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Opeth - Ghost Reveries CD (album) cover

GHOST REVERIES

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.24 | 1134 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Marc Baum
Prog Reviewer
5 stars "Ghost Reveries" is far more proggy than any thing Opeth have ever done, but have they lost their edge? No. No it doesn't. On the whole, this is a quieter effort than the Swedish masters have produced in the past - bar the band's recent entirely folk/prog rock effort, Damnation - yet Ghost Reveries still packs a hell of a lot of punch.

FIrst up is "Ghost Of Perdition", one of the two tracks leaked onto the net a few months back. Opening with ethereal guitar strumming, you'd be forgiven for expecting a "Closure" style ballad. Not so; we're suddenly blasted by a minute of Still Life-era heavy riffage. This is followed by Mikael giving more variety than we've yet heard in his vocals, leading into a melodic guitar section combining double-bass drums with some subtle mellotrons. This continues for another minute or so, until we get to the classic Opeth death-vox-meets-melodious-guitar segments we all know and love. Lopez shines on the drumming throughout the album, and this is a great kick-off point for his displayed skills, rivalling those of Sean Reinert or Dan Swano. At about 2:30, the track brings in the first quiet section of the album, which includes a rather beautiful harmony from Mikael, and brings Mendez's bass to the forefront, which is good, as I've always felt Opeth has lacked strong bass work since Morningrise. At the end of this relaxing interlude, the Gilmour-esque guitar wailing brings us back to reality, with Lopez's fills and Peter's riffs backing up another clean verse from Mikael. More nice melodies bring us to an astounding drum section, and more clean vocals, then about seven minutes in we hear Per Wiberg's mellotrons and Mikael's acoustic guitar adding life to an already pounding track. Per's keys are fairly consistent throughout the rest of the track, which ends on a heavy rendition of the song's first quiet interlude. A great start for the album, and with it's prog doom-death feel, would have felt most in place on Still Life.

The next track, "Baying Of The Hounds", begins with Deep Purple style organ riffs courtesy of Per while Mikael belts out lyrics that seem to be deliberate parodies of black metal's occult themes. This death-polka segment, almost remniscent of Finntroll, continues for about two minutes, then the organ continues while Mikael's vocals shift gears and we get some excellent harmonious verses - "you are are everything, they are nothing". Some very progressive guitar work follows, with Peter Lindgren tearing up and down the scale and switching time signatures like Buzz Osborne on crack. The next few minutes are a jazzy, subdued segment with some clean vocals and a lot of bass. This breaks into a black metal inspired epic riff, with eerie keyboards and constant double-bass kicks combined with Mikael's ever-asskicking death vocals. A Blackwater Park era segment rounds out the next few minutes, and then a quiet drum-and-acoustic section, with requisite mellotrons, jumpstarts into the song's final section - a heavy segment very, very reminiscent of My Arms Your Hearse if mixed with some Porcupine Tree style riffs (I think the mellotron and the general melody gives me this impression). That section is easily one of the best on the album. As with most Opeth tracks, "The Baying Of The Hounds" twists and turns for almost ten minutes, and ends up sounding nothing like it did in the beginning. Excellent.

Then comes "Beneath The Mire", starting with quite possibly the funkiest segment Opeth could ever produce - it sounds more like Farmakon, to be honest, who are usually like a jazzier, if less melodious clone of Opeth anyway. Mellotrons and funk drums flow behind Peter's on-off guitar riffage for about two minutes, and we then get Mikael's best heavy vocal melody of the album. A recurring blast beat from Lopez gives the edge Mikael needs here, before going into the proggy guitar and emotive, clean vocals for a while - "you'd cling to your pleasant hope, in it's twisted fascination." After this, comes Per on piano while Mikael has a short, sweet solo reminiscent of the one he gives in Porcupine Tree's "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here". Mikael switches to acoustic for a moment before leading us into the maelstrom once more - a great death scream and some inventive drumming bring us to another catchy, melodious section with heavy guitars and clean vocals. Finally, the guitars rise and fall like a tide, leading into an ending rich with off-kilter time-signatures and Pink Floyd style guitar experimentation. Another excellent song that shows the band's mature exploration of progressive themes.

The first real quiet track of the album is "Atonement", with some nice subdued drumming and synth effects alongside Mikael's skillful solo work, which is often likened to that of David Gilmour. More keyboard effects come in to play here, and bongo-style drumming that builds up to Damnation style filtered clean vocals. A mellotron-rich harmony section brings the guitars back in, and we repeat the idea for another verse or two. Before some beautiful lounge piano comes in at around four minutes. This song seems to be set up to balance Mikael and Pers and show off their respective skills. At around 5:20, the song cuts out, then comes back in after a few seconds for a soft finale that lasts a minute and feels like it was ripped straight from Damnation. Guitar and keyboard synths cease just in time to blast right into the next track - however, this makes me think that the advance copy of the album which I got may not be 100% complete, as I'd believe that this last minute should be a part of the next song, much like the first minute of "The Apostle In Triumph" was always meant to be the final minute of "Requiem". Oh well.

"Reverie / Harlequin Forest" is a roaring track, very reminiscent of Blackwater Park in it's balance of heavy and soft movements. Again the lyrics follow a dark, occult theme - "a trail of sickness leading to me, if I am haunted then you will see." One wonders if this is a concept album like My Arms Your Hearse or Still Life. I suppose when I buy a copy and read the lyrics, I'll know for sure. Anyway, the first few minutes of this song are very proggy, with clean vocals and subtle organ work. The heavy vocals come in about three minutes along, but are still clear enough to be understood. A soft segment from Mikael and Mendez follows, then both drums and bass drop away for a solo of Mikael's vocals and guitars, that gradually brings in Per's keyboards to create an eerie, atmospheric quality. Mikael's acoustic comes back, as he begins to sing about trees (guess it fits in with the title, haha) in a deeply warm and melancholic fashion. He then gets another soft guitar segment punctuated by Lopez's fills until Peter's guitar storms into the scene again. "It's all false pretension, harlequin forest, awaiting redemption for a lifetime..." Sticking to the same melody, the song grows heavy for a while and then soft again, then ends with odd time-signatures, much like the previous song. Not as memorable as the others, but still has some excellent moments, especially in terms of vocals.

Now we get to the real quiet part of the album, "Hours Of Wealth". To say this is relaxing is an understatement. If you hated Damnation, you'll loathe this track, but then again in that case you'd probably be the kind of person who thinks Cannibal Corpse is the pinnacle of music. This is probably one of the best songs on the album, and reminds me a lot of "Weakness". It's incredibly quiet, with Mikael's voice layered to provide some beautiful effects. The music is minimalist keyboard and acoustic guitar for the most part, and the lyrics continue the band's on-again-off-again themes of solitude and suicide. "Looking through my window, I seem to recognise all the people passing by. But I'm alone, and far from home... nobody knows me." A cold, distant guitar solo winds up this heartbreaking track, which feels like a somewhat calculated prequel to "Dirge For November ".

Perhaps the most epic song on the album, and surely what will become the most crowd-pleasing due to it's catchiness, it's easy to see why "The Grand Conjuration" was the first track leaked to the internet. The main riff, which is heard throughout a large majority of the track, is brutal and certainly encourages headbanging. An incredibly cool clean vocal melody drives the verses, along with "Demon Of The Fall" style whispered, filtered backing vocals, and keyboard effects bordering on electronica. The heavy vocal sections are backed with asskicking mellotrons that give a black metal feel, pounding drum fills, and Peter's soaring, gothic melodies. The buildup at around 3:45 leads on to a heavy section with some excellent double-bass drums, and also drops in some nice keyboard interludes, before soaring to a heavy section replete with more mellotrons and a filtered death scream, which heads perhaps the heaviest section on the album in terms of both music and vocals. The albums builds up - with whispering, demonic voices - to a goddamn brutal version of the opening riff, which rolls along straight to fadeout (during which Eastern-sounding drums and chants can be briefly heard). This will be a killer ending to their live sets, and may even replace "Demon Of The Fall" as their encore song if it gets received like I expect it to be.

The album closer, and shortest song on display, is a nice little quiet piece called "Isolation Years". Basically, if you like "Hours Of Wealth", you will like this one. Quiet, acoustic, with a bit more bass guitar, and more mellotrons and more emotional singing. The final synth and acoustic guitar fadeout closes the album beautifully.

Has Opeth gotten more technical and progressive? Yes, certainly. But by no means has this compromised their heaviness. And, to reverse that statement, by no means does their heaviness (or their addition to the Roadrunner Records lineup) compromise their seriousness as artists. This is an incredible band, and to be quite frank, it's those who are too dumb to realise this that like to brand Opeth as boring or weak before going and listening to their roster of generic grindcore or pathetic mallcore acts. Opeth are progressive without being wanky, and they produce doom-death without becoming a one-trick pony. And that in itself is worth enormous praise.

Mastermind Mikael Akerfeldt combinates the quiet beauty of "Damnation" with the intelligent brutality of older Opeth death prog material, takes some new colours for the whole picture and creates a piece of art, which you can maybe compare with some of Picasso's pictures in a musical sense, only much darker. The use of mellotron in some parts are interestening specially for listeners, who miss something like that in most prog metal and recent prog rock releases. What you can also hear is, that Mr.Akerfeldt's guest appearence on Porcupine Tree's "Deadwing" gave him additional inspiration, some parts (mostly acoustic) remind on some recent PT material. Camel is also like always an important influential fountain for the band sound, the flute part in "Ghost of Perdition" for example underlines that statement. The production is simply perfect, and the pretty cover art is the crowning gimmick of a masterpiece, which ANY prog listener should discover. Opeth created their most ambitious and complete sounding record with "Ghost Reveries", so a high score is the logical result. An exciting journey created by a unique geniously band!

album rating: 9.5/10 points = 93 % on MPV scale = 5/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Marc Baum | 5/5 |

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