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Opeth - My Arms, Your Hearse CD (album) cover

MY ARMS, YOUR HEARSE

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.94 | 772 ratings

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epifreak
2 stars Opeth's third album is a step backwards. Outside of the phenomenal Demon of the Fall, this is essentially Morningrise with better recording and worse songs. Its recording quality is still a touch lo-fi, though it has improved greatly from the past album. Additionally, Mike's voice has not finished developing into the phenomenal instrument that you will hear from (arguably) Blackwater Park and (inarguably) Deliverance forward. The growls are mostly of the higher "black metal" timbre, with a few notable exceptions, and the clean vocal work is still a touch shaky, though improved. Unlike the last two albums, however, I could hear no point where Mike was off-key, which represents a huge leap from Orchid and a significant step from Morningrise.

The first track, Prologue, doesn't exist. It consists of 30 seconds of silence, followed by the piano-driven first 30 seconds of April Ethereal. It serves its purpose well, but it should have been rolled into the following track to form a more cohesive package.

Once the prologue ends, April Ethereal launches in with a rollicking metal riff, that overstays its welcome by a full minute. It's 1:40 before any change occurs, and that is only a brief pause before launching into an extremely similar riff. This riff doesn't stick around long before being replaced by another heavy riff. By this point, the song is getting tiring. Fortunately, at around 3.5 minutes, the song shifts gears into a much needed clean vocal. Mike's vocals have definitely improved here. Furthermore, the growls are definitely deeper than they have ever been, approaching Opeth's later grunts. The song goes through a solo and an overly long riff before switching ever-so-briefly to acoustic at about 5:30. Notable mention goes to the growl immediately following this. The vocal portion is nothing spectacular, but the maintained acoustic line under the electric chord is wonderful. The song then launches into its long road home. All in all, I compare this song to Wreath on Damnation. It's heavy, twice as long as it should be (at least), and a contender for the worst song on the album, which is nice, since it comprises your first impression of the album.

The next track, When, enters with a bit of much needed lighter playing, which lasts for just under half a minute. It's evident that the band doesn't want to let up by this point. The heavy riff that launches after this manages to avoid overstaying its welcome before launching into another heavy riff, which deserves some discussion. This riff exemplifies what Opeth will become (1:00-1:25). The riff is heavy, but rather than just being a straight quick black-metal-esque riff, a considerable amount of dissonant harshness ends the riff. It gives the ear something to focus on beyond just heaviness. Another 3-second acoustic interlude separates this riff from the next heavy riff, which thankfully ends with a brief clean vocal before a typical metal solo. Once the solo fades, though, things become interesting. The inevitable acoustic interlude here lasts longer than 3 seconds before launching into a rather tasteful metal section, which is kept short enough to remain novel before shifting into another metal riff that does an excellent job of reminding me why I like this band. From this point forward, the song continues uphill. The acoustics are actually allowed to play for the first time on the album for more than a few seconds, and the song actually begins to flow.

Madrigal consists of a short light interlude that provides space between the next two tracks, giving the ear a rest from the heaviness that persists on the whole album.

The Amen Corner wastes no time reinstating what Madrigal ceased, as it launches into an extremely doomy riff driven more by pauses than actual playing. The playing here shifts just enough to remain fresh-ish, not quite irritating the listener, but flirting with it. At 3:20, the acoustics make their first entrance, which stick around for the obligatory 30 seconds before launching into another riff. This riff is one of the better sounding sections of the album thus far (4:30) and it marks an improvement in the song that will remain for the rest of its duration.

Demon of the Fall possesses one of the few stand-out moments on the album, consisting of a heavily growled "Demon! Demon of the fall!" which is impossible to miss. I've fallen asleep listening to the album, and I always wake up for that. Actually, the entire vocal performance here merits mention. This song's vocals are absolutely wicked, featuring a dual-tracked growling (one deep, one higher) meshing together to form one of the most ominous sounds I've ever heard. Actually, ominous is a good word for the whole song. Even the frequent acoustic portions only increase the tension. If their normal acoustic portions serve as a "calm before the storm", the acoustic passages here act as a nasty reminder that even calm can be scary. This is definitely the standout track on the album and the best song they had written to that point.

Credence is pretty, but forgettable. It's the pretty acoustic piece in the middle of the album; however, other albums do this better. That isn't to say that it's a bad song, rather the opposite, and on this album, it is absolutely critical. The five minutes of pretty here allow the listener to rest after the screamers that precede it.

The track Karma launches in, and apparently Karma is angry at me, which is all that I can assume after the bludgeoningly heavy riff that starts it, but then, around a minute in, things soften up somewhat with a (surprisingly) smooth transition to the next section. This continues up until about 3 minutes in, where an acoustic portion begins, wherein, I can only conclude that apparently Karma is insane, raging at me for 3 minutes before beginning the gentle caress that soothes away all my woes. This fairly bluesy portion pretty much splits the song in two, dividing two heavy portions. The entrance to the next heavier portion is amazingly well handled, with the acoustics continuing to drive the song until the section is fully established, rather than simply quitting to transition roughly into metal.

Epilogue is the final track on what comprises the original album, and it's quite nice. A hammond-driven track with a rather well played guitar solo. It's nothing that will shock and amaze prog fans, but it is a wonderful piece of music. The guitar tone is particularly deserving of note. It's not overgained as has happened in almost all Opeth distorted tone up to and including this album. It's gorgeous, perfect. Smooth with just enough bite to finish well.

As for the last two covers, I won't consider them in my review. Both are bad. The band has a habit of sticking old recordings onto their re-releases, I suppose as a bit of an extra, in addition to a "see where we came from" thing. It's detrimental to the albums as a whole. They don't fit on the album and usually interrupt any album flow that was there.

Ultimately, I think this album is probably worse than Orchid. The recording was better than Orchid, and the songs are (slightly) more proggish than Orchids; however, Orchid has well-written songs that have a tendency to flow well from song to song, creating a nice effect. Gentlemen, I give you the worst of Opeth.

epifreak | 2/5 |

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