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Opeth - Watershed CD (album) cover

WATERSHED

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.99 | 1169 ratings

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TCat
5 stars Watershed is Opeth's 9th full length album. It features a new lead guitarist, Fredrick Akesson, and a new drummer, Martin Axenrot. It also features both clean and dirty vocals from Mikael Akereldt. There is more usage of keyboards, including the mellotron which was becoming a staple in Opeth's sound. The band also adds other instruments performed by several guest musicians to add variety and texture to the sound, they do this to expand the sound of their music, which shows the band's penchant for exploration. The music on this album shows their increase in utilizing progressive techniques.

Interestingly enough, the album starts out with a relatively short and soft song 'Coil', which features Mikael sharing lead vocalist duties with Martin Axenrot's girlfriend at the time, Nathalie Lorichs. It's a nice song and is very effective in providing the sudden contrast that explodes in the heavy 'Heir Apparent'. This track also contrasts in the dirty vocals that are apparent throughout this piece, but not to the point that it ruins the track. It is obvious that Opeth wants to continue in their exploration of Progressive Rock and dark, heavy metal. This is an excellent track to make any Prog lover happy, with a lot of mood changes and meter changes, but also with the development you expect within all of Opeth's melody and theme changes.

'The Lotus Eater' features a combination of clean and dirty vocals, but still retains its heaviness throughout. Except for the occasional, somewhat experimental drop offs, the song remains heavy, alternating vocal styles, and remaining progressive and amazing throughout. I love the use of dissonance in various parts of this track and the complex melodies. Of course, the guitar is featured heavily, but there are contrasting uses of acoustic and electric, plus plenty of spacey keyboards. They even enter 'Dream Theater' territory at one point with a very cool, rapid-fire keyboard segment which fits into the song nicely.

'Burden' starts out with a slow tempo piano riff surrounded by atmospheric guitars. On the 2nd verse, a mellotron comes in and intensity builds, but the tempo remains slow. Then there is that amazing organ solo that comes out of nowhere. Mikael proves that he can sing clean vocals with amazing emotion and there is a very melodic guitar theme here too. This is not a track you would have heard on earlier Opeth material, but I welcome the variety as long as the music quality remains, which it does, in fact, the foray into new styles creates more variety and more interest. At the end there is an acoustic guitar solo, but as it nears the end, it gets warped downward in tone, which surprises me every time.

Fredrick Akesson shares song writing duties with Mikael on 'Porcelain Heart' which at first sounds like something from the softer album 'Damnation', but it soon explodes with a heavier interlude between the verses. After this, it moves into a new thematic element becoming heavier and harder, then calming again with a complex melody, acoustic guitars and a new keyboard melody. Then it goes to a dark and heavy instrumental section.

'Hessian Peel' is the longest track on the album at over 11 minutes. It starts with a keyboard drone under an acoustic guitar, which changes to acoustic and electric playing together when vocals start. This track returns to the more complex song structure moving away from the verse/chorus structure and more towards the feel of the first 3 tracks. Again, there is some excellent mellotron going on over the top of arppegiated guitar patterns. Suddenly, at the half way mark, the song explodes and the dirty vocals return after being absent since 'The Lotus Eater'. This excellent track is an amazing Progressive song that is one of their best.

The last track on the regular edition of the album is 'Hex Omega'. There is a great mix of guitars and mellotron on this one. It has a nice prog retro sound to it, but still retaining the modern prog feel. Again, this one features a nice use of contrast with the change of soft and loud.

The Special Edition has 3 more tracks, namely 'Derelict Herds', 'Bridge of Sighs' (a Robin Trower cover, which is quite true to the original, but with a better guitar solo), and 'Den Standiga Resan (The Eternal Journey)' (a surprisingly beautiful acoustic song with vocals).

This is a definite highlight of Opeth's discography showing the band's growth into being a full time Progressive Metal band. The contrasts and dynamics have never been better, even though they have existed in past albums, they are so much more effective and better used all around on this album. There is a lot more restraint on the growly vocals, which is also a good thing since Mikael's singing voice is really good, but the growls would disappear completely again on the next few albums. However, the band proves that the growling vocals in this album are another way of expressing dynamic, and do a stupendous job of integrating them into the more progressively heavy music. But, honestly, when they are not there, I really don't miss them.

With their emphasis on progressiveness on this album, and their continued use of dynamics, this album reaches the 5 star pinnacle it so deserves. This is an essential example of how a band can still be metal and dynamic at the same time. This is an excellent album that should be owned by not only all Prog Metal fans, but all Progressive music fans. Opeth sets the bar for all Prog Metal bands with this album.

TCat | 5/5 |

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