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Opeth Pale Communion album cover
4.16 | 1278 ratings | 38 reviews | 44% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2014

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Eternal Rains Will Come (6:43)
2. Cusp of Eternity (5:35)
3. Moon Above, Sun Below (10:52)
4. Elysian Woes (4:47)
5. Goblin (4:32)
6. River (7:30)
7. Voice of Treason (8:00)
8. Faith in Others (7:39)

Total Time 55:38

Bonus Blu-Ray disc from 2014 Deluxe Boxset:
- Surround 5.1 Mix -
BD 1 - BD 8: Full Album (55:40)
- Bonus tracks
BD 9. Solitude (5:58) (live *)
BD 10. Var Kommer Barnen In (5:51) (live *)

Bonus 7" Singles from 2014 Deluxe Boxset:
1. Cusp of Eternity
2. Solitude (5:58) (live *)
3. Var Kommer Barnen In (5:51) (live *)

* recorded at Stockholm Södra Teatern in April 2012

Line-up / Musicians

- Mikael Åkerfeldt / vocals, guitars, producer & mixing
- Fredrik Åkesson / guitars, backing vocals
- Joakim Svalberg / piano, keyboards, backing vocals
- Martín Méndez / basses
- Martin Axenrot / drums & percussion

- Steven Wilson / backing vocals, mixing
- Dave Stewart / strings arrangements

Releases information

Artwork: Travis Smith with Mikael Åkerfeldt (concept)

2xLP Roadrunner Records ‎- 1686-175731 (2014, US) Limited edition

CD Roadrunner Records ‎- RR7573-2 (2014, Europe)
CD+BD-audio+3x7" Singles Roadrunner Records - 1686-175734 (2014, xW) Deluxe Boxset including bonus Bluray Disc w/ album Surround mix + 2 extra Live tracks (also on singles & download), 3 Singles (1 track each), download of exclusive commentary by M. Å. on the making of Pale Communion and of 2 Live bonus tracks (same as on BD & Singles), oversized booklet

Digital album Roadrunner Records ‎(2014)

Thanks to katatonia for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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OPETH Pale Communion ratings distribution

(1278 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(44%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

OPETH Pale Communion reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Heavy, RPI, Symph, JR/F Canterbury Teams
5 stars The use of death vocals seems to be a thing of the past for Opeth. I always appreciated the clean vocals from Mikael Akerfeldt. It gives a better view of how he can be a good singer. The previous album Heritage wasn't convincing. Again the band is showing the soft side of their music The song "Eternal Rains will come" display some haunting harmonies progressions with some dark keyboards sound similar to VDGG. "Cups of Eternity" show a vocalization hook repeated almost like an incantation. There are some nice grooves here and a display of heavier guitars. With "Moon, Above, Sun Below" we recognize the same compositions structures of the band with intense and melancholic passages, the melody at the beginning is suddenly switching to a complete new mood so we get the feel that the song is like different parts melt down to build a 10 minutes song, but it works. The song "Goblin" is inspired by the band of the same name with a little touch of jazz. "River" is another different track with some classical rock influence. "Voice of Treason" is another track in which the listener is challenge with the impossibility to reach an accessible melody, like the band was playing with restraint. It illustrates the new direction the band is, by keeping the music outside the extreme metal. The last track "Faith of Others" is full of strings, classical arrangements and some acoustic progressive rock not too far from the band Landberk.

While this release could be perceive as homage to the old progressive rock bands, the retro sound of the organ and mellotron should appeal to old progressive rock fans, it keeps the band own style, less metal than the majority of their albums, but more in the line of Damnation and Heritage. For me, those two albums despite their progressive side were not the best of their discography, but I think the latest is more satisfying and if I had doubt about the direction the band was headed when they took a break from their metal prog, I am more confident for the future that it's the right direction to go now. And Mikael Akerfeldt looks like a musician that is in a mood to do more melodic music with clean vocals the rest of his career.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Pale Communion' - Opeth (83/100)

Admittedly, I had avoided listening to the new Opeth record for a while before finally caving in and checking it out. It's certainly not been for a lack of love for the band or their illustrious career, but rather that I was almost certain to be disappointed by anything in the vein of their post-Watershed retro style. It must have felt like I was a girl waiting on a pregnancy test to see if she was going to have a child with a man she didn't love; the best-case scenario (being that the album was good, or negative on the pregnancy) would be relieving, but there wouldn't be a sense of catharsis or ecstasy involved, the sort of things Opeth's early work was often prone to conjuring. Even if Pale Communion turned out to be good, I supposed, I still wouldn't be able to shake the disappointment over Opeth having exchanged their unique (though countlessly imitated) progressive death metal trademark for some brand of retro-prog- an oxymoron if ever I've known one. Somehow, Opeth's second plunge into this style has succeeded in doing what I previously thought impossible: not only has it sold me on this shift, it has finally proved to me that Mikael Åkerfeldt is capable of brilliance outside the melancholic strains of metal. This is the album Heritage tried to be, the one Storm Corrosion hinted at. Even if it doesn't match the perfection they achieved with Opeth's best work, Pale Communion stands as a refreshing (and unexpected) burst of creative inspiration.

Although I've always had more of my heart in prog than metal news some years ago that Opeth had drifted towards a classic progressive rock style was immediately disappointing. Although the original definition of the style referred to a group of artists who meant to push rock music to the limits of its ambition (often with the help of classical music theory), in recent times it's often associated with hollow musicianship, twenty minute songs that go nowhere, and an overarching desire to relive and fetishize the 'good old days' between 1969 and '75, sort of like a Civil War reenactment but with more mellotrons. Anyways, Heritage was much less guilty of this self-important retro kitsch than Transatlantic or a host of other horrible modern prog acts, but it felt much less relevant than the work they had done before. With Pale Communion, I've realized my dislike of "Heritage" was less to do with the style itself, and moreso the fact it was otherwise incoherent and lacked conviction. There is plenty of the classic prog spirit here (ranging from the legendary King Crimson to Jethro Tull and Italian proggers Goblin) but it's imbued with a life and energy that far outweighs what I'd normally associate with the retrogressive scene.

If anything's changed since 2010, it's that Opeth have become confident enough in this new style to finally outstretch their wings and write full-bodied compositions over the individually appealing ideas that dotted Heritage. With the exception of the sappily cheerful piece of hippie drivel "River", the songwriting is tight and expertly realized. The epic scope adopted in "Eternal Rains Will Come", "Moon Above, Sun Below" or even "Voice of Treason" bridge the previously non-existent gap between Ghost Reveries and Watershed , balancing grooves and general weirdness without letting one get the best of the other. Among these tracks, the gorgeously melancholic closer "Faith in Others" sounds most like the classic Opeth we know, picking up where "Burden" from Watershed left off and arguably being the most emotionally intense ballad the band have ever done, complete with dynamic vocals and sombre string accompaniment. Opeth's musicianship remains a constant joy, with particular props going to Martin Axenrot who, again, fuels the music with some of the best drumming I've heard this side of jazz fusion.

If there was ever something I liked about Heritage, it was it's sense of surprise and general weirdness, as if they had aimed to make an album based around the wigged-out keyboard solo from Watershed's "The Lotus Eater". Opeth have consolidated that weirdness on Pale Communion, bolstering it with the virtues of solid songwriting and form. "Goblin" is a perfect example of this fusion of chaos and order. Taking its name from the band that most readily inspired it (along with heavy doses of King Crimson) the song shifts seamlessly from one disjointed idea to another. I can see it being the track fans will have the most difficult time getting into an appreciating, but it comes together in a way that feels satisfying. While I find the throwback vocal harmonies on "Eternal Rains Will Come" sort of hokey, it's a total masterpiece from the instrumental angle, and while I didn't care for its eerie successor "Cusp of Eternity" when I heard it alone as a single, it enjoys new life within the context of the album. Really, it's just "River" I don't like, and even then it's just for the overly cheery vocal section. Then again, that seems to be the track most people are swooning over. Maybe I'm weird and need to see the cheery side of life more often. Maybe everyone else is wrong.

While I've warmed up to most aspects of this 'new' Opeth, the change in style hasn't translated well with Åkerfeldt's vocals. I'm of the belief he's always been a better harsh vocalist, but even so, his clean singing on Ghost Reveries and Watershed was rich and full of feeling. I'm not getting much of that emotional resonance in Pale Communion. He's lost none of his technical ability or range as a vocalist, but there's something still missing from the formula. My thoughts towards his vocals now are similar to the ones I had for Heritage as a whole; the weight of the influences have become much more apparent in the delivery. Even if Mikael's voice remains distinctive, the performance feels less intimate, and more as if he's adopted a new vocal persona to better fit the progressive rock archetype floating in his head. Sometimes there's a clear nod to Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, but most times it sounds like he's amalgamated a host of ballsy heavy prog and hard rock vocalists into a melting pot and tried his best to replicate it. Anyone who appreciated the bombastic side of Åkerfeldt's voice will find more to love on Pale Communion, but it doesn't do much for me. With that being said, there are moments (most notably "Moon Above, Sun Below" and "Faith in Others") that highlight what I loved best about his voice.

When all is said and done, I don't think Pale Communion will ever achieve the acclaim of Blackwater Park or Still Life, nor does it strike me in the same life changing ways that my personal favourites Ghost Reveries and Morningrise did. Even so, the album demonstrates a full-bodied return to excellence for Opeth, and confidently demonstrates the amount of potential this new approach has in store. At the very least, it's a conscious improvement from what I consider to be the weakest point in their career. Sure, If I ever wanted to hear vintage prog traditions thoughtfully explored and modernized, I could turn to Änglagård, another group of Swedes that still might do it better than Opeth. I think part of me would still like to hear Opeth return to their golden ratio of prog and death metal, but for what it's worth, I'm very glad this album exists.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is a good album. The mixes are a bit off--vocals and drums often mixed too far back. Performances are top notch but they feel too often a bit too "heavy prog by numbers." The b vox are less-than inspiring as are some of the leads. And drummer extraordinaire Martin Axenrot doesn't have as many mind-blowing moments as I heard on Heritage. The electric guitar work is solid and shines most in its workman like steady-riffing. I was one of the few who really enjoyed (enjoys) Heritage. The folky, acoustic side of Opeth--like that of "Elysian Woes"--has always been what has drawn me in most to this group. The organ play on the album opener, "Eternal Rains Will Come" make it a pleaser. "Cusp of Eternity" is the one that best showcases Martin's drumming prowess--and feels the closest to the beloved Opeth of "old." The Goblin tribute is awesome. (It's nice to see more people acknowledging the genius of that Italian band). "River" could almost come from a Wishbone Ash album from the 70s. "Voice of Treason" is enjoyable but feels like . . . it's been done. "Faith in Others" is probably my favorite from this album for its dynamic range and the way it showcases the vocal variety of Mikael Akerfeldt. The album's "epic," "Moon Above, Sun Below" just never comes out and grabs me, kind of meanders and morphs around without ever seeming to know where it's going. This is a 3.5 star album that I will continue to listen to--though I have the suspicion that it will not hold my interest for very much longer. There's just too much other really good, fresh music that this has to compete with.
Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars It appears that Opeth has left behind their death metal roots. They seemed to be gradually moving to a more mature,

less growly tone. "Heritage" completed that move, garnering wide attention, even earning them a featured artist

spot on NPR and the NPR website. Pale Communion cements that change and improves upon it.

Like "Heritage", "Pale Communion" blends classic prog sounds and themes with modern metal, with an emphasis on

Middle Eastern motifs. Like Haken, Opeth works this to come up with their own original sound that also pays homage

to their prog forbears.

The album starts out impressively. Eternal Rains Will Come begins like an avant- metal fusion piece, but then eases into a psychedelic folk piece, with hints of Allman Brothers-like southern rock. Quite unecpected, and a complete joy. Cusp Of Eternity expand on the Middle Eastern themed metal of the previous album, and leads to the best track, Moon Above, Sun Below. This piece is a multi-themed epic, that must be heard.

Other standout tracks (on an almost flawless album) are Goblin, a classic seventies styled fusion track, complete with that ubiquitous electric piano sound, and Faith In Others, a track that owes more than a little to King Crimson's Epitaph.

This album has dominated my stereo for much of the summer, even edging out the fantastic new recording of Thick As A Brick.

Very close to perfect.

Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars There was too much 'talkabout' on Opeth's new album. I loved Heritage (2011) thought it was a fantastic new sound for the band. Now, all this talking about the band kind put me off a bit, especially after the horrific weak single released before the album ('Cusp Of Eternity') so I waited to listen to their new album, Pale Communion (2014).

Now, I'm giving it a spin on it through Spotify and what can I say, track one 'Eternal Rains Will Come' is simply outstanding, amazing track. Then off we go to 'Cusp Of Eternity' that's way too much SW for me, and Opeth is better than him, doesn't work really. Good that 'Moon Above, Sun Below' comes in to erase the previous track very well indeed. 'Elysian Woes' continues the high quality path, but acoustically.

While 'Goblin' indeed reminds the classic Italian band, 'River' is a folk ballad in the same path of Rush's 'Rivendell'. 'Voice Of Treason' and 'Faith In Others' continue the good path of the album.

Pale Communion (2014) is able to bring all the classic Prog Rock that I love with a fresh air to it, and that's why this is so interesting and one of the great releases of the year that so far was so week.

4.5 stars really!


Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Pale Communion" is the 11th full-length studio album by Swedish progressive rock/metal act Opeth. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in August 2014. There´s been a lineup change since "Heritage (2011)" as keyboard player Per Wiberg has been replaced by Joakim Svalberg.

With "Heritage (2011)", Opeth more or less took a left turn fully embracing a 70s influenced progressive hard rock sound and leaving their death metal past behind. They did a similar thing on "Damnation (2003)" but returned to their trademark progressive death metal sound on the next couple of albums. This time around they seem to mean business though and as "Pale Communion" is now their second album in a row which features a 70s influenced progressive hard rock sound, we can probably safely assume that the band´s death metal days are now behind them and that a new chapter in the band´s history began with "Heritage (2011)".

So the music on "Pale Communion" is a continuation of the progressive hard rock sound on "Heritage (2011)" and as such has little to do with metal although there are some hard rocking riffing on the album and references to artists like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and Atomic Rooster are valid enough (also because of the dominant use of organ). But there are references to a lot of 70s artists and musical styles on the album. Vocalist/guitarist/main composer Mikael Åkerfeldt are known for his broad tastes in music and you´ll hear elements from both hard rock, symphonic progressive rock (the sections with mellotron and the sections with orchestration are beautiful), folk rock, and even a whiff of jazz rock on "Pale Communion", which is ultimately a pretty varied album.

The description above can more or less also be applied to "Heritage (2011)", but "Pale Communion" is not a sequal clone of that album, as the band have opted for a more structured and melodic sound on this album compared to the more messy sounding "Heritage (2011)". "Heritage (2011)" often sounded like Mikael Åkerfeldt had 10.000 ideas and was hellbent to cram them all on the album. That ultimately made that album quite an adventurous ride but at the same time not the most memorable or well composed one. With "Pale Communion" it seems that Åkerfeldt has cut a bit more to the bone and focused on the actual compositions and the longivity of the melody lines. As a result "Pale Communion" is instantly memorable and quite a bit more accessible compared to it´s predecessor.

"Pale Communion" is produced by Mikael Åkerfeldt and mixed by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and not surprisingly the album is graced with a warm, detailed, and organic sounding production, which suits the music perfectly. The musicianship are as always of high class. The instrumental performances are organic and tight and Mikael Åkerfeldt´s vocals are distinct sounding and delivered with conviction. The use of choirs and backing- and harmony vocals on many tracks are great assets to the music too.

The album features an overall great flow and all tracks are memorable after only a few listens although complex enough to ensure longivity. It´s not easy to pick standout tracks on an album where all tracks are equally great, but I´d like to mention the closing trio of tracks, "River", "Voice of Treason", and "Faith in Others", as some of the highlights. The former because of the surprising shift in atmosphere (here is a track where several different sounding compositional ideas work well together) and the two latter (which seque into each other to form a sort of mini suite) for their intriguing emotional impact and use of orchestration. But then again I could have mentioned any track off "Pale Communion" and call it a highlight.

While "Pale Communion" certainly digs deep into the 70s progressive rock and hard rock scene for inspiration and does feature a retro sound, it doesn´t feel as forced as it´s predecessor did. It´s more fresh sounding, more musical, and overall just a better and more memorable release. I was beginning to wonder where Opeth were heading with "Heritage (2011)", but with "Pale Communion" I think they are back on the right track. A track that brings promises of even greater future output in this style. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After being impressed with Opeth's wonderful "Heritage" album my hopes were set very high on "Pale Communion". I make no secret of my dislike for really abrasive growls in Prog. I believe Opeth's finest hour is the melancholy and haunting "Damnation" and now they are blending that beautiful vocal approach with the progginess of "Heritage" to produce one of the albums of the year.

"Pale Communion" is a stunning album on every level, opening with a soundscape of keyboard layers, capturing a dramatic ambience from the start. The vocals are harmonized and sound not unlike the style of Yes in some ways. Perfect harmonies, and easily decipherable lyrics on "Eternal Rains Will Come".

This is followed by the one that hit the online community in the initial stages, "Cusp of Eternity". Akerfeldt's voice is sensational as always, he won't be growling on this album. The catchy chorus hook will settle in your brain after a few listens. Definitely a keeper in the Opeth greatest hits package.

"Moon Above, Sun Below" is an 11ish minute mini epic with a steady rhythm and some glorious guitar and keyboard flourishes. There is a darker feel on this with the vocal style, more aggression and heavier riffs, though this is still as far removed from the style on "Deliverance" as you can imagine. The hypnotic mantra of the title will engrave itself upon you, then there is a gorgeous twin guitar section. After this tranquility Akesson launches into a blinding lead break. Then it settles into a haunting keyboard motif and reverberated vocals. This is so catchy it always jumps out on the album. The melodies are as good as Opeth gets.

"Elysian Woes" is driven by somber acoustics and vocals at first. Akerfeldt's voice is crystalline clear; surely one of the greatest vocalists this year. The influence of Steven Wilson shines through. The melancholy approach is startling, with beautiful guitar interplay and some angelic keyboards at the touch of Svalberg.

"Goblin" is an instrumental driven by raging keyboard finesse and quirky time sigs. "River" returns to quiet solitude with acoustics, sweet harmonies and pleasant lead guitar soloing. I love how the time sig changes and locks into a twisted meter and some incredible lead guitar trade offs. The Hammond is delicious and oh the sweetness of the Mellotron!

"Voice of Treason" has a fantastic drumming performance from Axenrot and those keyboards are absolutely divine. This is a powerhouse track that springs from nowhere and it keeps building with amazing vocals and ominous musical embellishments. The bass solo of Mendez works nicely with the drums. The staccato violin style keys remind me of the recent James Bond theme song. This track is a definitive highlight that gets better on every listen.

"Faith in Others" closes things with Mellotron soundscapes encapsulating a Pink Floyd atmosphere. The mood swings from dramatic tension to a very heartfelt gentle emotion at the end. Mellotrons float lambently to the end as Akerfeldt croons softly. It is an effortless light approach from Opeth that may surprise some with its consistence ambience.

There's not a shred of metal on "Pale Communion" so headbangers keep your distance. This album is more symphonic than anything Opeth have done previously. It is another "Heritage" style exploration of retro prog?and I like it!

Review by Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions
4 stars Gosh, this is not what I normally would expect from a band like OPETH! They never have totally disappeared off my radar, but I seem to remember that Mikael Åkerfeldt has been a friend of death metal and growls in earlier times, which is not my cup of tea in general. Now yet this sounds like a radical turn somehow, spirtually akin to Pain Of Salvation with their album 'Road Salt Two' maybe. Well in any case, while trying to regard this music totally unbiased firstly, 'Pale Communion' marks a great leap towards melodic heavy progressive rock, for what it's worth.

Some may say this comes because Steven Wilson is involved in the production. This might be only half of the story though - I'm quite sure Mikael Åkerfeldt and his mates wanted to produce such a thing with intent, and so they've invited him to get on board, just in order to make it good, really good. Wise idea, isn't it? Take your chance, as not every artist or band will ever get the possibility to collaborate with such a prolific musician and sound engineer. Anyway, now to the songs as such which are arranged like a chain of pearls.

The opener Eternal Rains Will Come makes it immediately clear - the keyboards are placed with a symphonic touch overall, due to the vintage expression, which also includes mellotron and Hammond organ. Åkerfeldt's voice is beneficially charming, yeah, especially proved on the following groove rocker Cusp Of Eternity. Like on Elysian Woes beautifully relaxed parts are given featuring acoustic guitar and piano. The fantastic Goblin steps out of line a bit, as the song appears like a fusion infected jam, probably in reminiscence to the eponymous Italian band.

Provided with some oriental delicacies I do like the dramatic Voice Of Treason very much, excellent musicanship, a real treasure. With 'Pale Communion' the band offer a rather accessible, though by far not trivial album, which excludes nearly any (extreme) metal approach this time. Provided with symphonic and jazzy touches here we have a recommendable production which by now belongs to my 2014 top ten list. Congrats! That makes my day in the end, as I'm fond of being surprised here and there!

Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars I still regard OPETH's "Damnation" album as my favourite but "Pale Communion" really impressed me, and no i'm not surprised that it garnered "Album of the Year" here at Prog Archives. What a beautiful recording this is with Akerfeldt's haunting vocals and a lineup that instrumentally doesn't play second fiddle to any band out there. This album was produced by Akerfeldt and mixed by his good friend Steven Wilson and I have to say that this couldn't possibly "sound" more incredible.

"Eternal Rains Will Come" hits the ground running with such an impressive instrumental intro. The drumming is crazy good and I have to mention the organ here as well as being simply outstanding. A gorgeous calm arrives 1 1/2 minutes in that is very "Damnation" like. It then kicks back in a minute later before we get vocals for the first time after 3 minutes. Love the guitar 4 1/2 minutes in and the sampled mellotron is a nice touch after 5 minutes. "Cusp Of Eternity" has a cool rhythm to it as the vocals join in well before a minute. The backing vocals really add to the sound here. Nice guitar solo after 3 1/2 minutes then it ends with lots of vocal melodies.

"Moon Above, Sun Below" has such a good mood to it and the vocals are reserved, almost spoken to start. Some good contrasts on this one between the mellow and the more intense passages. Mellotron rolls in around 1 1/2 minutes followed by a calm after 2 minutes as we get another "Damnation" like section with picked guitar and more. It then kicks in fairly hard with vocals 4 1/2 minutes in as the guitar rips it up. Another calm arrives as contrasts continue. A spooky calm 6 1/2 minutes in then a cool organ/drum section takes over as vocals join in. "Elysian Woes" is my favourite track with those "Damnation" like vocals from Akerfeldt as picked guitar helps out. I think that's flute before 2 minutes after the vocals have stopped. It's absolutely beautiful(gulp) before 3 1/2 minutes with mellotron.

"Goblin" really sounds like it has an electronic vibe to it before it becomes a little more intense. Check out the keyboards after 2 1/2 minutes. There's so much going on as we get this tapestry of intricate sounds that are relentless. "River" is a little different with the soft vocals that have an almost Country feel to them and there's harmonies too. A tasteful guitar solo arrives 2 minutes in. I like the keyboard/drum/guitar section 4 1/2 minutes in then mellotron joins in a minute later. A good but not great tune that gets better as it plays out.

"Voice Of Treason" is different with strings helping out. Love the drumming and melancholic vocals. Vocal melodies 3 minutes in then back to that earlier soundscape with vocals. Great sound 6 minutes in. "Faith In Others" opens with strings as expressive vocals join in. Not big on this section that will return later. I like the calm with piano before 2 minutes and the reserved vocals as well. It turns fuller 3 1/2 minutes in and we get vocal melodies as well. Themes are repeated.

Just a fantastic recording that has been simply a joy to listen to this past week despite the extreme cold we've been getting up here in Canada.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Heavy electricity is the first thought that comes to mind when hearing Opeth's latest, critically lauded release, "Pale Communion". The haywire activity is tempered by a softer side, a detail-oriented recall of other styles well within the prog frame work, certainly more focused on creating melancholic moods and more solemn atmospheres. Like a few fans, I prefer the melodic swoon of past albums like "Damnation", a clear influence on this recording, as leader Mikael Akerfeldt opts for a more symphonic situation to expound on his internal frailties.

"Eternal Rains Will Come" possesses a doomsday disposition, morose and apocalyptic, a cauldron of slithering sounds that weave between despair and delirium, impossible swirls of bombast coupled with serene, almost medieval sections, muscled by a tight rhythm section with newcomer Martin Axenrot supplying some terrific propulsion. The main mellotron-doused melody is an emotional bulldozer, profound and forlorn, with Akerfeldt's voice delivering intensely.

The heavier "Cusp of Eternity" flexes some serious tendons, the chorus in particular grabbing one's immediate attention, as the vocal veers near hypnotized prayer, or at least some semblance of forgiving finality. Lead guitarist Fredrik Akesson does some Holdsworthian stylings that are a joy to behold, the crew tight as a screw, Joakim Svalberg's smoking mellotron oozing hymn-like splendor and the nimble Axenrot doing some clanging damage on his cymbals.

The first major epic is the 10 minute + hurricane "Moon Above, Sun Below", a platform for the Swedes to get hot, oiled and bothered, sounding close to their Polish pals in Riverside but ruled by a dense onslaught of symphonic keyboards. This is balanced by another Renaissance-style acoustic guitar-led etude that shines ever so brightly, buoyed by another fragile Akerfeldt vocal. Slowly, the tension is upgraded into another delirium-infested intervention, including a disturbing organ lead that seems to have been plugged into a cemetery socket. Shifting gears on a straight ahead musical highway only heightens the sense of unending adventure, exhilarating and intrepid. The piano finale is beyond beauty.

The softer side is elegantly anointed with a rather stunning piece, "Elysian Woes" has a near early Genesis feel, what with rich acoustic guitars weaving a sleek tapestry of sound, all delicacy and substance. The gentle drums enter, a refined mellotron in tow and a powerful vocal that is literally dripping with melancholia and pain.

The aptly titled "Goblin" provides an instrumental jam that seeks to underscore the musical talents available, an almost jazz-rock section led by a furious e-piano (love that instrument) with a manically repetitive guitar riff that paralyzes the defenses, as the boogie-woogie roller organ kicks in with unrelenting determination. Absolutely riveting stuff.

The controversial "River" is considered as one of the highlight moments on a set list of highlight tracks, offering up a curiously more country-like feel, almost like British band Traffic or the Allman brothers with tons of slick organ frills, rebellious guitar licks, as well as sublimely solid bass lines from Martin Mendez and Axenrot's flexible drum beats. The magnificent mellotron creeps in again to further confound and excite the senses. The raucous finale is shoved along by some massive vocalizations that reach for the stars.

The murky, doom-laden "Voice of Treason" infuses a Middle Eastern tinge, perhaps a musical discourse on current times and ongoing millenary issues. Axenrot supplies a dynamic binary assault that really stands out in its simple complexity, the bombastic synthesized electronics given this 8 minute piece an ominous almost grisly tone, pained vocals only adding to the impression. The reptilian bass shows little mercy, the chorus is nearly celestial with Akerfeldt going into overdrive and the sincerity utterly apparent, especially the broken and fragile outro. Gulp!

I am a sucker for anything even remotely resembling King Crimson's mythic anthem "Epitaph", as I, among many others, view this symbolic track as a prog icon of the highest standing. "Faith in Others" supplies some similar features, everything from the galactic mellotron rushes, the achingly gorgeous vocal and the simple funereal beat. This is all about feeling, a sense of reverential acceptance, a hymn of unmitigated power and seductive charm. The piano and vocal section is painfully tragic yet utterly beautiful in its breathtaking simplicity. The bluesy guitar cadence, the 'oooh-oooh' choir , the mellotron cascade all combine to rekindle memories of the Crimson King's Court, audaciously even daring to replicate an effect ?laden chorus . I could listen to this track on an endless loop and still be completely satisfied! The 'oooh-oooh' choir returns with some classic orchestrations to give this a totally symphonic veneer and a gentle, misty wave goodbye.

As far as I am concerned, this is the Opeth I prefer, not caring much for their other albums except for the previously lauded "Damnation". Not surprising then that this has garnered so much attention and adulation.

4.5 timid intimacies

Review by Prog Leviathan
5 stars I had very complimentary things to say about Opeth's previous album Heritage; in fact, I think I said that it is pretty much my favorite of this band's many excellent works.

That is, until I let the lush, emotive, dark, nuanced, and all together captivating experience of Pale Communion sink in.

I'm going to just say it: this is probably the best Opeth album to date, and for a band with a constant string of prog highlights over the past 15 years, that's saying something. Pale Communion shows the band topping themselves once again with what is their most textured, subtle, and beautiful album yet. The moments of song writing class and instrumental virtuosity here are beyond count, from the heavy opening and aggressive playing of the opening track, the sweeping drama and myriad tempo and tonal changes of the epic "Moon Above, Sun Below," to the final melancholy sustains of the closing "Faith in Others". Songs are intense and mellow and soaring and delicate and cryptic and poetic and memorable all at once.

The band plays incomparably well, especially the rhythm section; bassist Mendez gives what may be host most interesting and melodic performance yet. Svalberg's mellotron and keyboards are achingly well utilized, giving the album a very classic prog sound without sacrificing the dark and brooding tone of the band. Akerfeldt's vocals are simply smashing, perhaps his best yet, especially during the moments of crescendo that punctuates the poetic melancholy of the lyrics. Simply outstanding playing from each member. They've created an exciting, engaging, and brilliantly executed record.

Pale Communion shows Opeth drifting more and more from the death-metal harshness of their early releases, yet not the spark of energy that helped make those albums so great. Maybe the growls and electric devastation will return in subsequent works, but I am very happy that they've taken this direction recently; it's created genuinely excellent musical experiences, with Pale Communion being what may be impossible to top. Not to be missed!

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Opeth had strayed from the path of their progressive metal back in 2003 when they released Damnation, a companion release to the much heavier Deliverance. By Ghost Reveries they were back to the heavier stuff on probably their most progressive release so far with the usual mixture of clean vocals and death metal growls. In 2011 they released Heritage, like Damnation sung with entirely clean vocals and also their mellowest album since that release. Pale Communion is the second consecutive album to ditch the growls and this time it looks like there's no going back.

Pale Communion is the album that Heritage should have been. Not a weak album by any stretch but sounded a little fragmented at times, unsure where it wanted to go. Pale Communion is also heavier but more heavy rock than metal but also has a very retro 70's prog style which is fine in my book. Where it really shines though is in the quality of the songwriting, the first three tracks in particular are truly breath taking with Mikael Akerfeldt's strongest, most melodic and confident vocals yet. The arrangements and melodies of these songs in particular are so strong played with much light and shade and Moon Above, Sun Below has a particularly haunting vibe. The rest of the album barely drops the quality even if Goblin, a nod to the Italian prog band Goblin? is a little throwaway in comparison to the illustrious company its keeping here but fun nevertheless.

Most of Opeth's albums have still been heavy enough to keep their early death metal era fans happy but with the last two I'm sure they'll have lost a few as there's no metal elements left at all as well as ditching the growl vocals. However, they'll have no doubt gained many who found their more extreme elements hard to swallow. Personally I think they got the perfect balance on Watershed but Pale Communion is still one of their best albums and I'm happy to see them continue down this road in the future if that's where they're going. 4 1/2 stars.

Review by Progfan97402
4 stars I wasn't one of those people who knew of Opeth from Day One, after all death metal has never been my music of choice. I heard their name, often in collaboration with Steven Wilson, which was causing the group to go more progressive, but the death metal was still there. In 2011 I learned that their new release Heritage dropped the monster growls, and I took a chance on it. To my ears it has some nice stuff, but sounded like it needed room for improvement. For me, I am, like some people, find the growling vocals a bit hard to take them seriously (of course, many of the fans want those vocals). So it's little surprise those who felt alienated with Heritage will probably swear them off completely on Pale Communion. To be fair these efforts aren't too terribly different from Damnation, but then that was the "light" contrast with the "darkness" of the super-heavy Deliverance. I also have Damnation, mainly because it's more in tune with what they're doing now, despite being recorded during the very same sessions that brought you Deliverance (and released a few months after Deliverance). Apparently Mikael Åkerfeldt stated his growls have not improved so that's why he dropped them. Anyways, I am really delighted over Pale Communion. Make no doubt about it: they are now a heavy prog band. This album may still have heavy riffs, more more in tuned with heavy prog than death metal. Plus the album has its share of acoustic material, and even a wonderful orchestral piece (with Hatfield & the North and National Health's Dave Stewart conducting). "Eternal Rains Will Come" shows the group is totally at home with prog material, really like the nice keyboard work from newcomer Joakim Svalberg (Per Wiberg left following the released of Heritage,, hence the tree depicting one of the heads falling on the ground, that of Per Wiberg). Sampled Mellotron makes its presence felt on the album (Heritage did use a real Mellotron, an M600 that Per Wiberg was so happy to show on the Making of Hertage bonus DVD, included if you own the special edition CD of that album with the lenticular gimmick cover, but Pale Communion did feature the new keyboardist who hasn't yet had access to a real Mellotron). Also Hammond organ and MiniMoog Voyager is also used, showing how they're not afraid of prog. "Goblin" is in tribute of the famous Italian band of the same name, "Voice of Treason" has a rather Middle Eastern feel to it, while "Faith in Others" is a great closing piece, a moody orchestral number with help from Dave Stewart (as mentioned before).

As before, some long-time fans will be scratching their heads over this. Some felt betrayed by Åkerfeldt's clean guitar playing and vocal approach. I can only say, if they change, they better be good at the change, and that's what they deliver here. It's the change into a good heavy prog band, which I'm happy with. So if you enjoy heavy prog, I highly recommend this, even if you weren't exactly keen on the band in the past because the vocals or death metal approach.

Review by Warthur
4 stars It isn't as though this wasn't expected. Opeth had been steadily drifting away from their death metal roots for a good long while by this point, with 2003's Damnation avoiding it entirely, so it's hardly an enormous surprise that Pale Communion finds the residual metal thoroughly flushed out of Opeth's sound. In its place stands a hard-rocking tribute to the heavy psych roots of progressive music, which I'm sure is a subject that the band and Steven Wilson collectively have a whole bunch of insight into - and indeed, their take on the style is an effective update of it.

On previous listens, this (and much of Opeth's earlier back catalogue) left me a little cold; it took listening to their discography from the start for me to really get my head around where they are coming from and what they're trying to do. Now that I've readjusted my expectations of what Opeth are about, I can find a lot to like here; it's essentially a development of the approach of Heritage (right down to the Steven Wilson mix), and I think if you liked that you will enjoy this. I even think Mikael Åkerfeldt's clean vocals, which I've always felt were a bit of a weakness of the band's sound, has improved here compared to Heritage. Don't expect the sort of innovative prog-death metal mashup they did in their lean, hungry years, but do expect a prog album with lots of retro touches but cutting-edge modern production.

Review by The Crow
3 stars A vast improvement over Heritage... But still underneath their best albums.

I think the best virtue of this album is being a lot more focused, centered that their previous work. The style of more of less the same, but this time Mikael managed to compose a very much coherent and cohesive collection of songs, far from the proggy mess of Heritage. But again, if you are waiting a return to their metal albums, you will be disappointed.

The production of the album is really good, again with the mixing of Steve Wilson, and the sound of Joakim Svalberg at the keys is very similar to Per Wiberg, so it is hard to notice any difference in terms of keyboards. The rest of the band is the same since Watershed, and I have nothing to complaint. They are all great musicians.

Pale Communion starts with Eternal Rains Will Come, in a style very reminiscent to Heritage with its old fashioned keyboards. But we can hear that Mikael sings a lot better this time, far from the excesses their previous work. But sadly Cusp of Eternity bring back the horrible clear voices of Heritage, with Miakel shouting rather than singing in the attempt to break his voices in the style of Bonnie Tyler. Nevertheless, this song has great riffs and a very good instrumental section.

Moon Above, Sun Below is maybe the best song of the album, with tons of mellotron and an acoustic part which clearly reminds to Damnation. Mikael sings very well at the beginning, but soon after he screws the vocal melodies again. This way to extend the vowels in the words is artificial, ugly and typical for rookies than for experimented singers. The end of the songs is pretty good... Only circles on the water.

Elysian Woes is a beautiful acoustic song with mellotron but not really remarkable for the career of the band. Goblin is a homage to this band, beloved for the Dario Argento films and in some parts the music sound just like one of his films but a bit more jazzy. River is another highlight of the album, which opens with a good acoustic sound which reminds me to Kansas and a very good guitar solo with a blues feeling. The instrumental section is also wonderful, one of the best parts of the album.

Voice of Treason starts in a menacing and dark way with good orchestral arrangements. After that we can hear another lame vocal interpretation from Mikael, who again shouts his lyrics in a rather annoying way. The final part of the song is another instrumental tour de force in the same way of River, but not so good.

The beginning of Faith in Others could be included in a King Crimson album, and again Mikael ruins what could have been a great song. In the minute 2 starts a Savatage sounding piano melody and the song gets better with its mellotron, good choirs and another imitation of the seventies prog-rock. Mikael shouts again towards the end of the song, this time through a telephone.

Conclusion: Pale Communion is better than Heritage. No doubt about it. The songwriting is stronger and more coherent, and the singing of Mikael is also a bit better, though his way of shouting his clean vocals annoys me sometimes. The work of the rest of the musicians is flawless.

And this record also confirms that Opeth are not this outstanding and influential prog metal band anymore... Now they are just a good prog-rock band which tries to imitate the glory days of the seventies prog-rock, with just a moderate success. And that is a pity in my opinion.

Best tracks: Eternal Rains Will Come, Moon Above Sun Below and River.

My rating: ***

Latest members reviews

4 stars Despite having a prog-heart at its core, I have almost always preferred the classic Opeth era until 2008, originally because of its progressive metal leanings but later even more because of the ominous and serious atmosphere, riffing style and acoustic vs brutal contrasts. Opeth have opened seve ... (read more)

Report this review (#2980666) | Posted by sgtpepper | Monday, January 8, 2024 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Pale Communion is probably the best Opeth album of the second era (their progressive rock era). Very consistent and with no weak tracks. Eternal Rains Will Come is an amazingly beautiful track with a wonderful chorus. Cusp Of Eternity has middle-east influences. Moon Above, Sun Below is one mons ... (read more)

Report this review (#2547825) | Posted by Gorgut Muncher | Wednesday, June 2, 2021 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Not as good as Heritage and after giving it multiple listens its rating has lowered from four to two stars for me, it's way too mediocre compared to all the other prog rock you hear. There's some great moments in this album like Moon Above, Sun Below's ending, River's middle solo section which is ... (read more)

Report this review (#2492417) | Posted by Isaac Peretz | Sunday, January 10, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Is Pale Communion the Best Opeth album? Well, i'm not too sure myself, but everytime I listen I can't help but think more and more that it is. The production is simply unbelievable. The Rhythm section on this album carries such a heavy punch at all times. It really feels like a extremely talent ... (read more)

Report this review (#2374833) | Posted by dougmcauliffe | Sunday, April 26, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Opeth's gradual but ultimately wholesale departure from death metal and into classic prog got off to a very shaky start with the controversial mixed bag that was the Watershed record and the outright baffling Heritage release. But on Pale Communion the band actually manages to get their footing. Her ... (read more)

Report this review (#2299812) | Posted by ssmarcus | Wednesday, December 25, 2019 | Review Permanlink

5 stars My opinions on Opeth's recent release have changed considerably over time. As someone who got into them through albums such as Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries, the change that I saw them going through was a little too much for me. I saw Heritage as good one off album, but nothing I'd want to he ... (read more)

Report this review (#1498533) | Posted by Ghost_of_Prog | Saturday, December 12, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars For me, what is missing is the jump the band in some of their songs were announcing. In the parts when the rhythm and melody are soft and slow, the obscure melancholic background is great. The problem, I believe, is that it left you with empty hands. I mean, it is like if the song were promising ... (read more)

Report this review (#1486015) | Posted by yair010390 | Friday, November 13, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I think I'm going to have to retract some of the statements I have made about classic prog revival in the past. Sure, 95% of it is crap, and aims for a sound that can never sound good and fresh in the 21st century - namely the Yes/Genesis style of symphonic prog, which always sounds corny and ... (read more)

Report this review (#1321591) | Posted by Gallifrey | Monday, December 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars First of all I want to say that Opeth is my favorite band, and I think this album is a gem in the PROG ROCK, but I admit that I was disappointed much of their retro sound and exaggerated eclecticism in a genre that is far away from the origin of Opeth: the exceptional and fabulous artistic career of ... (read more)

Report this review (#1307061) | Posted by JLAbad | Friday, November 14, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Opeth are a band undergoing a radical, and for myself very welcome, evolution. By their frenetic standards, 'Pale Communion' is a mellow and at times almost commercial album. But the magical guitar work, and fascinating drumming, are ever-present in this superb production. The instrumental side of O ... (read more)

Report this review (#1293795) | Posted by Einwahn | Saturday, October 18, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I have been following Opeth one way or another for some years. I picked them up around the Damnation/Deliverance period and found the juxtaposition of the Death meta with melodic vocals and some fabulous melodies really addicitive. I suppose my favourite thing about the band is how they have c ... (read more)

Report this review (#1284877) | Posted by Hemiprogger | Saturday, September 27, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 3.8 Stars Pale Communion (PC) is the 11th album by the veteran band Opeth and the second that fully abandons their Death Metal past in exchange for full 70s Prog (Damnation does not count). The previous album Heritage was in my opinion by far the worst thing Opeth had ever done, mainly due t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1276061) | Posted by LakeGlade12 | Sunday, September 14, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Opeth show that retro early 70s sound of Heritage was no outlier. There's nary a fat modern metal riff. The music here unfolds on its own pace and is ornamented with sweeping mellotrons, rumbling organs, acoustics and backing strings. Opeth don't try to "outprog" anybody, but instrumentation her ... (read more)

Report this review (#1274860) | Posted by Progrussia | Thursday, September 11, 2014 | Review Permanlink

2 stars i was so looking forward to this album. In theory it should be pure heaven for me: the great growling beast that was Opeth with a new, proggier attitude. Up until Heritage Opeth could do no wrong in my eyes. Not sure what happened there, but I was hoping that Heritage was just a bit of a blip. ... (read more)

Report this review (#1272863) | Posted by Deathangel | Monday, September 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Opeth is one of the progressive rock's most popular bands nowadays and certainly the most famous prog band of Sweden. I have earlier heard and written about "Blackwater Park", a typical dark metal album and that didn't really get my full appreciation. It was too dark and too heavy for me and f ... (read more)

Report this review (#1266834) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Wednesday, September 3, 2014 | Review Permanlink

2 stars OK, I will admit I never liked Opeth's brand of Death Metal and growling vocals. But apparently that is in the past, so I figured I would give this new one a try. On first listen, I found myself getting bored about halfway through the album, and I even found it difficult to make it to the end. I mea ... (read more)

Report this review (#1266642) | Posted by emperorken | Wednesday, September 3, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Magnificent. Keys really stand out in this album. I may be biased as a keyboard player who loves mellotron, so keep that in mind. To be honest a lot of time I will be listening to a song and think to myself, "that sounds alot like something I would've written in a band." I don't know, it real ... (read more)

Report this review (#1265739) | Posted by smuggledmutation | Monday, September 1, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Opeth have had a very interesting past few years. With the release of their last album "Heritage", the band have had mixed opinions due to their change in sound. One of the biggest problems is the loss of the death metal vocals. Now, I really don't mind if the death metal vocals are not their, in ... (read more)

Report this review (#1262588) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Friday, August 29, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A good redeeming album dragged down by the mixing I have always been a huge fan of Opeth. Up until Heritage they could do no wrong in my book. Even though I have clear favourites (blackwater Park, Still Life, Ghost Reveries), all their other work is superb. Heritage was their first album I ... (read more)

Report this review (#1261581) | Posted by jverweij | Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Well Opeth in constant changing. Their last album was in an acoustic line... This one is like a typical Swedish heavy prog...reminds me very much Anekdoten...Anglagard...Paatos..bands that are inspired in 70 ies prog with that Nordic touches. What I have always love from Opeth is their ins ... (read more)

Report this review (#1254272) | Posted by robbob | Tuesday, August 19, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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