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




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.94 | 759 ratings

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3 stars My Ears say No Prog Here

A pleasant enough intro, with running water and lazy, mournful piano - a simple melody over open 5ths suddenly gives way to a riff that Mountain would have been proud of, and then the vocals start...

Now I'm very used to "Death Metal" style vocals, and appreciate them in their place - but this is really not the place. The scene has been set, and the mood destroyed in a single stroke.

The riffs are still huge, and the arrangements well thought-out, in a technical thrash style - but here as with many other so-called prog-metal bands, the emphasis is largely on how complex the rhythms are - which is but a single element of prog.

Unlike many other metal bands, however, Opeth develop the riffs and manage to bring about a cohesion and unfolding of thematic material with a symphonic approach to development that is much more interesting than many of their peers. Flavours of Metallica waft in, and are also developed nicely, but sometimes the riffing gets chaotic seemingly for the sake of doing something different rather than structurally, so the overall effect can get lost at times. There is overall a good sense of melody, but this is more often repeated - as is metal's wont - rather than developed, as we would expect from prog rock.

Despite the occasional patchiness, Opeth hold it all together and keep it moving very well - but I still feel that those vocals are unsuited to the music.

"When" is even more in the "Death Metal" vein to start, and bears many similarities to "April Ethereal" in style and development, but surprisingly sinks into power metal territory for a while. It is when the dreaded acoustic passages start that the real musicianship of the band becomes apparent, as one might suspect. There is a very basic approach to harmony with sudden changes that I feel do not quite work, but Opeth stick with this until a sudden change around 4:20, as if they'd completely changed their minds and realised that the previous section plain didn't work. The rest of the track is largely unremarkable, with harmonic "blackspots" smudging what could have been a reasonable bridge section - but it's notable that form progression in this 9- minute + track is very weak, and the direction gets lost very quickly.

The non Death-Metal vocals are very welcome, and the vocal harmonies are very pleasant, but the song as a whole just flounders and never truly develops or breaks new ground.

"Madrigal" is an intrguing title, but is a rather simplistic guitar piece with very pleasant ambience, but no relation to the Madrigal form. It simply serves as an acoustic intro to "The Amen Corner" - a fact which is underlined by the re-use of the acoustic material.

Large crunching riffs give way predictably to Death Metal growls and the main "headbanginging" riff comes in around 1:45 giving this song the shape and feel of the average Judas Priest (circa 1975) track but with better production. An acoustic passage is presented around 3:15, but is completely out of place. It's nice enough, but if you're going to break formal rules, you should at least prove that you understand the rules first. This style might appeal to fans of "prog metal" as a genre, but it's not a satisfying or "classic" style - more one that I would expect of a band finding its feet musically.

Again, a slower section is introduced, and the average musical ability is showcased to the full, with predictable lines and sudden, inappropriate changes spoiling those lovely, crushing riffs.

Demon Of The Fall is a superbly original track, once you've become accustomed to this style, but still tends to suffer from the same patchiness and weaknesses I've already outlined. Nevertheless, it is the standout track on this album.

The drum intro to "Creedence" reminds me a little of "Criminally Insane" (Slayer) - but on mogadons. When the guitars enter, we don't get the massive riffs, but instead get another acoustic passage which is nice but insignificant from a prog rock point of view. Proggy ideas are introduced, and sudden changes are made but these are never developed - merely repeated - a classic tact of metal bands (think "Changes").

We kind of expect the slamming riff at the beginning of "Karma" - and really, this is Opeth showing their true colours. It's all very applaudable wanting to play in a progressive style, but Opeth should really have found their own style and developed it, IMO - especially by the third album. The acoustic entry is annoyingly predictable and breaks the flow of what would otherwise be another standout track. Opeth do themselves no favours by persuing these

"Epilogue" has the nice and welcome addition of a Hammond to the texture - but Fredrik Nordström is no Pete Bardens and Peter Lindgren is no Andy Latimer... There are odd flavours more of Barclay James Harvest than of Camel here, which is all very nice, but Opeth simply do not have the feel for harmonic, melodic or formal progression of the former, so this ends up as nothing but a pleasant wash of aural wallpaper.

This is NOT "An excellent addition to any prog music collection", as it is in no way progressive enough (Deep Purple are more progressive), and the musicianship of the band needs to develop - although it is a good metal album. I would suggest that it is mainly for fans of the prog metal genre in a certain age group - I would suggest late twenties max. This is not to belittle it, just to give guidance to the curious!

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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