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

MY ARMS, YOUR HEARSE

Opeth

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.94 | 772 ratings

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bleak
3 stars A few notable changes this time around for Swedish mindbenders Opeth. The talented rhythm section ( Johan DeFarfalla/bass and Anders Nordin/drums) that played an important role in the unique compositional structures that made up Orchid and Morningrise are gone, replaced by one-time Amon Amarth drummer Martin Lopez and Martin Mendez on bass. Actually, Mendez did not have enough time to learn all of the material which resulted in vocalist/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt handling bass duties on the album. Also, one aspect of the Opeth sound that is immediately noticeable is in the production. As a result of Dan Swano closing down his Unisound Studio, (where Opeth had recorded their first two works) the band, being highly impressed with the powerful and clear sound awarded At The Gates' Slaughter Of The Soul album, called on the services of the man responsible for that masterwork, Fredrik Nordstrom. The outcome is a much heavier sounding album, everything coming across much louder and "in-your- face" than on the first two releases. You can feel the bass drums, which is never the case with a Unisound produced effort. Of course, it's a matter of preference, and this new, heavier sound does bring Opeth's music across in a different manner. But this new feel in the music is also a result of Mikael writing the lyrics before the music, basing the entire musical presentation on the concept of the lyrics, something Opeth had never attempted in the past. Each song flows into the next to further give the feeling of continuity, making My Arms, Your Hearse come across a bit like Edge Of Sanity's brilliant Crimson epic.

Opening with the intro "Prologue", a backdrop of falling rain accompanied by a forlorn piano, "April Ethereal" and "When" are two of the strongest compositions yet heard from Opeth, remaining true to their by now identifying trademark themes of lengthy songs which weave in and out of various themes ranging from calm acoustic passages to abrasive moments of aggression to more melodic, epic sections. However, these songs are a bit shorter than usual, and maybe a bit more direct in approach than what was heard on past efforts. No track is over 10 minutes in length. But that in no way diminishes the overwhelming talent and vision this band possesses. "Madrigal" is a short clean guitar instrumental with an atmosphere that reminds me of older Katatonia, then is abruptly cut off by "The Amen Corner" (which sports some groovy drum rhythms by Lopez in its intro) and "Demon Of The Fall" which finds the band at some of their most aggressive moments to date. Akerfeldt's harsh vocals are deeper as opposed to the midrange rasp that was his primary approach on the first two albums. I prefer his midrange, but this more "death" vocal approach fits the material on hand more appropriately. "Credence" is based on an acoustic foundation and finds Akerfeldt's clean voice developing even further in terms of confidence and conviction. This is a nice change of pace after the monstrous "Demon Of The Fall", as it offers a more reflective mood that is disrupted by "Karma", the final song proper featuring a scream to die for from Akerfeldt towards its end. The outro, "Epilogue", finalizes this journey in an almost bluesy fashion, complete with Hammond organ (played by Nordstrom) and a melancholic, "farewell" feel. A perfect ending.

The third "observation" by Opeth is yet another marvelous display of creative brilliance, and although there are a few differences in sound and approach, it stands on its own as another musical triumph for this band. I can't help but miss the former rhythm section though. Even though Lopez does an adequate job on this album, his approach is a little on the more straightforward side (by Opeth standards, at least). All in all, My Arms, Your Hearse keeps Opeth firmly established as one of metal's most innovative and original acts, with much more to offer on all levels than the vast majority in the underground scene.

bleak | 3/5 |

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