitar at the end it incredibly irritating, even if it was on purpose.

The rest of the album from there makes use once more of the heavy and quiet segments. Porcelain Heart is another heavy as hell song, slowing only for the vocal parts, as is the 11-minute Hessian Peel. By the time Hex Omega rolls around the audience is quite worn out by heavy music, but with the album sitting at 55-minutes in length it hasn't gone on so long as to be annoying. Other than that - the album is nicely produced, but one can expect a big band like Opeth to shill out enough coin to have a nice mix on their albums. The liner notes are fairly scarce in the normal edition (the special edition might be better, though), but at least the art is fairly disturbing as to match what the band was aiming for style wise.

The sum it all up this is a good album which abuses some of its strong points, but is still worth a few listens. Opeth fans and fanboys will no doubt praise the album like a god, but casual listeners may want to start somewhere else with the band. A solid effort, but not entirely mind-blowing, this one is going to get 3.5 Lotuses out of 5. Just don't eat them. That's bad for you.

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |

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