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Opeth - Blackwater Park CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.25 | 1568 ratings

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2 stars Not very interesting - or Prog

So Opeth. Top of the Prog Metal heap or just interesting?

Well, neither really.

A dark but vague keyboard intro gives way predictably to a squeaky-clean guitar riff, repeated verbatim. The polished nature of the riff sets you up for the stereotype screaming metal vocal... but no. We get our first surprise here, and it's not good to my ears. Death metal style growling seems at odds with the texture and sits uncomfortably across a range of riffs with assorted fills, all taken from the school of rock standards and little awareness of how to grow drama within the music. It's all too repetitive - although melodically interesting (in much the same way that Iron Maiden are melodically interesting) in places. Tangential passages in wierd time-signature riffs don't fool me one iota. The music only progresses in that it goes on and on in time - "The Leper Affinity" is clearly in the old school of technical metal, albeit of a rather simple nature. The vocal style is changed around 4:50, but the repetitive acoustic guitar accompaniment is a poor substitute for real prog. It's all short repeated patterns, largely unison with simplistic harmony - and rather boring. From about 6:00 it sounds like it might get interesting - but this is still in the technical as opposed to truly progressive vein. A sudden drop to piano is an interesting texture change at around 9:00 - but this is in the vein of "Lick My Love Pump" by Spinal Tap, and unrelated to the surrounding material.

"Bleak" starts with a nice texture and interesting rhythm - but it's really more of the same, and spoilt once again by inappropriate Death growl style vocals. It may be "a bit different", but that is the aim of technical metal - or at least it was back in the 1980s. "Bleak" is very listenable, but doesn't break any new ground - or sound particularly bleak, as the clear melodic guitar sounds with the blinging production give too much of a sheen. Around 3:15, we might as well be listening to a different song, albeit with much the same riffs. This technique to drag a song out beyond 3 minutes has been tried and tested by the likes of the Beatles, among others. At 5:21, the medley continues with a nice acoustic idea in every sense of the word "nice", followed by the reprise at 6:00. There is potential for some progressive ideas in here - the bass line starts interestingly, but everything in the opther parts simply drape over it instead of developing or investigating contrapuntal ideas. My hunt for a single progressive idea in Opeth's music continues.

"Harvest" opens with potential - a little like the Barclay James version... but less symphonic and ultimately somewhat insipid, reminding me a little of Creed. Pleasant enough, I suppose, but no prog yet...

"The Drapery Falls" opens with a riff that could be interesting if worked on. It has a tendency to slip into mush every 4 or 5 bars, as if the players are not sure of the harmonic effects they are trying to achieve here. It really seems to be subscribing to the school of thought that goes "It doesn' t matter what you play, as long as it's in time and played with an air of authority". Hogwash, of course. The playing and the constructions are simplistic and uninspired, and the lyrics cut through... ouch. I'm sure they mean something to someone, but they're not exactly Gabriel standard to put it mildly...

The album carries on with this pattern, neither developing or progressing the music or the style of music in general.

In short, it's very difficult to see how this album could be considered progressive rock... for me, at least. Opeth have a large number of riff ideas, an ear for melodies and some interesting approaches to rhythm. What they lack is actual musical ideas in terms of harmony and harmonic development, counterpoint and contrapuntal styles, infusing influences from other genres, producing a unique sound, and a feel for overall timbre, shape and good old-fashioned rock'n'roll.

Hence my rating is valid and accurate: For collectors and fans of the band and this type of music only. Prog rock fans will probably be disappointed.

If you think this is progressive, you should hear "Virus" by Tranceplant ;o)

Certif1ed | 2/5 |


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