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Opeth - Still Life CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.30 | 1640 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Sometimes, having a bad first taste with a band can have unexpectedly delightful consequences. Take the highly revered progressive metal band Opeth. I tried to get into them through the debut ORCHID, and haven't been exactly excited about them until try number 2, STILL LIFE. I actually did set my expectations higher due to the album's reputation, but didn't quite go full-blown excited seeing how ORCHID bombed for me.

The two major differences between point A and now are that first, the production is much better. I have said that ORCHID's production was ''decent'', but this album is better to the point where I notice. This is crystal clear progressive metal production that doesn't overbear on anything (especially since there are no keyboards anywhere). Second, Mikael Akerfeldt has vastly improved his songwriting and compositional skills. There's no plodding from death riff to death riff here.

The whole album feels seamless. Transitioning among the many different themes feels so natural that any change in direction doesn't feel forced or abrupt. The dynamic levels sound just right; the first few minutes of a song might be very metal, but halfway through the song, the pacing will breathe and allow gentle acoustic passages. Many of the heavier, meatier riffs actually have sort of a bright tone to them despite the dark content. The listener, in a sense, gets the most upliftingly morose album they've ever heard in their life.

As far as band comparisons go, the big one that comes to mind for me is Camel, believe it or not. Okay, Akerfeldt did irritatingly swipe the opening of "Never Let Go" for the opening of "Benighted", but that track eventually morphs into its own serene track (still, the swipe will always bother me). Even after the fact, listen to the opening of the album again and tell me that doesn't remind you of THE SNOW GOOSE if you've heard it.

As long as the tracks are, there's rarely this sense of checking the run time to figure out how much longer the song has to go. The transitions and dynamic levels really do help the flow. It helps "The Moor" and "White Cluster" become progressive metal classics in their own regard. "The Face of Melinda" might be my choice pick due to the constant inside progression of the piece and the fact that it's (nearly) absent of death growls. Akerfeldt is better of a singer than I had initially realised, and the softer, serene moments where the instrumentation is not much more than an acoustic guitar and Akerfeldt's voice are some of the album's better moments.

Other than a lack of instantaneously memorable quotes, STILL LIFE is indeed a classic of progressive metal.

Sinusoid | 4/5 |


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