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OPETH

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • Sweden


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Opeth biography
Yes, some people would consider OPETH to be a pure (melodic) Death Metal band but you have to differentiate a lot. The four guys from Stockholm/Sweden feature a lot of different elements on their albums. We have the aggressive death metal with Mikael's growls (which are not generated with help of a computer, it's actually his voice) with lots of breaks, mostly acoustic including Mikael's clear voice. Mr. Åkerfeldt himself always underestimates his clear voice and often points out that he is a novice regarding this kind of singing. But that's not true, false modesty is the term here. His clear voice is warm and simply beautiful. The whole music is guitar orientated, on the one hand we have great riffing for aggressive parts, awesome melodic solos and on the other hand acoustic breaks with admirable melodies with some Scandinavian folk influences here and there and of course Mikael's clear vocals. Sometimes you even get some PINK FLOYD or PORCUPINE TREE like parts or whole songs.

Sure, the band started out as a pure Death Metal combo regarding to their first release" "Orchid" but from their second release on the prog elements got more and more. The second album "Morningrise" for example features a pure Prog song with PINK FLOYD like parts as well as epic song lengths. Mikael Åkerfeldt who also is the indispensable head of the band, often mentions that he is a proghead and mostly likes bands like CAMEL and PORCUPINE TREE. No doubt, you can hear those influences on albums like "Still Life" and "Blackwater Park" but their highlight regarding to pure Prog for sure is their 2003 release "Damnation" which features an entire album in the style of PORCUPINE TREE. Not really astonishing regarding the fact that Steven Wilson of PORCUPINE TREE is a good friend of Mikael and Peter and even worked together with the band for their double release "Damnation" and "Deliverance". Steven Wilson also produced their album "Blackwater Park" which is regarded as their best work so far, not only by death metal fans but also by many others normally disliking death metal growls (like me). "Damnation" for sure is the album most of you would be interested in because it is a pure Prog album. But Mikael said that the band will not do something similar again, he even announced the next album to be their most heavy, we will see. Sure isn't that this release opened the door to new fans and certainly displeased some of their old fans coming from the death metal origin.


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Deliverance & Damnation (2CD w/ 2DVD and Book)Deliverance & Damnation (2CD w/ 2DVD and Book)
The End Records 2016
Audio CD$23.48
$19.98 (used)
Blackwater Park: Legacy EditionBlackwater Park: Legacy Edition
The End Records 2010
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Pale CommunionPale Communion
Roadrunner Records 2014
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Damnation/DeliveranceDamnation/Deliverance
Import
Imports 2015
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DamnationDamnation
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Sony Import 2007
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Still LifeStill Life
Remastered · CD+DVD
Peaceville 2008
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Ghost ReveriesGhost Reveries
HiFi Sound
Roadrunner Records 2005
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WatershedWatershed
Roadrunner Records 2008
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DeliveranceDeliverance
Original recording
The End Records 2007
Audio CD$2.74
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HeritageHeritage
Roadrunner Records 2011
Audio CD$5.00
$3.64 (used)
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OPETH discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

OPETH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.24 | 520 ratings
Orchid
1995
3.72 | 594 ratings
Morningrise
1996
3.93 | 620 ratings
My Arms, Your Hearse
1998
4.32 | 1325 ratings
Still Life
1999
4.26 | 1361 ratings
Blackwater Park
2001
3.75 | 760 ratings
Deliverance
2002
3.95 | 1071 ratings
Damnation
2003
4.25 | 1262 ratings
Ghost Reveries
2005
3.94 | 987 ratings
Watershed
2008
3.85 | 1037 ratings
Heritage
2011
4.25 | 734 ratings
Pale Communion
2014

OPETH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.08 | 99 ratings
Lamentations: Live at Shepherd Bush Empire 2003
2006
4.08 | 180 ratings
The Roundhouse Tapes
2007

OPETH Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.02 | 194 ratings
Lamentations: Live at Shepherd's Bush
2003
4.06 | 130 ratings
The Roundhouse Tapes
2008
4.68 | 209 ratings
In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall
2010
4.55 | 11 ratings
Live at Enmore Theatre Sidney Australia
2011

OPETH Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.55 | 39 ratings
Limited Edition Box Set
2006
3.97 | 59 ratings
The Candlelight Years
2008

OPETH Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.28 | 18 ratings
Apostle in Triumph
1994
4.46 | 38 ratings
The Drapery Falls
2001
4.00 | 27 ratings
Deliverance
2002
4.69 | 36 ratings
Still Day Beneath the Sun 7''
2003
3.05 | 21 ratings
Selections From Ghost Reveries
2005
3.22 | 35 ratings
The Grand Conjuration
2005
3.00 | 19 ratings
Watershed - Radio Sampler
2008
3.73 | 37 ratings
Porcelain Heart
2008
3.63 | 37 ratings
Mellotron Heart
2008
3.71 | 53 ratings
Burden
2008
3.47 | 60 ratings
The Throat of Winter
2011
3.66 | 81 ratings
The Devil's Orchard
2011

OPETH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.25 | 734 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Nightfly
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Opeth had strayed from the path of their progressive metal back in 2003 when they released Damnation, a companion release to the much heavier Deliverance. By Ghost Reveries they were back to the heavier stuff on probably their most progressive release so far with the usual mixture of clean vocals and death metal growls. In 2011 they released Heritage, like Damnation sung with entirely clean vocals and also their mellowest album since that release. Pale Communion is the second consecutive album to ditch the growls and this time it looks like there's no going back.

Pale Communion is the album that Heritage should have been. Not a weak album by any stretch but sounded a little fragmented at times, unsure where it wanted to go. Pale Communion is also heavier but more heavy rock than metal but also has a very retro 70's prog style which is fine in my book. Where it really shines though is in the quality of the songwriting, the first three tracks in particular are truly breath taking with Mikael Akerfeldt's strongest, most melodic and confident vocals yet. The arrangements and melodies of these songs in particular are so strong played with much light and shade and Moon Above, Sun Below has a particularly haunting vibe. The rest of the album barely drops the quality even if Goblin, a nod to the Italian prog band Goblin? is a little throwaway in comparison to the illustrious company its keeping here but fun nevertheless.

Most of Opeth's albums have still been heavy enough to keep their early death metal era fans happy but with the last two I'm sure they'll have lost a few as there's no metal elements left at all as well as ditching the growl vocals. However, they'll have no doubt gained many who found their more extreme elements hard to swallow. Personally I think they got the perfect balance on Watershed but Pale Communion is still one of their best albums and I'm happy to see them continue down this road in the future if that's where they're going. 4 1/2 stars.

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 Blackwater Park by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.26 | 1361 ratings

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Blackwater Park
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

4 stars At this stage of their career, Mikael 'kerfeldt and company were a little heavier, a little harsher, a little more ensconced in the world, sounds, and stylings of metal music. As a matter of fact much of the music is not so very far removed from the metal of the 1980s. Some of the differences include: the influence of djent guitar sounds and playing styles; the different lead guitar sounds used here--they are a little more evolved from those used in the 80s; Mikael's use of death metal growls; the way the drums are recorded, and; the greater presence of the machine gun bass drum play. Also Opeth shows a tendency to the use of longer song forms with multiple style formats incorporated within each--as is put on display right from the start on "The Leper Affinity" (10:21) (8/10). The two best songs are by far and away "Harvest" (6:02) (10/10) and "Drapery Falls" (10:55) with its wonderfully memorable multi-instrument-played melody carried through to the end (10/10). The title song (12:08) is also quite a nice composition--it's performances quite powerful. (9/10) As everyone recognizes, I will here reiterate: Mr. 'kerfeldt has quite a lovely voice when he's singing in his normal voice. I am glad that he eventually moved away from this aggressive, abrasive style of music--though I recognize the talent and skill involved in creating music such as is present here.

A solid four star album from some seriously talented musicians.

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 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.25 | 734 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Ghost_of_Prog

5 stars My opinions on Opeth's recent release have changed considerably over time. As someone who got into them through albums such as Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries, the change that I saw them going through was a little too much for me. I saw Heritage as good one off album, but nothing I'd want to hear again. Then came Pale Communion and I was very disappointed, deeply missing the death metal elements that made me fall for Opeth.

However, the things about palettes and tastes is that, with proper training, they mature over time. Many bands in both the heavy metal and progressive rock community that I initially loved I don't listen to anymore. When you love something at first, you consume as much as you can, but once the taste becomes familiar, you begin to weed inferior options out. From a heavy metal perspective, Opeth still survived and as a heavy metal fan, their pre- Heritage material will always have a special place in my heart. But what about from a progressive rock standpoint? I gave this album a listening to again about a year later, and I realized how unfair I was towards it.

I deeply respect Mikael Akerfeldt as a musician, and I can sympathize with him that he was tired of doing heavy metal and wanted to do something different. His love of seventies music is seen all throughout the album and the death metal elements are fading away. There are barely any "death metal" guitars and no death growls. I know some are disappointed by that, but I've always been surprised of how beautiful Akerfeldt's normal singing voice is and that is the only voice used on this album.

Because of this, Pale Communion is Opeth's most accessible work, even though I know that in both the metal and prog communities, that might as well be the genre's red letter. But I feel like it works for Opeth's benefit here. Many people I have introduced Opeth to enjoy it to an extent until Akerfeldt's death growls come in, and while I believe he's one of the few that can actually do those growls very well, I can understand why people would be turned off by them. This album allows people who would normally be turned off by the extreme metal aspects of Opeth to see just how talented Akerfeldt and his team are.

Eternal Rains Will Come and Cusp of Eternity seem to be the two most popular songs on the album and for good reason. They both feature strong vocals, strong songwriting, and that perfect mixture of the heavy 70's prog and Opeth's unique style. However, there are two songs I feel the need to comment on. The first is Goblin, the album's instrumental and a direct reference to seventies music. It's catchy and ethereal, something that I have never seen Opeth produce. The second is the album's finale, Faith in Others, a simply beautiful song that sounds like the perfect marriage of their albums Damnation and Watershed, which really, is the style of the entire album. It reminded of the two immensely, especially the latter is it was cleaned up a bit.

While it's not a perfect album, I feel like I can in good conscience give it an essential rating. It is essential because it shows a well known musician exploring a different style and pulling it off well. The only other band I can think of in the past who pulled that off successfully was King Crimson with Discipline. Now speaking to those on the heavy metal side of the spectrum, yes, the old Opeth will be missed dearly, but judge the album on it's own merits and not on the band's past output. I say this because certain album's that I have dismissed outright I ended up enjoying based on their own quality and merits rather than what I thought the band should be or should do (Deep Purple's Purpendicular for example, but that's another story for another day).

Five stars easily. Stands side by side with Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries as Opeth's best.

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 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.25 | 734 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I had very complimentary things to say about Opeth's previous album Heritage; in fact, I think I said that it is pretty much my favorite of this band's many excellent works.

That is, until I let the lush, emotive, dark, nuanced, and all together captivating experience of Pale Communion sink in.

I'm going to just say it: this is probably the best Opeth album to date, and for a band with a constant string of prog highlights over the past 15 years, that's saying something. Pale Communion shows the band topping themselves once again with what is their most textured, subtle, and beautiful album yet. The moments of song writing class and instrumental virtuosity here are beyond count, from the heavy opening and aggressive playing of the opening track, the sweeping drama and myriad tempo and tonal changes of the epic "Moon Above, Sun Below," to the final melancholy sustains of the closing "Faith in Others". Songs are intense and mellow and soaring and delicate and cryptic and poetic and memorable all at once.

The band plays incomparably well, especially the rhythm section; bassist Mendez gives what may be host most interesting and melodic performance yet. Svalberg's mellotron and keyboards are achingly well utilized, giving the album a very classic prog sound without sacrificing the dark and brooding tone of the band. Akerfeldt's vocals are simply smashing, perhaps his best yet, especially during the moments of crescendo that punctuates the poetic melancholy of the lyrics. Simply outstanding playing from each member. They've created an exciting, engaging, and brilliantly executed record.

Pale Communion shows Opeth drifting more and more from the death-metal harshness of their early releases, yet not the spark of energy that helped make those albums so great. Maybe the growls and electric devastation will return in subsequent works, but I am very happy that they've taken this direction recently; it's created genuinely excellent musical experiences, with Pale Communion being what may be impossible to top. Not to be missed!

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

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 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.25 | 734 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by yair010390

3 stars For me, what is missing is the jump the band in some of their songs were announcing. In the parts when the rhythm and melody are soft and slow, the obscure melancholic background is great. The problem, I believe, is that it left you with empty hands. I mean, it is like if the song were promising something that never arrive. Thats why after a while I got bored hearing the same tune over and over again. Some parts where interesting, I really enjoy hearing that creative moments particullary with the guitar and drums. But it do not last to much when it turned again to the same melody.

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 Damnation by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.95 | 1071 ratings

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Damnation
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by VianaProghead

4 stars Review Nº 33

First of all, I must explain how I met Opeth. A couple of years, my eldest son told me about this band, and he said to me that they are a very good heavy metal band. He and one of his best friends really love the group, and they listened to their music very often. So, I must confess that I became very curious about them. As I didn't know if they were a progressive group, I decided to take a look on Progarchives. In reality, I confirmed that Opeth was a progressive metal band, but I stayed suspicious, when I read that they have a strong influence of death metal and that their vocalist often uses death metal growls, when he sings. Sincerely, I don't like really of death metal and usually I don't like growls. Probably, somehow, I'm an out of fashion guy. I belong to those who think that a real vocalist must sing. However, as my son likes the band, I ordered few albums to my usual supplier. If I didn't like them, they would be for him.

One of their albums received by me was their seventh studio album "Damnation" released in 2003. As I had already read, it's the band's most accessible work and hasn't any kind of growls. So, I decided to start my introduction to their music, beginning to listen to this album. Sincerely, I must confess that I was very surprised when I listened to the album for the first time. "Damnation" is the most radical departure from Opeth's musical career, until then. It's the first album that explores the group's non heavy metal sound, it's almost completely devoid of any metal trappings, and it's almost focused on acoustic instruments and traditional song writing. By the other hand, the vocalist didn't use any death metal growls, and surprisingly, he has an excellent and beautiful clear voice. So, "Damnation" was for me a very nice surprise. It's a totally different kind of work of the group, full of beautiful ballads and melodic songs and has a very peaceful musical atmosphere. But, as I said before, this is an atypical musical work of the group, until then.

"Damnation" was again produced by Steven Wilson, the mastermind of Porcupine Tree, who also contributed playing and singing on the album, beyond co-write the song "Death Whispered A Lullaby". All the other songs were written by Mikael Akerfeldt, the mastermind, front man and the main composer of Opeth.

The line up on "Damnation" is Mikael Akerfeldt (vocals and guitars), Peter Lindgren (Guitar), Martin Mendez (bass guitar) and Martin Lopez (drums and percussion). As I wrote before, it has also the cooperation of Steven Wilson (backing vocals, keyboards, electric piano, piano and mellotron), as a guest musician.

"Damnation" has eight tracks. The first track "Windowpane" is the lengthiest track on the album. It's a very tasteful song, a beautiful and creative composition, with a pleasant guitar backed by the sound of the mellotron. The second track "In My Time Of Need" is a very beautiful ballad, with some of the best lyrics on the album, and the mellotron continuous sounding on the back. The third track "Death Whispered A Lullaby" is another nice composition, and is most notable for its vocal harmonies and the fairly aggressive guitar solos, on some parts of the song. The fourth track "Closure" is a song with some really nice guitar work, and is probably one of the strongest songs on the album. It oscillates between the calm and aggressive parts, during all over the theme. The fifth track "Hope Leaves" is another beautiful and very calm ballad, probably the most beautiful on the entire album. It has some pretty good lyrics too. The sixth track "To Ride The Disease" is another song full of mellotron on the back, which reminds me King Crimson. This is one of the best songs on the album, with simple vocals, a strong melody and it has a good guitar work, too. The seventh track "Ending Credits" is a very pretty and romantic instrumental track. It sounds very much like an Andy Latimer's song composed by Camel. This is also another very beautiful song. This isn't properly a great surprise, since Akerfeldt always had sustained that he likes very much of Camel, and Latimer is one of his musical influences. What better propaganda can a group have, when it's done by someone you aren't expecting? The last track "Weakness" is the softest song on the album, and ironically because its name, it represents perhaps, the album's weakness. I don't mean that this is a bad song, but in my humble opinion, it's a little bit out of the general quality of the album.

Conclusion: "Damnation" is a very special Opeth's album and represents, at the time, an exception into their musical career. It's one of the most beautiful albums made by the group. This is really a very good and enjoyable album. If you don't know Opeth yet, and like me, you dislike death metal growls, you must listen and buy "Damnation". In the first place, it's a very beautiful album and the most accessible of the group. In the second place, may be you start to be attracted by the band and you start to love the group, like me. So, "Damnation" may be your starting point with Opeth, and the beginning of a great love between you and them. Opeth is undoubtedly one of the best groups in our days.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Ghost Reveries by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.25 | 1262 ratings

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Ghost Reveries
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Insin

5 stars Ghost Reveries turned ten years old recently, and it holds up as a unique experience and a masterpiece of progressive metal. An expansion upon the trademark sound presented in Blackwater Park, Opeth bring in new influences, hire a keyboardist, and step up their songwriting game. The result is a rather eclectic, atmospherically dark, and intense album ' intense in the ways of technicality, intense in composition without sounding cluttered, intense in experimentation, intense in energy, and above all, intense in ambition.

Initially intended to be another concept album, Ghost Reveries has something to do with a man who kills his mother, and Satan is involved because gotta love those metal stereotypes. The idea wasn't fully carried through with, resulting in the 'concept' being no more than the repetition of a few words and phrases scattered throughout the songs (e.g. 'the hounds' and 'the mire' are repeated often during GR). Either way, the common words and lyrical themes create a unifying effect, helping to hold together an album that is already quite cohesive.

More importantly, the instrumentation is fantastic, Akerfeldt's vocals a classic mix between clean singing and growls; neither of them have downhill after fifteen years. Martin Lopez's versatile drumming never ceases to amaze as he works in excellent fills, rapid double bass, and engaging, original beats. The inclusion of ethnic drums in the album's middle songs signifies just another influence in this incredibly diverse album. Ghost Reveries is teeming with great riffs, from the slow, soothing bass groove of Atonement, to the vicious, heavy assaults found during brief straight-up death metal portions of the longer songs, and The Grand Conjuration's plain evil main riff. The keyboards add a new dimension to Opeth's sound and provide more options for the band, notably that weird but catchy, enjoyable riff at the beginning of Beneath the Mire. The guitar solos are well-performed, technical, and impressive, though they tend to slide under the radar, not being the focal points of the songs.

The main appeal of Ghost Reveries is of course the songwriting. The five long/heavy songs rely not only the previously established interplay between death metal and acoustic passages, but span the gap between the two, while including other influences as well. The soft parts don't always revert to acoustic guitars as done on previous albums; often they simply drop to quieter volumes, with some even containing hints of jazz. Songs such as the first two tracks are wildly unpredictable as Opeth fit more changes and variety into songs of ten minutes. Baying of the Hounds starts heavy, goes down, comes back up, enters an acoustic break, and then ends heavy, and I won't even try to describe the structure of Ghost of Perdition. The transitions are seamless and come so often that the songs never get boring. Though a few of these songs seem anticlimactic (specifically Beneath the Mire and Harlequin Forest), it truly is in the journey, not the destination, and the dramatic, heavy Grand Conjuration provides enough of a peak to close the album (with Isolation Years akin to a short coda).

The soft songs on this album may not be as well-loved as others the band has written, though they fit on the album better. Atonement is a good track, providing a much-needed break for calmness following the heavy first three songs. The haunting chorus riff and beautiful piano solo simply make the song. Isolation Years is a mournful, ballad, and even the album's weakest offering, Hours of Wealth, has a gorgeous beginning and is very much emotionally charged.

Opeth's songwriting and instrumentation peaked here. Ghost Reveries is flawless.

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 Heritage by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.85 | 1037 ratings

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Heritage
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This review was a long time coming for me. In part because the largely instrumental Heritage is among Opeth's most intricately nuanced and complex albums to date, so it simply took a long time for it to sink in. Secondly, it is probably one of the most magnificently artistic, elegant, musical, and engrossing albums I've heard in a long time... so I've just been having a ton of fun listening to it many, many times!

Heritage is an amazing release by an already amazing group, known for their straddling of genres and impeccable compositions. Opeth is at their most consummate professionalism with this release, abandoning their (excellent) death- metal styling in favor of a rich, emotional, and intense experience that falls much closer to a classic prog sound than any of their previous work. It's still aggressive and energetic, and heavy, but not a metal album. It's like a straddling of prog-folk and heavy prog, without much in the way of amplification. This gives it a unique tone that sits very well alongside the traditions of classic prog.

From the opening track's gorgeous, melancholy atmosphere - featuring fast-paced guitars, drumming, and dark sense of beauty - the listener is in for a treat. The songwriting is amazing, dense with variety and class, while the band's performance is achingly good. From the dynamic and ambitious drumming of Axenrot, to the fuzzy bass riffing of Mendez, and the lush mellotrons and keyboards of Wiberg, and of course the warm, melancholy sound of Akerfelt's guitar and voice - everything is just right. In fact, this is probably some of Akerfelt's best vocals; all clean, all powerful. Heritage is amazing at creating moods, dark, bleak, torpid, and frenetic. The end result is a wonderful example of what can happen when all the pieces a great band is known come together in just the right combination.

Heritage will doubtless appeal to Opeth fans who explore Prog Archives, and are willing to hear music from the group that doesn't have growling, and will probably be the album to convert those who shied away from the group BECAUSE of the growls. This album has all of the intensity, and more of the art, of other Opeth albums, and probably of many of the band's peers. Heritage is an amazing, dark, elegant experience. It may take a few listens to get there, but it reveals itself in short order as an excellent addition to any prog lovers library. Highly recommended.

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 5 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

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 Heritage by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.85 | 1037 ratings

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Heritage
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On September 14th, 2011, Opeth brought forth the unexpected. Once a group supposedly impervious to criticism and showered with praise from critics and fans alike, their tenth effort Heritage displayed to us all that even the most sacred of musical cows could be brought down to size. It's not like a more subdued style wasn't tried before by the band, judging by the even-softer Damnation back in 2003 - what caused the backlash here? In fact, Heritage has much stronger roots in classic progressive rock, each song sounding as if it's a tribute to Mikael's past influences - hence the album title. Each song exudes either classic 70s progressive rock, folk, jazz fusion, metal, or a combination of any (or all) of these influences to create a more satisfying and diverse package than a number of the band's previous efforts, each song an interesting experiment in the band's fresh new direction. The lone piano of the intro tune is an immediate sign of Opeth's change in pace, but "The Devil's Orchard" comes out of the gate with its toned-down guitar distortion and precise rhythms of drummer Martin Axenrot - and that's where you start to notice the serious changes in style.

The band aren't letting their musical fury loose with any massive death metal segments on this record (or perhaps anymore, given the sound of the new release Pale Communion), instead preferring more balanced and natural dynamic variations within each piece. One of the common complaints given to Heritage is that things tend to "blend together" after a while, but this is ironically one of its greatest assets. Gone are the abrupt changes in tempo and volume to slide each musical "block" into its compositional slot, each song instead balancing its changes more fluidly. "I Feel the Dark" eventually reaches a climactic flourish of heavy guitars and keyboard chords, but it has an entire quiet acoustic guitar portion to build up to this moment. Either this, or the songs are simply consistent with their moods and styles. Closer "Marrow of the Earth" is just fantastic in the way it concludes things in such a melancholic fashion, the sparsely adorned instrumental folk ballad serving as a reflection of all that was heard on the record prior to it. Or there's "Slither" which garners the title of being the heaviest and most straightforward effort here, much of the guitar riffing and drum work resembling classic speed metal. While the more long-winded tracks tend to lose their way or end up being slightly boring (I'm looking at you, "Famine"), they don't detract a whole lot from what's on Heritage. When you're walking along a sunny road and suddenly it snows out of nowhere, what do you do: adapt with the weather change or give in to your struggle with the elements? Opeth, musically speaking, were presented with a similar scenario with Heritage. Do they take the progressive elements of Watershed and reconstruct those influences into something really different, or do they continue making the same progressive death metal that has served them well over the years and give in to what the metal-oriented fans want? Thankfully, Opeth adapted to the stylistic changes featured in Watershed and took them to a new level of adventurousness with Heritage. If you didn't like it the first time around, I implore you to try it again... it takes a while to unravel, but ends up being one of modern progressive rock's more rewarding gems.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

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 Deliverance by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.75 | 760 ratings

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Deliverance
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

2 stars It's fair to say that some bands are better within their comfort zone than others; from the moment Opeth's debut Orchid came out, their goal has presumably been to bring 70s progressive rock and folk-oriented beauty to the normally extreme nature of death metal. Whereas bands like Tristania and Within Temptation would use the "Beauty and the Beast" approach to contrasting vocal dynamics/styles, Opeth essentially brought this concept to their instrumentation. In one song alone, you could get a fast death metal riff, a soothing acoustic segment, some light jazz touches here and there in the soloing, the occasional classical detour, some occasional black metal screams (mainly in their early work), the list goes on. Well, around the time the band's fourth effort Still Life came out and had a more polished sound, it felt as though we were entering a new chapter in their career. While Blackwater Park was a more than solid successor to Still Life, sadly the following two efforts weren't.

Deliverance and Damnation were released to showcase the band's heavy side and light side, respectively. While Deliverance has a few songs similar to Damnation, its main focus is on heavy distorted riffing and an emphasis on Mikael Akerfeldt's inhuman growling. Damnation, on the other hand, was more focused on mellotron-laden 70s progressive rock with a strong emphasis on its melancholic atmosphere. While both albums are terribly flawed, Deliverance seems to be the weaker effort in the long run; why? Well, to get straight to the point, the album is split into two halves. One of them is great; the other one's awful. It's one of the very few albums I've ever heard where it's literally split down the middle in terms of quality, and it makes for an extremely frustrating and ultimately average experience.

The first half is where things really shine; here, we have "Wreath," the title track, and "A Fair Judgement." Every song here exceeds the ten-minute mark, some more deserving of a long length than others. "Wreath" is probably the song that suffers the most from length here, but at least there's enough to keep you on your toes. The beginning riff is definitely an odd way to open up an album for starters; while it has that 12/8 time signature Opeth is obsessed with, the drums are a bit off-kilter when combined with the guitar work. They constantly switch between a weird rhythm with off-beat snare drum placements and the typical swinging rhythm Opeth normally utilize. Anyway, while the beginning sounds quite intimidating, the song quickly goes into a melancholic set of melodic guitar patterns. Unfortunately, this part does go on for a bit too long and even the solos aren't really interesting enough to justify each set of chord changes. Luckily, a pretty nifty speed metal section (!) picks up the pace with a guitar solo that almost sounds middle-eastern in execution. Anyway, the song's flawed but definitely great. The reason so much of this writing was spent on "Wreath" is that the rest of the album is quite similar in style, for better or for worse. The only deviations from this are the more subdued piano-driven "A Fair Judgement" and the interlude "For Absent Friends." The title track, however, is the best example of the Opeth formula done well on this album. With a nice mix between wonderfully dissonant guitar patterns, sorrowful acoustic guitar picking at choice moments, and a healthy amount of tempo changes to spice things up, this song pretty marks the direction the overall album should have taken. The song also showcases Akerfeldt's clean vocals more, since the folkier moments almost always call for them; that's always a plus. The main riff sounds deliciously evil, switching between dissonant guitar melodies in different keys to create a dark and eerie mood. "A Fair Judgement" is the curveball of the album when you get down to it, trading in the growls and overall brutality for a beautiful piano ballad. While it does get louder later on, as power ballads go, the song keeps focus until the very end. Similar to Damnation, this song maintains a consistently sorrowful atmosphere as the cleanly-spaced piano chords are constantly ascending and descending between two keys to create "peaks and valleys" mood-wise. The overall piece is just as well composed as the two that came before it, and serves as a nice conclusion to Side 1.

Unfortunately, here's where the real [&*!#] begins. "For Absent Friends," "Master's Apprentices," and "By the Pain I See in Others" are the songs on the second side, and absolutely kill what the album might have been going for. "For Absent Friends," while refreshingly short, doesn't really have a purpose on the album other than being an average interlude. The continuation of the soft ballad-esque ideas from "A Fair Judgement" is nice, though. However, I can't even begin to describe how awful "Master's Apprentices" is. Not only does it just plod and plod and plod, but nothing about it leaves any impression whatsoever. It doesn't have nearly as much atmosphere as the title track, not nearly as much tempo variation as "Wreath," and certainly not nearly as much interest in dynamics as "A Fair Judgement" did. Most of the heavier portion of the song consists of multiple variations on its already-dull main riff, and the band members sound like they're simply going through the motions as there are never any instrumental surprises. The clean vocals around the 4-minute mark at least offer something different from the monotony, but that more-melodic section's very short-lived. As with many of their songs, the middle contains a folkier segment to lighten up the distortion, but it sounds like it could have been switched out with any other acoustic segment Opeth have performed. There's nothing really noteworthy except for some ambient guitar effects that arch over the acoustic strumming. The entire song is just plain horrendous, and it's baffling to me that it's still so acclaimed by the band's fanbase. "By the Pain I See in Others" isn't much better either, as it could have ended around the four-minute mark. Admittedly, the song doesn't start badly at all; in fact, the melodic line kicking it off sounds very inspired and suitably dark. The verses are a little odd, with distorted growling combined with soft acoustic guitar work, and the "choruses" (if you can call them that) are thunderous and almost akin to speed metal with the tempo they shift to. On top of this, the breakdown that follows is absolutely crushing, combining double bass and fast guitar picking with that speed metal-esque tempo mentioned before. However, this is where the song should have ended. The rest of the song is, for lack of a better way to say it, really damn boring. It rehashes all of the ideas from the previous songs and plods at the same time signature throughout. The soft moments are predictable and the heavy moments are extremely repetitive after being constantly thrown in your face.

It's a shame because this could have been one of Opeth's greatest albums. Unfortunately, this goes down as Opeth's worst effort because the second half brings it down completely. Even worse, Damnation isn't much better than this either; it would take the follow-up Ghost Reveries to get the band back on track before it was too late. As for this album, it's completely average; just download the first half and forget about the rest of it.

(Originally published for Sputnikmusic)

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