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Direct Link To This Post Topic: OG's Blog - Black Rose Immortal : An Analysis
    Posted: December 24 2006 at 00:50

Black Rose Immortal : An Analysis


I plan on doing some “insider information” articles that I wouldn’t normally put in a review that I hope will benefit the community. I might consider putting these in my reviews later, but for now I want to see how they will fair here. For now it will just be OG’s Blog. I was going to wait till the New Year to start, but I’m in a good mood so now it’s just a Christmas present.

 

More so than any song, I believe Black Rose Immortal from Opeth’s Morningrise shows the scope and presence of the prog metal genre. At 20 minutes in length, it certainly has the longevity to compete with other famous prog epics. I don’t even consider it the best piece on the album, but by far the most important, and that’s part of the reason I have rated this album so well in my review. But what makes this song so important? What makes it the defining piece of a genre?

 

For one, we are sent through a gamut of emotions. In no other song am I sent through such a range of feelings. We go from hate, to desperation, to pain, to pride and triumph, to fear, to love, to passion, all over the course of one song. It is a rare that a song has all of these qualities, much less 2 or 3 of them. But Opeth is not pretentious about any of this, perhaps the greatest quality they and more specifically Akerfeldt has is his songwriting ability. Too many times you will see band’s pursue long epic style tracks with an attitude to them that would suggest that you shouldn’t listen to this in the first place, because we (the band) are better than you. Not here. Black Rose Immortal does not cheat its listeners. It is a story with gripping poetry.

 

The Beginning (0-4:04)

 

The song starts with the most famous riff line in Opeth’s catalog, the one they use in many, probably 20 of their songs, which has always been the one common denominator in the band’s history. It is the most misunderstood aspect of the band, because this is where the growling vocals are prominent. People hear the vocals and instinctively think “hateful, dark music” when it is anything but. Block out the vocals and listen again. The music is not depressing. It is uplifting. The guitar riff pattern is upbeat, triumphant even. The pattern is an 8th note, followed by running 16th notes, in repetition of usually 4 or 8 bars. This is a triumphant riff that Opeth has used time and time again in countless other songs, almost exclusively with death vocals.  The mixed death vocals with this heavy, uplifting style has probably caused more confusion among listeners than any other pattern in music I am aware of.

 

From this, we are lead into a slow, celtic style riff which ebbs and flows with the dual guitars creating a nice harmony from the previous dissonance. Then we are lead into an acoustic modification of this. This is a part easy to like on first listen. It is a folksy styled section that highlights the acoustic aspects of the band. The acoustic guitar work is one of the other defining parts of Opeth. They have never been particularly technical or mind-blowing virtuosos, but have always been tasteful and keen on song structure, as can be heard here. It’s a wonderful transition into the next chapter of the song.

 

We are led to a medieval styled riff with some excellent backing bass work and more dual guitar melodies, really the highlight of Opeth’s early work. From this we head to the section that will perhaps turn off most listeners. The song heads to a black metal direction, with tremolo picked guitars but with the pattern of the traditional Opeth riff structure which I described earlier. Akerfeldt lets out a roar (literally) that highlights his growling abilities and manages to show the pain and suffering of the character in the story.

 

The Waters (4:05-7:26)

 

We reach a muddy acoustic section that is reflective and emits a certain gloom. The entire passage brims with tension from the eerie water background to the build up of the electric delays. We are ready for a sonic explosion. Again the dual guitars come in with a simple but well placed riff. What’s interesting to note here is how calm the drums are and there affect on the music. Unlike what might be common for a double bass drum passage with the heavy guitars, the drums are quite pleasant which enables the next transition to occur much more fluidly. There is a brief but engaging recapture point, in case one might have been too indulged or too put off by the heavy section, where the acoustic comes back in play and the word “whisper” adds additional effect to the brief transition in the piece. We return to the layered dual guitars in a classic Gothenburg style sound. This sound is built upon extensively until we come to the solo section.

 

The Solo (7:27-8:55)

 

In what can only be called a rarity, this is one of the very few expanded Opeth solos. The band usually does not opt for guitar soloing, but with a song of 20 minutes in length it’s difficult to get away without one. The drums are intriguing at first, yet get cold during the middle of the soloing, a mark off here. There is a running type back and forth at the start, followed by a brief drum fill, and then the arpeggio section begins. This is some of the most complex soloing the band has ever done, as they usually stray from this approach. This section is take it as you see/hear it. I really wished something less conventional would have been done here.

 

The Amaranth Symbol (8:56-14:47)

 

Pure Beauty. Not enough words can describe how I feel when I come to this section of the song. Every part is perfect. I’ve never heard music and experienced songwriting this amazing in anything else they or any other band has done. If you don’t listen to any other section of this song, listen to this one. It acts almost as an entirely separate song in itself. If you think Opeth is merely death metal, I urge you to listen closely here, you will find beauty and depth that is often sought for but rarely found.

 

We begin with just a voice, Akerfeldt singing clearly, emotionally, as if a soul scarred. It’s nearly tearful. Then with the lines, “and the rising sun”, we have a sense of hope, and we are greeted with a most pleasant of sounds, with a folksy, near mythic riff that speaks to the soul. From there, we head to a dual acoustic showcase. Drums build to add tension to the music. They rise until they are incorporated into the music with the bass. Clear, ethereal vocals begin again in a wonderfully poetic passage. By now I am overwhelmed with emotion, and I have yet to reach my favorite part.

 

Silence overcomes us once again, and we are presented with just an acoustic guitar. The music is even more uplifting, epic like in its presence. Another acoustic comes in to create contrast and the music reaches a certain height and then, silence again. Now the music is fuller and we have electric tonal power. We have the Epic Riff again, this time with full band and electric guitar effect, and gripping death vocals that are nothing like death vocals. They are moving, graceful, and speak of despair while at the same time one can not help but feel a presence of hope.

 

Lullaby of the crescent moon

Took you

Mesmerized, kaleidoscopic face

 

After this passage the Gothenburg dual guitars returns, incorporating itself in the mix with ease, then transitioning smoothly to the next section or Epic Riff Part 2. Though much briefer, it is extremely important for the vocal part and the ensuing riff, The Riff of Ages.

 

The Riff of Ages. The eternal riff. The riff of dreams. My favorite section of the entire song. Collisions of sonic ecstasy occur in the most sublime riff ears have heard. So much emotion is packed into this one section that I am often at awe at to how it was created in the first place. The guitars exude a walking arpeggio on the low end combined with a prideful march. It glides with an ease and passion that only magnifies the beauty of the lyrics in perhaps the most poetic lines the band ever wrote.

 

I have kept it

The amaranth symbol

Hidden inside the golden shrine

Until – we rejoice –

In the meadow, of the end

When we both, walk the shadow

It will set ablaze, and vanish

 

Black Rose Immortal

 

The final lines are spoken after a shift back to the single acoustic guitar, which repeats the Riff of Ages one last time. Then the words “Black Rose Immortal” are uttered, which breaks us from the previous gripping section. Followed is one last acoustic arpeggiated chord, and a glorious section of music is completed.

 

A Somber Escape (14:48-17:24)

 

An acoustic guitar in mourning guides us as if on a cloudy day in graveyard. Indeed, throughout much of this song the parts people would refer to as dark or gloomy are the acoustic passages which help give the work an easing flow and transition. Bass presence here towards the end is the highlight of Johan de Farfalla’s career. It’s simple, artistic, and coincides perfectly with the mood the song is establishing. The simple flowing drums lets the acerbic arpeggiated guitar chords really ring through and give it accent.

 

We are led to maybe my least favorite aspect of the song, the second solo section, which is really the song’s only major blemish. It kills the mood that had been set and makes the really powerful finish seem to go in staggering somewhat. This section might have been placed more at the beginning as it fits the mood and atmosphere there much better than it does here at the close, which I have always attributed to being more subtle, the most emotional, and near dream-like in its quality.  

 

At Night, I Always Dream of You (17:25-20:14)

 

Sorrow and anguish reach their peak here, in the most painful section of the story for our main character. If anything about this song is “dark” it is this section, with one of the most chilling of endings to any song. We have an acoustic guitar playing an arpeggiated chord pattern in repetition in order to create an eerie and tense mood. A slow and prodding drum section, along with Akerfeldt’s clean vocals add to this effect. Afterwards, an e-bow effect on the electric guitar is introduced. Akerfeldt lets out a roar of pain, which to me signifies the loss of his loved one (which would go in hand with the last lines of the song, “At night I always dream of you”). It’s literally creepy, because as in any good movie or book, at the end you are left uncertain as to what will happen next. Will there be revenge? A suicide? Exile? It’s really anyone’s guess.

 

We close with a sliding guitar that to me feels like a darker version of some of Gilmour’s fine “moody” atmospheres he so carefully crafted. The sound of the slide fades into echoes and then into oblivion, and the song closes.

 

Conclusion

 

While Black Rose Immortal will never be looked at in the same regards among prog fans as Supper’s Ready, Close to the Edge, or Thick as a Brick, I believe that it is without a doubt one of the most engaging and rewarding of journeys. There’s more here than “immature death metal” as one ignorant forum member so bluntly put it. I would ask such dismissing listeners to especially take notice to the beautiful acoustic sections throughout this song and the poetic vocal lines which are quite a surprise from a Swedish band.



Edited by OpethGuitarist - December 24 2006 at 00:50
back from the dead, i will begin posting reviews again and musing through the forums
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 24 2006 at 21:31
Wow Joey. Great analysis. It made me extremely curious to check this album out and that song in particular. Thumbs Up


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 25 2006 at 21:14
Thanks Ruben. I don't think it's the best on the CD myself, but very good nonetheless.
back from the dead, i will begin posting reviews again and musing through the forums
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2007 at 03:32
Great job! But the most favourite song of mine, in Morningrise, is To Bid You Farewell Smile
A balladlike Opeth's song.It reminds me of 70's Prog rock.Great acoustic, great clean vocal,great lyric,great structure Tongue
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