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Opeth - Morningrise CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.72 | 745 ratings

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4 stars This is Opeth's second release, and probably their first inarguably progressive outing. While it still suffers from a few of the former album's lackluster traits (over-gained guitars and somewhat thin, static laden production), the improvements are quite clear. The individual tracks are much easier to distinguish from each other than on Orchid, which felt like one massive track, and Mike's vocals have improved a great deal. He still hasn't acquired the beautiful clean-vocal tone that he displays in the more recent albums (that didn't really start until Blackwater Park), but it is a definite improvement over Orchid. At the very least, he sings flat less often on this work. Additionally, the growling is higher pitched, more of a black metal sound than the later Nile-esque growls.

Put simply, I consider this to be a wonderful album. The harder work is still a little typical black metal sounding; the acoustic passages on this album, however, are often gorgeous. The acoustics are definitely the highlight of this album, covering every feel, from the swirling picked lines running through much of Advent to the classical feeling lines throughout of The Night and the Silent Water, to the beatific mellow portions also contained in The Night and the Silent Water, to the intense, building acoustic and tribal drum finale....also in The Night and the Silent Water, to well, you get the picture. Additionally, the bass guitar gets more of a focus on this album than on any other album the band has done, often stealing the show completely from the guitars. For examples of this, listen to Advent-where the bass is the primary driving force in the song, especially the section beginning at about 9 1/2 minutes, where DeFarfalla's bass simply explodes.

With all that said, this album does have its down moments. I found the entire song Nectar to be a bit of a low for the album. The song is indisputably metal driven, nearly entirely lacking in acoustic passages, which isn't necessarily a bad thing if well handled; unfortunately, this song has always left me with a bad taste. There is some nice bass work distributed throughout it, but the song as a whole doesn't seem to go anywhere, much unlike the rest of the album. It also feels a little disjointed, as if dissimilar lines were patched together without properly hashing out a transition. I tend to naturally space out during this song, sometimes even dozing off during it, which unfortunately causes me to miss a significant portion of the surpassingly excellent follow-up track, Black Rose Immortal. I usually only manage to wake up during the sour note in the clean portion about halfway through.

As I alluded in the previous passage, I find Black Rose Immortal to be one of Opeth's best tracks to this date. There are long metal passages in this, but they are manage to shift much more often than in Nectar; additionally, the long serpentine riffing that makes such a significant portion of later Opeth works show their face here. About midway through, the track switches rather abruptly to an acoustic-driven clean vocaled section, lasting about three minutes before the metal returns. After a bit, another acoustic passage begins, this time playing with the harshly dissonant lines that would become the band's bread and butter on the Damnation album (15:30-ish). This section (unfortunately) doesn't last long, but at least it is followed by a phenomenal metal solo. The song drops to acoustic once more before the ending. (In case you haven't guessed by now, the bulk of the song is driven by the acoustic passages, with the metal sections primarily providing transitions from one acoustic line to the next), Once this section terminates, a painfully (but in a good way) harsh line closes the tune. I don't feel that I have really done justice with this to Opeth's longest song to this date, but it is definitely an excellent listen, especially if you'd like to hear where the band developed their current sound.

The beatific To Bid You Farewell serves as an ethereal foil to the harsh ending of Black Rose Immortal. The first seven minutes or so are acoustic, lapsing to a harder edge to end but not forsaking its melodic qualities. I'd only complain that the metal element continues a bit too long at the end. When it initiates, it's refreshing, a wonderful contrast to the beauty of the earlier portions of the song, but it slightly overstays its welcome towards the end.

The inclusion of Eternal Soul Torture was an unfortunate choice on this album. The song was included to show what Opeth evolved out of, and the improvement is indescribable. I will refrain from downing the production quality too much-though the song is painful to listen to for that exact reason-on the grounds that the song was a demo recording. The problems are that the song is rather insipid at times, running the same riff for a few minutes at a time without much (if any) change. Consider the lighter line that runs from 4:45-7:15 with no real change for an example. That section could have easily been halved or even cut to a third of its length without damaging the track a bit; it would have actually improved the thing. I suppose this track is rather enlightening to listen to....once. After that, it's just the point where I pull the album out of the cd player.

Overall, I'd argue that this is one of the defining moments in the band's career. It's hardly the best, as Still Life (and possibly My Arms Your Hearse, but I want to allow that album a little more time to process before I judge it) do this sound much better. It is, however, one of two albums where the band evolved significantly, the other being Blackwater Park. (You could make a case for Ghost reveries being a third such album; however, I hold that it's just a new member, no significant sound change.) As such, the album is definitely worth a listen or seventeen. I won't argue that the album is "phenomenal" or essential, but it is an excellent album, especially if you're a fan. As such, this album falls into that wonderfully nebulous space between three and four stars. I'll go ahead and round up, to four for my rating, though, since I threw Orchid a 3 star rating, and this album definitely deserves a higher rating than that.

epifreak | 4/5 |


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