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Opeth - Orchid CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.24 | 610 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars For those only familiar with what Opeth would release from My Arms, Your Hearse forward, the first two albums from these progressive death metal juggernauts should come as a bit of a shock. Orchid is the debut album from these Swedish lads, and instead of hearing the trademark mix of seventies' progressive rock and death metal that made them famous, this observation instead shows the band in their musical infancy - while not an immature or unfocused effort by any means, Orchid shows Opeth without the precision and sense of direction that characterized their future masterpieces. This album has more of a black metal influence than any future Opeth albums, and the leanings into jazz and progressive rock territory aren't found too frequently here. While the extremely long compositions are somewhat progressive by nature, most of Orchid's progressive qualities are due to its blend of melodic black metal, death metal, doom metal, and folk music, which (at the time) was quite unique. This is probably my least favorite Opeth album, but it's a very solid entrance into the scene nonetheless.

Aside from two short instrumentals, all of the songs on Orchid are well over nine minutes long; you could definitely say that this is a tough nut to crack if you don't give it your full and undivided attention. I've been listening to this album on and off for quite a bit of time, though, so I have given it plenty of time to grow over the past two years or so. Even though Orchid has a few flaws which I will address shortly, I do have a pretty great time whenever I take it out for a spin - while they aren't particularly concise or cohesive, it's clear that ┼kerfeldt and company had plenty of great ideas on this debut, even if the compositions tend to be a bit too sporadic for my tastes. Most of the musical fragments that make up Orchid are individually spectacular, but the transitions between sections are something Opeth would perfect over the course of the next few albums. For songs this long, most of them seem to lack any sort of unifying theme or cohesive structure to latch onto. Most of them kind of just 'happen', and while I do enjoy listening to the album a great deal, it lacks the dynamic power and compositional prowess that makes Opeth such a terrific band. There are notable exceptions ("The Twilight Is My Robe" is one that comes to mind), but the transitions tend to make this a somewhat incoherent release, especially from a band who would later on compose some of the finest musical masterpieces ever penned.

Though Opeth could've still improved as composers at this point in time, they were very accomplished musicians from day one. The fantastic use of acoustic guitars, fast paced metal sections, and melancholic folky parts shows the diversity and talent of these young musicians, and the guitar section has always impressed me here. The twin lead solos are truly spectacular, and I think that (although Opeth would later endure many lineup changes) they were well-rounded players from the very beginning. Unfortunately, the production (courtesy of none other than the legendary Dan Swan÷) could have used a bit of work - though the man is undoubtedly a spectacular producer, the sound on Orchid is a bit thin and powerless. Everything's certainly audible, but it doesn't pack any sort of dynamic punch that I would've liked to see.

While I am a bit dissatisfied by the production and generally weak transitions on Orchid, this is still a promising and rather impressive debut from Opeth. Many better things were to come, but it is here that the band began to plant the seed for their unique brand of progressive melodic death metal. And, while the sections joining these sections could've been more fluid, there are still plenty of memorable moments throughout Orchid. This is probably the last Opeth album I'd recommend purchasing, but that's not saying much when you have a discography as spectacular as theirs. 3.5 stars are deserved for this promising and original debut.

J-Man | 3/5 |


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