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Opeth - Ghost Reveries CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.28 | 1788 ratings

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5 stars Opeth is an underrated band, nowadays. Mikael Akerfeldt probably is one of the best metal composers ever (yes, that's true) and he is constantly criticized and accused of selling out - first because of the Damnation album and then because of the signing with Roadrunner; he is criticized because all Opeth songs are too complex and disjointed; he is criticized because Opeth is now loved by the same boys and girls that scream "Metal!" when listening to Avenged Sevenfold. "It's boring" says the common metalhead, when someone says that Opeth is great.

This, my friends, is probably the biggest injustice ever committed within the metal circles, as unjust as all the critics Metallica got after releasing the (great) Load album. First of all, Opeth isn't a commercial band. I feel like my stomach is burning when someone says that. The music Opeth produces is unique. It can be pretty aggressive, very mellow or a mix of both. After all, all this mix of styles is a true trademark of progressive music.. why people call the band sell-outs when they compose gorgeous breakdowns inside the songs is beyond me.

Yes, this is the problem: the breakdowns. If Opeth songs didn't have breakdowns, they would now be a pretty common Swedish death metal band, probably still an underground act, lost between all the other ones, in Sweden. In the beginning, Opeth was a death metal band, that incorporated some mellow elements. Now, the band is a progressive metal band with death metal elements, since there are LOTS of clean parts and calm songs on this album, much more than on, for example My Arms, Your Hearse. This transformation began with Blackwater Park, when Akerfeldt really learnt how to use his clean voice (mainly thanks to the vocal lessons given by his friend, Steven Wilson), but it's on Damnation that the frontman really acknowledges that the band CAN compose some very touching and beautiful stuff. So, Ghost Reveries contains lots of clean parts and its successor, Watershed, even contains more, but that's another story.

The inclusion of Per Wiberg in the band was extremely important to this record, too. Damnation had some nice keyboard lines that brought something new to the band's sound. Akerfeldt certainly noticed this, since the next step he made was to hire a keyboardist and, oh my God, that was the best thing he has done in a long, long time. I mean, after seven albums full of long (yes, very LONG) songs, it's hard to find fresh and new ideas. So, I applaud the addition of Per and this album definitely shows that the keyboard is an instrument that perfectly fits the band's sound and style. Atonement is the perfect example of that, being the fourth track and the first totally calm one. The melancholic vocal performance of an emotional Akerfeldt is perfectly complemented by the soft and uplifting playing of Wiberg - the melodies blend in together perfectly. The keyboard solo in the end of the song is also remarkable. In fact, this track carries an arabian or oriental atmosphere, since all the melodies are very reminiscent of the national music of those places.

This is, as I've already said, the first calm song of the record. The other ones are the excellent Hours of Wealth and the closer Isolation Years, the latter being the only tune that doesn't speak about the concept of the album (which consists of a strange occult-themed story, that talks about a guy that is possessed by a malefic entity, if I'm not wrong). Those two songs also feature some of the best Mikael's vocal performances ever. He has improved a lot, from the almost monotonous (but still beautiful) performance on Morningrise to the terrific (in a good way, obviously) one on Damnation. On Ghost Reveries he reaches his peak, clean voice-wise. His growls sound a bit more forced here than on, say, My Arms, Your Hearse (after all he is older now) but this album is, vocally, EXCELLENT, in every sense of the word.

The first track, Ghost of Perdition is a perfect way to begin the record. Some soft notes are played firstly and then the tune turns into a crushing example of how Mikael's growls are powerful. This song possibly has some of the best transitions ever by any band - I mean, the calm sections don't sound out of place between the aggressive ones, everything is flowing with harmony and beauty. The drum work is absolutely astounding, lots of double-bass, ghost notes and such. Martin Lopez was SICK during the recording of the album, he had some kind of blood disorder; still, he probably delivers the best performance of his career - original, creative, complex yet perfectly fitting the music, every beat and pattern is a priceless example of the talent of this fantastic musician. The Grand Conjuration is an example of how the drumming is so good, I mean, Lopez doesn't try anything ultra-technical there, but the drum work sounds so EVIL, if you know what I mean.

That track (which was also the single of the record) features some guitar solos too, which isn't a common thing on Opeth songs. Mikael and Peter, however, filled many of Deliverance's songs with solos and they do the same here; they are not brilliant (since when the guitar solos are the best points of Opeth's music?), but they are still enjoyable and add some "metal feeling" to the songs (metal wouldn't be metal without solos, right?). The guitar riffs remain very similar to the ones featured on the other albums of the band; The Baying of the Hounds probably is the best song of the bunch riff-wise, mainly thanks to the explosive beginning. It also has a fantastic middle section (that "beneath the... deep mire" part is astounding). After The Baying of the Hounds, there is Beneath the Mire, the third track of the record and the only low point of it too, since it is arguably the worst tune of the bunch. I hate the beginning, with that strange keyboard riff and the rest of the song doesn't help either: in fact, I can't remember anything about the song (and I heard it a couple of times!) other than the horrid beginning. But, hey, who's complaining, every album has its flaws!

Harlequin Forest is the fifth track and the longest one. It has a small intro, called Reverie, consisting on the repetition of some guitar lines. I hate repetition, but Reverie sounds great anyways, it kind of builds the atmosphere to Harlequin Forest, which begins with a drum fill and Mikael singing "Into the trees...". This beginning sounds great, it's like we really are beginning a journey into a mysterious forest, it's really epic, a thing that isn't common on other Opeth songs, since the band composes many long songs but few of them can really be considered "epic". The song then progresses to a relatively heavy part, dominated by the unconventional drum beats of Martin Lopez; this section ends with an absolutely gorgeous breakdown, very jazzy and relaxing (Opeth would later, with Watershed, build more jazzy breakdowns, like the one on Lotus Eater and Hessian Peel). After that, we are led to the only big flaw of the tune: the outro, which is excessively repetitive, being almost two minutes long. I mean, there are good outros, like the one on Deliverance's title track, but this one is kind of... weak. Nevertheless, I really like this song.

Another key factor that makes Ghost Reveries what it is, is the top notch production, one of the best I've ever heard. All the instruments are audible (the bass is a bit low, however) and the album has a powerful sound, with the guitars assuming, obviously, the biggest role. The keyboards aren't too loud, but they are still there, very audible, also assuming an important role on the record, giving, as I've already said, a fresher and warmer atmosphere to the album. The drums sound great too, we finally hear clearly Martin's bass drums, yay!

Concluding, this album is a MASTERPIECE. Sure there are some low points, but the record sounds great individually and as a whole (and bear in mind that it's hard to make albums, clocking in at around 70 minutes, that sound very well as a whole). This record deserves to be placed among all the other metal classics, Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, Powerslave, ...And Justice For All, Images and Words, Awaken the Guardian, Slowly We Rot - yes, Ghost Reveries deserves to be placed between them. I hope that, in the future, people will begin to stop with the stupid criticism and take the time to listen to this album and understand why it is so beautiful, solid and brilliant at the same time. From the gorgeous Hours of Wealth to the aggression of The Baying of the Hounds, to the complexity of the middle section of Harlequin Forest to the evil atmosphere of The Grand Conjuration, almost every moment of this piece is amazing in it's own way. This is possibly the best and the most consistent album Opeth ever made.

One last note to the special edition of the record: I would strongly recommend to get that version instead of the normal version, since it comes with an interesting DVD, featuring the making-of of the album and the (crappy) music video of The Grand Conjuration. It also contains an extended booklet, with some nice pictures and drawings and liner notes, written by Mikael Akerfeldt. There is also a bonus track, a Deep Purple cover, called Soldier of Fortune. While I haven't heard the original, I think this song completely fits the record, being stunningly beautiful, thanks to Akerfeldt's vocal approach. An interesting fact about the song, is that Lopez already left the band when it was recorded, so the drums are played by Martin Axenrot, his replacement (and what a replacement, indeed!).

Best Moments of the CD (chosen ALMOST randomly): -the "aaaaaaaah" part on Ghost of Perdition. -the beginning of The Baying of the Hounds. -the beginning and keyboard solo of Atonement. -the creepy guitar lines of Reverie. -the whole jazzy middle section of Harlequin Forest. -the "Looking to my window... I seem to recognize... All the people passing by... But I'm alone and far from home..." part of Hours of Wealth. -the beginning and outro of The Grand Conjuration.

I just don't give away 5 stars frequently, so this piece is a MUST-HAVE. This will possibly remain as my second favourite metal album ever, behind the unbeatable Powerslave. Highly recommended, but if you don't like progressive music, don't torture yourself with this "piece of pompous crap". Anyways, FANTASTIC record.

Nhorf | 5/5 |


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