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Opeth - Still Life CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.30 | 1843 ratings

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4 stars Along with 'Blackwater Park', 'Still Life' is Opeth's towering achievement, as it finds the Swedish then-quartet at their creative peak. Having found their true sound on the previous record ('My Arms Your Hearse), Opeth expand on it with impressively sophisticated riffs and strong melodic hooks, courtesy of Mikael Akerfeldt, an ambitious and talented musician. Before I go into further praise, however, I'd first like to point out a few problems with the album, just to get them out of the way. One of them is a rather unnecessary amount of repetition, an issue that is unfortunately present on a lot of the band's output: with a bit of fat trimming, most tracks here would've probably fit comfortably within 8-9 minutes. I also find that 'Still Life' would've benefited from a slightly heavier production - it seems to me that during the more extreme moments, the guitars sound a bit thin and empty. Thus, I'm not quite sure why it's sometimes hailed as Opeth's heaviest. But given the majesty and strength of the compositions exhibited here, these problems lose their significance and shouldn't deter you from enjoying this masterpiece of "Progressive Metal".

'The Moor' is an excellent opener, melodic and sophisticated in equal parts. It would've been perfect if it weren't for the fact that the intro theme, no matter how magnificent and haunting, is repeated about ten times. As the song nears the two minute mark, you get a bit fidgety and expect a blast of brutal death metal any second, so it comes as a bit of a surprise when Opeth further delays it by introducing a lovely acoustic guitar interlude. But before long, the drums and heavy guitars (well, perhaps not that heavy, as I mentioned earlier) enter abruptly in the form of smart melodic riffage, before Akerfeldt's guttural roar signals the start of a sinister, threatening verse section. From there, the song is carried by more great ideas and memorable hooks, gradually receding in intensity for a pristine acoustic part before revisiting the death metal approach at the end.

The power of 'The Moor' provides an immediate effect on the listener, but it's quality is matched (and even surpassed) by two other tracks: 'Face of Melinda' and 'White Cluster'. For the first half of '.Melinda' the group opts for its' soft folky style, with smooth, yet intricate and dissonant acoustic guitar figures, before diving into another electrifying heavy section (although the growls are absent here). Yet it's 'White Cluster' that ultimately steals the show, being a treasure trove of complex guitar riffing that has become Opeth's trademark. Again, the band travels effortlessly switches effortlessly between ominous acoustic parts and almost symphonic metal explosions, with a great guitar soloing duel thrown in as well.

An honorable mention must go to 'Godhead's Lament', which sports a great chorus hook, among other highlights; its only significant weakness is the constantly sluggish tempo. 'Moonlapse Vertigo' I don't find an absolute Opeth classic (although a lot of fans may concur), as it relies on the aforementioned repetition a bit too much, but there's still enough strong melodic ideas (the notably the outro riff) to enjoy repeated listenings; it's the same case with 'Serenity Painted Death'.

The one disappointing number here is 'Benighted', a light, relatively short throwaway. The acoustic guitar intro brings to mind 'Never Let Go' by Camel, nut Opeth opts for a lazy, un-involving approach with a rather uninspired vocal delivery (no death growls here, of course).

But one weak song isn't enough to spoil an album of this strength. I still can't decide which one is better between this one and 'Blackwater Park', but it's surely among the finest achievements in progressive metal.

Pafnutij | 4/5 |


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