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Opeth - Still Life CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.30 | 1640 ratings

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4 stars Even though Opeth didn't change their song writing approach much compared to the previous album, Still Life is quite a departure from My Arms, Your Hearse. It's lighter, melodic and more melancholic compared to the oppressive blackness of My Arms, Your Hearse. Also, the influences of Camel and early King Crimson became more noticeable.

Many Opeth enthusiasts will point to Still Life as Opeth's crowning achievement. While it is sure one of their best albums, there are a number of flaws that made me rate it below Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries. The rating must be seen in that context. This album is a 4.5 star creation but I knocked it down to create some perspective within the entire Opeth discography. In other words, add one star to all my Opeth ratings and you get an idea of how I rate them in comparison to other bands!

Now, instead of citing words of praise at every possible marvel here I thought it would be more fun to just criticize the flaws on this album.

The first one is about balance. There is no other Opeth album that is so crammed with ideas, melodies, riffs, changes and layers of guitars and vocals as this one. All of it gives ample proof of the high creative flow that raced through Akerfeldt while writing music. But on the other hand it also shows that he needed a tutor to help him weed out the chaff and guide his creative profusion into a more focused and superior result. Steven Wilson would prove to be that person on the ensuing Blackwater Park. Still Life has the most ideas on any Opeth album but not the best.

A second point might seem more trivial but nevertheless it's important. Akerfeldt has never denied being hugely influenced by Camel, but literally stealing melodies from them without openly admitting it goes a bridge too far. The opening bars from Benighted are entirely nicked from the opening bars of Never Let Go from Camel's debut. It's just the opening bars but still, the plagiarism might have been less obvious.

The third criticism concerns the vocals. The clean vocals are very prominent here and prove that they were the way forward for Opeth but some of vocals lack the harmonic wealth of later works. Especially during the metal sections, the clean vocals don't have the depth nor the range or dynamism of later albums. For an album that relies so heavily on the clean singing that is a real flaw. The 2008 re-issue of Still Life indicates that Akerfeldt must have similar quibbles as he stripped some background vocals from the remix. Especially the harmonies on Serenity Painted Death have been revised drastically. Not really to good effect either. The clean vocals during the more laidback passages are very strong however, by consequence songs like Benighted, Face of Melinda and White Cluster are the most accomplished compositions here. They also have a better balance and suffer less from the musical over-abundance that decreases the effectiveness of most other songs. Akerfeldt's clean voice still needed some excercise.

Still Life is a more then excellent album and it's the first Opeth album that will please progressive rock fans. However, as a heavy album I find it less accomplished then MAYH, while as a progressive album it doesn't compare to the more mature BWP and Ghost Reveries.

Bonnek | 4/5 |


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