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Opeth - Blackwater Park CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.26 | 1686 ratings

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Fight Club
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Opeth is a name I have been hearing for quite a while now. However, I tended to ignore them for the longest time assuming they'd be just another death metal band with annoying growl vocals. I will tell you right now that I am not a death metal fan and very rarely enjoy any "cookie-monster" vocals. So yeah, I held off listening to this band for a good year or two before I discovered something that made this band worth checking out. I heard somewhere that Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree had produced a few of Opeth's albums. From that point on I started wondering about this band. I thought "if the guy from Porcupine Tree produces their stuff then they gotta be worth listening to, right?" So, one night I decided I'd check out their album, Still Life. I have to say my first impression was not very good. I guess at the time I just wasn't ready for this kind of music, who knows? It was only about a week or two later though when I put Blackwater Park on and that was when it all hit me.

Truthfully, I can't explain why I wasn't bothered by the growling vocals. The music had this extre edge to it, something unique that just wasn't present with any other "death metal" band. Of course the music is, as Dethklok would say "brutal" to the point that I just can't bear to sit still while listening to it. I either have to pick up my bass and start rocking out with it, or go driving with it playing blisteringly loud.

"Ok I get it, the music is heavy, but what makes it so different?"

One thing that stands out is the fusion of mellow, acoustic sections into the chaos. Opeth balances their albums out brilliantly as the songs transition from intense riffing to soft, melancholy passages. This is one of the first aspects of the band that hit me right away, something that made them really stand out from an ordinary death band. I could instantly tell these guys had taste by their finger-picking acoustic guitar style. An extreme metal band that also has some skill in creating light music. Who would've thought?

Another reason Opeth stands above so many other metal bands is their skill in creating extremely tight, well-crafted compositions. Tempo and time signature changes are just two things commonly found in the average Opeth song. However, they don't make the changes ridiculously obvious like Dream Theater would, instead it's all very subtle; small things that just throw you off once you actually analyze it. In my opinion this one of the genius things that can make a band great if they manage to accomplish it. Opeth does it very well as it can be heard on the opening track "The Leper Affinity". It begins in 6/4 and some sections seem to end just an 8th note too short, some wonderful little easter eggs. They also experiment a great deal in sound exploration, frequently using their guitars for creating sounds other than blairing riffs. Another thing is the style in which they create riffs. They don't just throw in all the typical cliches of metal like power chords and sweep picking, instead they use some incredibly unique chords and progressions. There is a lot of emotion found in their chord choice and half the time I can't even figure out what chords they are playing. It is really something that stands out in the whole metal scene.

Those are just a few of the things that make Opeth progressive. They are not progressive in the typical 70s prog sense of Yes and King Crimson. Don't expect a Dream Theater like sound out of Opeth, it is quite different. If you are a fan of prog and the heavy though, you should find this album to be extremely appealing.

What about Steven Wilson's contribution?

Well besides Steven Wilson producing the entire album, he also includes some vocals and piano/keyboards, most notably on "Bleak" which features a double harmony section between Akerfeldt and Wilson. I must also add that this is a very accessible (and great) song and a good one to introduce Opeth. It has some awesome memorable riffs and a fantastic intense and emotional section towards the end. Anyways, as far as Steven Wilson goes, his presence is felt quite as much as it is on their album, Damnation in which he contributes his mellotron on nearly every track, but after all this is an Opeth, not a Porcupine Tree album.

As far as all of the tracks go, Blackwater Park has some of my favorites Opeth have done including "The Leper Affinity", "Bleak", "Harvest" (a fantastic and dark mellow song), "The Drapery Falls" (this one's a real fan favorite), and the title track. The other tracks aren't disappointing either. My only problem is that even with the changes from light to heavy, Opeth's style just tires me after extended listening. It's really difficult to listen to in its entirety (for me at least) as the riffing can just go on relentlessly sometimes without a break for my ears. This might not be as much of a problem if it weren't for the extreme vocals, but I don't think that's as much of a problem as the lack of variation sometimes. While Opeth is incredibly unique, and one of the greatest metal bands out there, they just don't change the mood and structures enough. After enough listening one can pretty much predict what is going to happen next, and their albums tend not to progress much as a single entity. There is not really a beginning, a middle, and an end to an Opeth album. Just some really kickass songs mixed together.

Even considering those few negative aspects, Blackwater Park is still probably a masterpiece of metal. All the postives created by their utterly unique style, songwriting ability, and technical prowess put Opeth in front of countless other progressive and metal acts of the past two decades. Even though I'd probably only give the average Opeth album an 8-8.5/10, Blackwater Park probably deserves a 9.

Rating: 9/10. Rounds up to 5/5. Essential as far as metal goes.

Fight Club | 5/5 |


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