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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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Sorceress 2-disc deluxeSorceress 2-disc deluxe
Nuclear Blast America 2016
Audio CD$9.98
$12.65 (used)
Blackwater Park: Legacy EditionBlackwater Park: Legacy Edition
The End Records 2010
Audio CD$8.32
$6.11 (used)
Pale CommunionPale Communion
Roadrunner Records 2014
Audio CD$4.71
$6.02 (used)
DamnationDamnation
Import
Sony Import 2007
Audio CD$4.33
$2.41 (used)
WatershedWatershed
Roadrunner Records 2008
Audio CD$4.95
$3.96 (used)
Still LifeStill Life
Remastered · CD+DVD
PEACEVILLE 2017
Audio CD$8.99
$11.85 (used)
Ghost ReveriesGhost Reveries
HiFi Sound
Roadrunner Records 2005
Audio CD$3.98
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HeritageHeritage
Roadrunner Records 2011
Audio CD$4.90
$4.20 (used)
Deliverance & Damnation RemixedDeliverance & Damnation Remixed
Import
Imports 2015
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$27.47 (used)
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Imports 2015
Vinyl$32.35
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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 | 594 ratings
Orchid
1995
3.72 | 670 ratings
Morningrise
1996
3.92 | 698 ratings
My Arms, Your Hearse
1998
4.31 | 1479 ratings
Still Life
1999
4.25 | 1515 ratings
Blackwater Park
2001
3.76 | 852 ratings
Deliverance
2002
3.96 | 1184 ratings
Damnation
2003
4.25 | 1418 ratings
Ghost Reveries
2005
3.95 | 1083 ratings
Watershed
2008
3.82 | 1150 ratings
Heritage
2011
4.17 | 953 ratings
Pale Communion
2014
3.83 | 335 ratings
Sorceress
2016

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

4.10 | 110 ratings
Lamentations: Live at Shepherd Bush Empire 2003
2006
4.08 | 194 ratings
The Roundhouse Tapes
2007

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

4.02 | 209 ratings
Lamentations: Live at Shepherd's Bush
2003
4.08 | 149 ratings
The Roundhouse Tapes
2008
4.65 | 226 ratings
In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall
2010
4.27 | 15 ratings
Live at Enmore Theatre Sidney Australia
2011

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

4.54 | 41 ratings
Limited Edition Box Set
2006
3.98 | 64 ratings
The Candlelight Years
2008

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

4.14 | 22 ratings
Apostle in Triumph
1994
4.51 | 44 ratings
The Drapery Falls
2001
4.06 | 31 ratings
Deliverance
2002
4.67 | 42 ratings
Still Day Beneath the Sun 7''
2003
3.13 | 26 ratings
Selections From Ghost Reveries
2005
3.30 | 39 ratings
The Grand Conjuration
2005
3.05 | 22 ratings
Watershed - Radio Sampler
2008
3.71 | 43 ratings
Porcelain Heart
2008
3.63 | 44 ratings
Mellotron Heart
2008
3.71 | 60 ratings
Burden
2008
4.00 | 1 ratings
Dirge for November - Live
2010
3.00 | 1 ratings
Slither
2011
3.46 | 66 ratings
The Throat of Winter
2011
3.67 | 86 ratings
The Devil's Orchard
2011
4.67 | 3 ratings
Cusp of Eternity
2014
3.78 | 9 ratings
Sorceress
2016
5.00 | 1 ratings
Will o the Wisp
2016
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Wilde Flowers
2016

OPETH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.17 | 953 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars A vast improvement over Heritage... But still underneath their best albums.

I think the best virtue of this album is being a lot more focused, centered that their previous work. The style of more of less the same, but this time Mikael managed to compose a very much coherent and cohesive collection of songs, far from the proggy mess of Heritage. But again, if you are waiting a return to their metal albums, you will be disappointed.

The production of the album is really good, again with the mixing of Steve Wilson, and the sound of Joakim Svalberg at the keys is very similar to Per Wiberg, so it is hard to notice any difference in terms of keyboards. The rest of the band is the same since Watershed, and I have nothing to complaint. They are all great musicians.

Pale Communion starts with Eternal Rains Will Come, in a style very reminiscent to Heritage with its old fashioned keyboards. But we can hear that Mikael sings a lot better this time, far from the excesses their previous work. But sadly Cusp of Eternity bring back the horrible clear voices of Heritage, with Miakel shouting rather than singing in the attempt to break his voices in the style of Bonnie Tyler. Nevertheless, this song has great riffs and a very good instrumental section.

Moon Above, Sun Below is maybe the best song of the album, with tons of mellotron and an acoustic part which clearly reminds to Damnation. Mikael sings very well at the beginning, but soon after he screws the vocal melodies again. This way to extend the vowels in the words is artificial, ugly and typical for rookies than for experimented singers. The end of the songs is pretty good... Only circles on the water.

Elysian Woes is a beautiful acoustic song with mellotron but not really remarkable for the career of the band. Goblin is a homage to this band, beloved for the Dario Argento films and in some parts the music sound just like one of his films but a bit more jazzy. River is another highlight of the album, which opens with a good acoustic sound which reminds me to Kansas and a very good guitar solo with a blues feeling. The instrumental section is also wonderful, one of the best parts of the album.

Voice of Treason starts in a menacing and dark way with good orchestral arrangements. After that we can hear another lame vocal interpretation from Mikael, who again shouts his lyrics in a rather annoying way. The final part of the song is another instrumental tour de force in the same way of River, but not so good.

The beginning of Faith in Others could be included in a King Crimson album, and again Mikael ruins what could have been a great song. In the minute 2 starts a Savatage sounding piano melody and the song gets better with its mellotron, good choirs and another imitation of the seventies prog-rock. Mikael shouts again towards the end of the song, this time through a telephone.

Conclusion: Pale Communion is better than Heritage. No doubt about it. The songwriting is stronger and more coherent, and the singing of Mikael is also a bit better, though his way of shouting his clean vocals annoys me sometimes. The work of the rest of the musicians is flawless.

And this record also confirms that Opeth are not this outstanding and influential prog metal band anymore... Now they are just a good prog-rock band which tries to imitate the glory days of the seventies prog-rock, with just a moderate success. And that is a pity in my opinion.

Best tracks: Eternal Rains Will Come, Moon Above Sun Below and River.

My rating: ***

 Heritage by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 1150 ratings

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Heritage
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Good bye death metal, welcome boredome!

Heritage changed it all... One of the most well crafted and influential prog metal bands of the last decades suddenly left the style that made them big to derivate into an attempt to replicate the 70's prog rock sound that Akerfeldt loves so much. And they clearly succeeded in achieving this goal buty the forgot the good and catchy songwriting in the process. Where is the overall quality that this band always had? Gone!

Per Wiberg gained a lot of protagonism (and he left right after finishing the album) in the sound of the band and that also happened with the ambiental and jazzy parts too, decreasing the decibels and eliminating the growls. But the album sounds good... Well, that's not accurate. The music has a great production and mixing! Steven Wilson helped, of course. But what happened with the songs?

Heritage is a beautiful and melancholic intro wich introduces us in the album's mood effectively, leading to The Devil's Orchard, the best song of the entire record, very dynamic and with a superb guitar and keyboard work. The ending of the song is astonishing! And the vocals are also adequate here.

But the comes I Feel the Dark... Why are you shouting all the time, Mikael? Where are your mellow and soft vocals? Are you trying to be someone else or it's just my imagination? The song is to bad, but the singing is. It just doesn't fit with the mood of the song. And them comes Slither, a mediocre attempt to recreate the 80's NWOBHM style, with a Mikael trying to sound like Dio... What the hell were you thinking, guys?

Nevertheless, Nepenthe is even worse. A boring jazz oriented track with a lot of psychedelia on it but with an absolute lack of direction, apart from a great guitar solo. Häxprocess starts with almost three minutes of nothing, and at this point we are irreparably bored to death. And the slightly better final part of the song can't repair that.

And of course Famine and its eternal and boring percussion part is not better. The good instrumental work can't disguise the complete lack of inspiration this song has. Fortunitely, The Lines in my Hand and its pompous mellotron, good acoustic guitars and the typical Opeth's sound save us from cutting our wrists. One of the best tracks of the album!

Folklore is not so bad like Nepenthe or Famine, but it's also far from the band's best moments. Echoes of Damnation but again with unfitty and lame vocals. Marrow of the Earth comes as summary of this album: sad, unloved and unispired.

Conclusion: it's not the lack of death metal vocals, or the style change. The problem with Heriage ist he bad songwriting and the endless boring parts. And of course, the Mikael Akerfeldt's singing, wich is strange, loud and just lame in occassions. What happened to you? I think this man was trying to became a different musician, a different singer... And he failed miserably.

After all this years, I'm still amazed... How managed one of my favourite bands to release an album so unispired? This always be a mistery for me.

Best Tracks: Heritage, The Devil's Orchard, The lines in My Hand.

My rating: **

 Sorceress by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.83 | 335 ratings

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Sorceress
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars I still remember the impact 'Ghost Reveries' had on me when I first heard it back in 2005. It was Opeth's eighth album, but the first I had come across, and it totally blew me away. I then sought out the earlier albums and was intrigued to see how much they had changed over the years: what would that mean for the future I thought? This is their fourth album since then, and features the same line-up as 2014's, 'Pale Communion', namely Mikael Åkerfeldt (guitars, vocals), Martín Méndez (bass), Martin Axenrot (drums), Fredrik Åkesson (guitars), and Joakim Svalberg (keyboards). But, of that line-up only Mikael was a full member on 'Reveries' (Martin played on just one song), so in many ways this isn't the same band, so perhaps it isn't surprising that the band have moved in such dramatic fashion from their death metal days. But what does that mean for the fans who followed them?

I found that I kept thinking of classic Uriah Heep, but on steroids, as the guitar is that much sharper and the solos more powerful, but the way the organ keeps thing moving and repeating motifs is very much of that style. When I told someone, I was finally getting around to listening to this album, which came out in September last year, he said that he would be very interested in hearing what I thought of it. In the end, I told him that in many ways I think this is a good album, but it's not Opeth. And there's the rub, looking at the cover art does one really notice that the peacock is displaying his tail feathers on a mound of skulls? The skulls may be where they have come from, but are they now a bird with an annoying cry? Do they look good, but there is little substance and no taste?

Musically this is all over the place, but early Seventies is where it is most at home, and songs such as the acoustic "Will O The Wisp" would be more at home on a classic Jethro Tull album than Opeth. But, and it's a big but, take the word "Opeth" off the album cover then I and probably all other reviewers would be looking at this in a different light. What will fans be wanting when the band play live? Will it be the older material or this? I know what I think. This should probably have been released as a solo album by Mikael, as there is too much risk of disengaging fans who have been with the band for years. The question is, how many of them will turn up for gigs, and how many will buy the next album? I enjoyed this on a pure musical level, but it isn't what I expected at all.

 Still Life by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.31 | 1479 ratings

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Still Life
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Opeth's fourth album, 'Still Life' is for many where the band finally established their classic sound in all its glory. 'My Arms, Your Hearse' brought in two new musicians and a serious alteration in the band's music writing style: heavier, more brutal, and with a more natural inclusion of lighter parts into their now heavier songs. But Mikael Akerfeldt was deeply influenced by progressive music by this point and claims that 'Still Life' was their most progressive album up to that time.

What is interesting to note on this album is how the heavier guitar chords are very well balanced with higher tone riffs, allowing for complex riffing to coexist with the more thunderous side of the band's heavy sound. As if intentionally in complement, Mikael's death vocals also show two sides: a deep guttural bellow and a wet, back-of- the-throat, blasting roar. These two vocal styles are best heard in the chorus to 'Serenity Painted Death', where the first part is sung (or vocalized?) in the deeper voice and the second part in the higher, shredding voice. In fact, it is this song that finally made me appreciate the skill and talent behind death vocals. Previously I had likened this style of vocalizing to a demon with severe stomach troubles the night after an ungodly pasta binge and heavy drinking. Perhaps somewhat unfortunately now, all death vocalists I hear will be compared to Mikael Akerfeldt.

I'll admit that in the beginning this album was a slow grower for me when I brought it home four years ago. At first, only 'Serenity Painted Death' and 'White Cluster' stood out as memorable. But earlier this year, I this album on frequently and my brain become awakened to its overall charm. Mikael's clean vocals are stronger than they were on the previous three albums and can now create an atmosphere. The acoustic part in 'Godhead's Lament' makes me think of Jethro Tull a bit, and the use of acoustic and clean electric guitar passages in the heavier songs has really become a natural development within the song frameworks. Daring to go further than before, Opeth give us 'Benighted', an all-acoustic track plus some clean electric guitar with a smooth jazzy feel and all clean vocals. 'Face of Melinda' also spends the first four minutes delivering an easy-swaying acoustic number with light jazz-influenced percussion. The inclusion of these tracks shows that the band is not driven towards an album of brutal auditory assault like many or most of their death metal contemporaries but is instead striving for texture, mood, and melody alongside the expected aggressive music.

Looking at 11 lists ranking Opeth's albums, 'Still Life' has an average rank of 3.1, second only to 'Blackwater Park' with a 1.9 average rank. It is, in my opinion, one of the four essential Opeth albums from their progressive death metal period, along with 'Blackwater Park', 'Ghost Reveries' and "Watershed". And 'Serenity Painted Death' is one of my top 3 favourite classic Opeth period songs! I'd love to give this 4 1/2 stars but I'll settle with 4.

 Watershed by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.95 | 1083 ratings

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Watershed
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "Watershed" is a crucial turning point in the musical trajectory of Opeth. A major line-up change saw the departure of long-time guitarist Peter Lindgren (since before the debut) and drummer Martin Lopez (since the third album "My Arms, Your Hearse") and the recruitment of drummer Martin Axenrot and guitarist Fredrik Åkesson. Keyboardist Pir Wiberg who joined the band for the previous album "Ghost Reveries" remained on board.

With "Watershed", Mikael Åkerfeldt and company developed the band's two sides even further. The death metal side shows its fastest and most aggressive-sounding ever in the songs "Heir Apparent" and "The Lotus Eater". However, Opeth's progressive side, which I felt really began to broaden on "Ghost Reveries", pushes the envelope even further hear, and in fact, I feel there are hints of the album "Heritage" that would come three years later.

The album opener is the surprising all-acoustic track "Coil" which includes not only some beautiful woodwinds with the acoustic guitars but also the guest vocals of Nathalie Lorichs, the girlfriend of Martin Axenrot at the time. A lovely though curious first track, the album's real worth for me lies in the next two tracks, "Heir Apparent" and "The Lotus Eater" which, as I stated above, not only includes some of Opeth's fastest, most aggressive metal to date, but also some fabulous progressive parts that go beyond what the band has managed before. Just listen to that funky dual keyboard passage with the groovy wah-wah guitar and drumming!

"Burden" is a classic, seventies type of heavy and slow number with harmony vocals and an organ. It's almost so perfectly written that I feel it's too much like stuff I've heard many times before on much older albums. Nevertheless, it gets some pretty good ratings on Opeth song ranking sites. "Porcelain Heart" is the third killer track for me. Slow and heavy and showing more technical playing in parts, it's both haunting and brooding.

The last two tracks seem to me like the band is trying to decide where to go next. "Hessian Peel" is more like several short songs stitched together to take us on a journey that includes progressive acoustic-type music as well as heavy metal with death vocals. I might add here that Mikael's vocals sound deeper and more sinister on "Watershed" than they do on most older recordings. It took me time to warm up to this track but I can finally appreciate and enjoy it. The final track, "Hex Omega" though is a little of a disappointment. I feel it has no solid direction and even after many repeated listens, I can't keep my concentration on the song if there are any distractions. The one impression that remains is the sparseness employed in one part, which I recognize from a couple of tracks on "Heritage", except that I rather like them on that album. Here I think the album is left to close with a song that begs the question, "Where are we going now?"

So here we see an all new Opeth (two new key members) taking bold steps but still keeping their death metal sound but for the last time. As history has shown, no future albums over the subsequent ten years ever included any death metal, but instead saw the band plough full onward with their progressive rock styling.

 Orchid by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.24 | 594 ratings

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Orchid
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars So here we have the very first Opeth album, released by Candlelight Records in 1995 but recorded in the spring of 1994. By the time Opeth hit the studio, none of the founding members remained in the band, the last one, David Insberg, having left two years prior. On the current roster were a young Mikael Akerfeldt (vo/g) who was joined by Peter Lindgren (g), Anders Nordin (dr/piano), and Johan De Farfalla (bass/backing vo ) for the debut.

This album and its successor, "Morningrise", show Opeth as they never would sound again. Though labeled as death metal with some black metal aspects, Opeth were from their first platter already showing prog tendencies. The songs are mostly over ten minutes and are composed in multiple parts with tempo and meter changes, not to mention the frequent acoustic breaks. I'll admit here that my knowledge of death metal is rather sparse and lacking and so I did a bit of research, first reading the Wikipedia article on death metal and discovering that I already was familiar with its origins (which as it turns out are close to those of black metal). In the eighties I had in my cassette collection albums by Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Possessed, and it was these bands among others that inspired both the death and black metal movements. To further educate myself, I found a playlist on YouTube with 224 videos of old school death metal and I listened to the first two dozen songs. From those I conclude that early death metal was fast like trash but featured growled, or perhaps more accurately roared, guttural vocals. This matched my loose impression prior to hearing the album. When someone somewhere commented that early Opeth albums were more straightforward death metal, I imagined something like early Gorguts: fast, technical, and brutal.

The guitar sound strikes me as rather primitive for the day. Though we are talking mid-nineties here, the distortion sound, the tone, and the use of delay are similar to albums I picked up in the eighties. The one that comes to mind most readily is an EP by Ruthless. The guitars have a rawness to them and sound a bit high tone compared to the city-leveling, bombastic, full-on distortion whump! of later albums like "My Arms, Your Hearse" and "Blackwater Park". But the dual guitars play complex and melodic riffs that more than once remind me of Paul Di'Anno-era Iron Maiden. This cannot just be me because I read someone describe the guitar playing as Celtic-influenced and I have read the same appraisal about Iron Maiden.

Rather amazingly, this debut death metal album opens with a 14:10 mini-epic that introduces more than a couple of harmonized dual guitar riffs for the first 2:20 of the song before the vocals finally come in. Around the 3-minute mark the speed picks up, but with more emphasis on slower melodic riffs I feel the music is more akin to early nineties thrash bands like Sacrifice, Slayer, or Annihilator because raw speed has given way to complexity in music and song structure. The first acoustic break comes at 3:48 and get used to it because this is what the band is going to build its career on: frequent acoustic breaks in heavy songs. True to melodic form, the lead guitar parts are not wailing or shredded but exude a taste for style and feeling over volleys of notes.

Three of the next five tracks are all lengthy numbers featuring more melodic riffs, a few speedy sections, some wonderful mid-eighties early death metal heavy riffs, frequent exploitation of acoustic guitars, and some noteworthy bass guitar highlights. There are moments, especially in "The Twilight Is My Robe" when the acoustic passages become frequent to the point of redundancy, I felt at first, the uniqueness and surprise quickly wearing off. However, by the end of the song the quick binges of speedy heavy parts actually seem more like the breaks while the acoustic parts carry the weight of the song.

Throughout these tracks, Mikael's death growl is harsh and demonic, sounding like his vocal chords are being given a good shredding while the lead guitars eschew shredding altogether and stick to being melodic and emotive. There is still room for some great trad metal guitar moves in places. On the down side, the clean vocals here often sound weak as though they were deemed a necessary part of the songs but no fully adequate singer was available. Mikael would certainly perform clean vocals much better later on down the road.

There are two short instrumental pieces. "Silhouette" is a piano composition by drummer Anders Nordin. It could have been rather pretty but I feel the playing is clunky and graceless. The keys are pounded throughout and the tempo seems ready to derail at inappropriate times. "Requiem" is an acoustic guitar number with bass guitar, and despite the band's insistence on working in acoustic guitar sections into their songs, this instrumental is unremarkable.

The true highlight of the album for me is in the final track, "The Apostle in Triumph". Beginning with an upbeat acoustic piece, it sounds like something that might have been an outtake from Led Zeppelin's third album, hand drums and a restless bass guitar adding to the interest. Then bizarrely, the music fades out and for two seconds there is only silence. Another acoustic composition begins, and you might be wondering here what has happened as "Requiem" was followed by two more acoustic only bits. But "Apostle" is a mighty track of 13 minutes with some ominous guitar riffs and brutal vocals. Much more emphasis goes on the heavy music than on any other track, I presume. At 7:25 a huge surprise is dropped on our cochleae with an instrumental segment that features a guitar that sounds more like a viola. I suspect it is played by adjusting the volume dial but done with such a speed and agility that I would not be surprised to hear another technique had been employed. After the first two listens to this album, this song had cemented itself as my favourite track of the album and one of my top ten favourite Opeth tracks, at least until I acquired more albums when the list had to be expanded to a top 20.

Though Opeth would go on to release many excellent albums later on, this earnest debut, though a little rough in a few spots, establishes the band as more than just another death metal outfit. Rankings of Opeth album usually put "Blackwater Park" or "Ghost Reveries" at the top but at least one list I found has "Orchid" in the number one position.

A more straight forward death album this is not. These four young men produced quite an achievement in their early days as Opeth and set their course for progressive melodic death metal.

 Sorceress by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.83 | 335 ratings

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Sorceress
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Sometimes it's hard to determine if a review is really going to sway people anymore. With a number of bands, especially ones with established fanbases, it often seems like people's minds are set pretty quickly on a new album or project. But the real fun happens when a group has a polarizing impact on its audience; there's an odd pleasure in watching a bunch of critics fight each other on a band's quality or musical direction, preferably with some popcorn on standby. And since 2011, Opeth has been one of the most interesting bands to witness for this very reason. Their 2003 record Damnation might have been an interesting deviation from the typical progressive/death metal formula we know them for, but hey, at least Ghost Reveries and Watershed brought those elements back! Surely they wouldn't switch to a different style for good, right?

Right?

Ok, so most of us know what went down after Watershed. But, for the people who aren't aware, I'll give the rundown. Essentially, Heritage was a major switch for a band who were mostly rooted in extreme metal at this point. Sure, the progressive rock stuff was always there from the beginning, but from Heritage onward, the band decided to abandon metal altogether to create something more rooted in the golden age of progressive rock. The title of the album was pretty apt, as it seemed like a deliberate tribute to the band's 70s roots. What fans didn't expect, however, was that the band stayed on this path up until the present day. Pale Communion ended up being more of a prog throwback than its predecessor, and the band started sounding more and more like a stylistic pastiche who forgot their original musical identity. So when these elements started popping up again on the new record Sorceress, many people's minds were already set and the fanbase battlegrounds were established as usual. So what's the point of reviewing something if that's the case? Well, hear me out on this one.

Right from the get-go, Sorceress plays out like a long buffet of musical stylings. It's really fun hearing Opeth go from genre to genre on this album, as the record sees them tackle folk, progressive rock, progressive metal, jazz, 70s classic rock, classical, blues, and more. This does lead to some disjointedness from time to time, but the adventurousness of Opeth's songwriting is what anchors them here. You almost have no idea what to expect when the introductory folk number 'Persephone' sets the tone, but the following title track is much more effective at giving an overview of the experience. Technical drumming marries bizarre keyboard motifs, until a doom metal riff drives the distorted guitar playing. It's like a funeral march, but with a heightened sense of fury in Mikael Akerfeldt's mean vocal performance. Say what you will about the musical content, but I simply can't deny how strong Akerfeldt's singing is on this album. From the mid-range Ian Anderson-esque performance he gives on the light folk rock ballad 'Will O' the Wisp,' to the raspy high notes he provides on the title track and 'Chrysalis,' the man's dynamics and range have improved over time.

But these aren't the only strong points of Sorceress. Go a little deeper, and you'll find the aforementioned 'Will O' the Wisp,' a simple acoustic guitar piece that evolves into a beautifully melodic and emotive electric guitar solo. The blues tone melds perfectly with the acoustic framework, and the rhythm work is suitably subtle underneath the great melodies. 'Sorceress 2,' despite the lazy title, is also a highlight here. It's entirely driven by vocals and acoustic guitar work, and the blend of major and minor keys creates a fascinatingly unsettling piece of music. And if there's anything that this album has shown me, it's to never underestimate the versatility of Opeth's band members. Just listen to the incredible buildup and climax of 'Strange Brew' (nice Cream reference, by the way), in which Joakim Svalberg's eerie keyboards create a suspenseful vibe before anything else kicks in. The piano work keeps building and building' and the guitar work comes in briefly' and then the band just goes ***ing nuts. The playing is controlled and precise, but the discordant keyboards and Martin Axenrot's nimble drumming create sort of an organized chaos. Eventually, the track erupts into a gloriously bluesy metal section with amazing guitar solos topping it all off. The entire song is a masterpiece of atmosphere and dynamics, and the musicianship is top-notch the entire way through. This is easily the album's centerpiece.

But as one might imagine, not all is perfect here. First off, the lyrics have taken quite a huge nosedive from previous Opeth efforts. Remember those amazing stanzas the band would write in the old songs? Here's a sample from 1999's 'Godhead's Lament':

Marauder Staining the soil, midst of stillness Beloved fraternity to an end Red eyes probe the scene; All the same Stilted for the beholder Depravity from the core Handcarved death in stoneladen aisles

And now look at an excerpt from 'Will O' the Wisp':

When you're tired of waiting And time is not on your side When you're tired of hating me You no longer want to hide; Stuck to the failures of your life Marred with the sorrows of your strife

Not that simple lyrics are necessarily bad, of course, but there's a lot of cheese to sift through on Sorceress. The lyrics tend to be both cliched (especially on the title track) and corny, which is a far cry from Akerfeldt's previous work with the band. Also, as I stated, things do get disjointed once in a while. There probably could have been a better way for the band to transition from the beautiful folk of 'Will O' the Wisp,' to the abrupt metal intro of 'Chrysalis,' or from 'Persephone' to the weird groove of the title track. The album's structure seems a bit confused and unpredictable, which proves to be both a good and bad thing in the end. While it keeps the listener guessing, it also means the record struggles to find a real concrete direction to take.

Still, part of the fun with Sorceress is the variety. It's a true musical adventure, and while the derivative moments of Pale Communion rear their heads here and there, the diversity on this record is crucial to replaying it over and over again. This may not necessarily be the best Opeth album I've heard, but it's the most fun I've had with an Opeth album in a long time. Many of you may have your minds made up already, but for those on the negative side of the fence, I recommend giving the record another listen. You might just find a few gems and a few surprises lurking within this glorious mess of an album.

 Sorceress by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.83 | 335 ratings

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Sorceress
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Sorceress" is the 12th full-length studio album by Swedish progressive metal act Opeth. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in September 2016. It's the successor to "Pale Communion" from 2014 and it features the same lineup as the predecessor. Mikael 'kerfeldt (guitars, vocals), Mart'n M'ndez (bass), Martin Axenrot (drums), Fredrik 'kesson (guitars), and Joakim Svalberg (keyboards).

Stylistically "Sorceress" continues the progressive rock/folk direction from the last couple of releases, and just to get it out of the way, there is nothing on this album which is related to their progressive doom/death metal past. This is purely 70s influenced progressive rock with strong folk leanings, and the occasional nod towards 70s hard rock and jazz rock/fusion.

The material on the 11 track, 56:35 minutes long album is generally well written and relatively memorable. There's great dynamic on the album with both hard rocking louder parts, mellow melancolic folky parts, and epic moments. "Sorceress" is predominantly to the soft side though. Tracks like the title track, "The Wilde Flowers", and "Strange Brew" feature some hard rocking moments, but there are several very mellow emotive tracks featured on the album too. The predominantly instrumental "The Seventh Sojourn" is a standout track, as a result of the middle eastern influenced melody themes. The limited edition of "Sorceress" features the two studio bonus studio tracks "The Ward" and "Spring MCMLXXIV" (and a couple of live tracks) and both tracks are good quality compositions, which could easily have made it unto the standard edition of the album.

"Sorceress" is a well produced album, featuring an organic sounding production. It's a sound which suits the material well. So upon conclusion "Sorceress" is a another quality release by Opeth. To my ears it doesn't reach the heights of "Pale Communion (2014)", because the melody lines just aren't as interesting or as memorable as much of the material on that album. It doesn't sound like "Heritage (2011)" either, because it's more structured and less progressive in nature, so on the positive side Opeth have again managed to release an album with an individual identity. On the negative side there aren't that many tracks on the album which stand out as highlights. The quality is as mentioned good and there's a professional touch to both compositions, production, and musicianship, but I'm missing some musical magic here. In the end "Sorceress" sounds a bit too safe and derivative of the band's influences. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.17 | 953 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars It isn't as though this wasn't expected. Opeth had been steadily drifting away from their death metal roots for a good long while by this point, with 2003's Damnation avoiding it entirely, so it's hardly an enormous surprise that Pale Communion finds the residual metal thoroughly flushed out of Opeth's sound. In its place stands a hard-rocking tribute to the heavy psych roots of progressive music, which I'm sure is a subject that the band and Steven Wilson collectively have a whole bunch of insight into - and indeed, their take on the style is an effective update of it.

Somehow, however, the proceedings feel hollow and soulless. It's not that I'm crying for the loss of their old sound - that wasn't my cup of tea either. It's just that it feels like this album feels like it's been carefully calculated to tick all the boxes on a heavy psych-prog checklist, rather than being an artistic statement that this style of music happened to be the right medium for. It's all very clinical, controlled... and suffocated. Sorry.

 Sorceress by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.83 | 335 ratings

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Sorceress
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars. OPETH's latest was recorded in 12 days at Rockfield Studios in Wales, by far the quickest they've been in and out of the studio. I would say this is the most diverse album this band has done, a bold move. I like ProgShine's final words in his review because I was thinking the same thing "I am not sure, but I believe Opeth burned all the "fan credits" they still had with this album... bad move." As much as I applaud a band for trying to progresss or change things up, I feel a lot of stuff on here doesn't work. Yes there's some amazing music on here but like the album cover it seems to be an album of one extreme to the another. The song titles seem to pay homage to bands, album and song titles and a record label. Just knowing what a huge Prog fan Akerfeldt is I'm not surprised.

"Persephone" is mostly nylon string guitar with some female spoken words late. Hmmm. "Sorceress" caught my attention right away with those nasty keyboards as the drums pound away. Soon the guitar is helping out and we get heavy riffs after a minute as the vocals kick in. Catchy stuff. A calm around 3 minutes with outbursts of drums then the vocals return as it kicks back in like before. Another calm before 5 minutes with intricate guitar only then some filthy organ joins in. Nice. Then drums as it builds. "The Wilde Flowers" was the first song written for the album. The lyrics are pretty dark but the music is catchy. Like the previous song we get the contrasts between mellow and heavy. A rampage of sounds ends this one.

"Will O The Wisp" opens with strummed guitar and vocals. There's a real JETHRO TULL vibe with this one. I like the guitar before 3 1/2 minutes. "Chrysalis" is heavy with passionate vocals. Yes they are kicking ass and taking names right here. Some excellent organ runs after 4 minutes. It then settles down before 5 minutes with laid back vocals eventually joining in and it stays this way to the end. "Sorceress 2" is a track that Akerfeldt says reminds him of LED ZEPPELIN's "Black Mountain". Picked guitar and some atmosphere as high pitched vocals join in just before a minute. I really like the mood of this one.

"The Seventh Sojourn" was inspired by the band FAMILY and their song "Summer '67". The strings here and throughout the album are done by Will Malone who surprisingly produced the first IRON MAIDEN record. Strummed guitar and percussion before strings and a fuller sound arrive before 1 1/2 minutes. A change after 4 minutes as we get intricate guitar, piano and distant sounding vocals. "Strange Brew" is inspired by that CREAM tune. Akerfeldt was listening to "Disraeli Gears" a lot during the recording sessions to this one. He even tried to get the same guitar tone. The middle section of this song was inspired by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA. We get reserved vocals and a mellow sound to start as the piano is played slowly. Suddenly it kicks in hard as all hell breaks loose after 2 minutes. It settles as Akerfeldt cries out the vocals after 3 minutes. It kicks back in instrumentally before 4 minutes. This is heavy with some killer guitar. The vocals join in then we get a calm before 5 1/2 minutes. Again it kicks in hard. Powerful stuff before a calm ends it.

"A Fleeting Glance" like the song "Wilde Flowers" has dark lyrics but a lighter sound including harpsichord and lighter vocals. I'm not really into this until we get some depth to the sound after a minute although these sections will be contrasted. There's a surprisingly uplifting passage before 4 minutes that makes me smile. "Era" according to Mikael is a 80's heavy metal tune that's hard to play. Piano to start then it kicks in heavily after a minute. Vocals around 2 minutes. A hard rocking tune but I'm not a big fan of it except for the guitar before 5 minutes. "Persephone(Slight Return)" is a minute of piano and spoken female words. It's like the ending of "Era" really and there's a nod to Hendrix with the song title.

This new OPETH era of growl free music hit it's high for me with "Pale Communion", I'm not saying they won't reach those heights again but for me "Sorceress" is a step back even though it is a good album. There's just certain things about this record that bug me for some reason. Things that I wouldn't expect from an OPETH album. I would think traditional Prog fans will really dig this one though.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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