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Opeth - Morningrise CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.72 | 745 ratings

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4 stars When taking into consideration the aspects that make up not just good, but great, music, and a great band, the main elements include engaging, powerful songwriting; instrumental proficiency and chemistry; a keen, collective (and original) musical vision; emotionally involving compositions and even captivating artwork and strong production values. Very rarely is there a band that comes along, regardless of genre, who not only meets these requirements, but exceeds them as well. Sweden's Opeth are such a band, and they have managed this only two albums into their career.

Carrying on with the musical themes found on their astounding debut (Orchid), on Morningrise Opeth seemed to have refined their overall approach, even taking their basic defining elements to new extremes. The songs are even longer this time around, with the shortest running time being 10.09 ("Nectar") and the longest at 20.14 (the stunning epic "Black Rose Immortal"). But once again, it's Opeth's ability to keep the listener attentive throughout the entirety of any given track due to the ever-changing musical climates and involving songcraft, ultimately making it seem like only five minutes have passed instead of ten. The individual songs are again highly involved, showcasing this band's incredible use of dynamics. However, there is an increased emphasis on acoustic based, reflective and contemplative passages on Morningrise. These sections play a more prominent role this time around, best represented in album closer "To Bid You Farewell" ( a true piece of musical art if ever there was one), which is almost entirely based on a mellow acoustic foundation, save for a brief midsection that sees the guitars become distorted, albeit still maintaining the laid-back vibe of the overall composition, and features Mikael Akerfeldt's clean singing throughout. Heavier, more abrasive moments are still in abundance, and the contrast between the two themes, as well as the various other musical themes, are strongly convincing.

As the band have taken on this tag of "extreme progressive metal", it must be noted that, while this seems to be a reasonable attempt at defining this music, it can also be misleading. Yes, Opeth songs are arranged in dramatic fashion, complete with twists and turns, various moods and themes, but they're nowhere near as complex as what most associate the term "progressive" with. The actual song structures are not really complex in the progressive sense of the word, rather more like elaborately told tales that leads one through an event filled journey through sonic peaks and valleys. There are musical passages that can be associated with progressive metal, such as the ending of "Nectar" and moments throughout "Black Rose Immortal" or in the offbeat, almost "jazzy" rhythms that surface here and there. To which credit should clearly go to Johan DeFarfalla (bass) and Anders Nordin (drums). Of particular significance is the bass talents of DeFarfalla, who's amazing playing takes an essential role in the band's sound, his wandering and weaving in and out of the riffs brings an improvisational feel to the material at times, and has a lot to do with the 70's prog rock element shining through. Rarely is this instrument ever given this much of a frontal role in metal music, and this is definitely one of the best performances from a bass guitarist to be found on a metal album (witness the mellow breakdowns in "Advent" for his masterful use of bass reverberations and the all out madness coming from his instrument during some of the more complex structures within "Black Rose Immortal" and "Nectar"!) Akerfeldt and Peter Lindgren again create spellbinding moods and atmospheres, and as the sole writers of the music, have to be given credit and praise for their arrangement and vision as well as their impressive instrumental abilities. After all, it's not like they just piece sections together without any thought of compositional flow. Every moment, every passage within each song is there for a reason and carries the essence of the particular track within.

Provided a strong and clear sound courtesy of Dan Swano and Unisound Studios once again, and graced with a beautifully dark and engaging cover photo, Morningrise stands as my personal favorite in Opeth's rich discography and stands out as an album that sticks a sonic thumb in the eye of underground metal's naysayers, proving that there exists actual substance in the scene that transcends the usual stereotypes it's often associated with. Elegant and stunning, a breathtaking work of art.

bleak | 4/5 |


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