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Opeth's got a new CD out!
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Old 22 Jun 2008, 00:56   #1 (permalink)
Shas'El
 
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Default Opeth's got a new CD out!

Actually, this album has been out since the beginning of the month, and I've been listening to it since it leaked about a fortnight before that. But I've held off on reviewing it for one very simple reason, It's bloody difficult. Opeth albums (or movements as the band likes to call them) are very difficult beasts to get into and fully appreciate and although I've only heard three of them all the way through. So I've listened to this album wholly and piecemeal and now I think I can speak my mind on it.

I tried to write the review in several ways. The first was a track by track summary, which started off like this...

Coil: This is a beautiful opener, it's a very short (for Opeth) song and although the beginning sounds slightly turbulent it quickly segues into a softly spoken ballad with Mikael Akerfeldts magnificent clean vocals preceeding a surprising female voice that continues and then fades out the song.

Heir Apparent: If this were any other band I would be surprised by the sudden shift from soft acoustic to crushing death metal, but then this is Opeth. The opening to this song is brutal, jarring guitar chords and thumping drums lead into the main riff which then opens into a stunning piano part, lulling the listenier into a false sense of security... BANG! The death metal comes back and thrusts the listener into a punishing deluge of sound, complete with Akerfeldts throaty death-growls roaring through it all, a short musical bridge leads into a drawn out guitar solo which then breaks along with the death metal to introduce quick-plucked acoustic guitars and a haunting mellotron in the background which suddenly fades out, leaving just the acoustics, but it's a trap! Just round the corner lies a massive metal explosion which bursts into a wierd techno bridge with wailing guitars...



However when I realised I was only two thirds of the way through Heir Apparent I concluded that describing Opeth songs is a near impossible task because they go on for ages and contain so many skips and changes that I could be describing them forever.
So I tried to cover the album as a whole...

Watershed: This album is somewhat of a paradox, it's the ninth album by a well established metal band, and yet it's overall metal content is surprisingly low. That is most probably because Opeth have always been a band that advance and experiment with their sound, and this album feels like a much more focussed attack on the world of prog that Opeth have been dabbling in for years now. Where albums such as the stunning Still Life and the unsurpassed Blackwater Park used haunting acoustic interludes and soft segments to break-up and augment their overall death metal sound, Watershed seems to work in reverse. It is essentially a prog-rock/metal album with areas of massively heavy death-metal used to enhance the overall sound.

Whilst Heir Apparent is pretty much a full on death-metal song, and The Lotus Eater and Hessian Peel both contain strong elements of it in places, the rest of the songs on the album feel much more subdued, although Porcelain Heart and Hex Omega do still contain some powerful riffs at times. That is not to say however that tracks like Coil, Porcelain Heart or Burden are happy songs, oh no! Overall this album has a very haunted, melancholy feeling to it, both in the lyrics and the echoing, slow paced music, although there are a few parts where this rule is not observed, chief amongst them, a wonderful jazz interlude in the middle of the The Lotus Eater.

So now let's talk prog. There are several instances in this album that show just how experimental Opeth are getting. The Lotus Eater fades out to a short segment of recorded voices, reminiscent of something out of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, Burden ends with an acoustic guitar line slowly being detuned by someone in the studio, there are many instances of Akerfeldt's soft voice being converted into faint radio sound such as at the end of Hex Omega ; and Hessian Peel contains two instances of backwards vocals... ah yes Hessian Peel. Let's talk about that song for a little while.

First of all, no I do not know why it's called that! Coming in at 11 minutes and 25 seconds Hessian Peel is the longest song on the album, which is good because it's an absolute fething masterpiece. Opening with a soft guitar line and clean vocals the song meanders through haunting melodies and chrushing death metal seemingly at random. The lyrics are mysterious and compelling, typical of Akerfeldt's previous work. Hessian Peel is one of the most haunting, powerful and mysterious songs I have ever listened to. Normally with a track selection which contains excellent songs like Porcelain Heart and Hex Omega it would be difficult to pick a stand out track, but Hessian Peel most certainly is that.

Overall Watershed is a very, very good album, filled with incredible songs and packed full of artistic vision, but it is not without it's faults. It cannot really be called a metal album, and whilst there's nothing wrong with that, I should stress that this album will probably appeal far more to fans of prog and occasional metal listeners than it will die-hard metal heads. Although Akerfeldt's clean vocals have never been better, his growls, whilst still tremendously powerful do seem to have lost some of the deadly potency that they carried on albums like Blackwater Park and with only 7 songs weighing in at a hefty 55 minutes it might be too long for casual listeners to get through in one sitting, which is how it really needs to be listened to, as a whole, magnificent piece.

Overall then I would give this remarkable album 9/10

An edit of Porcelain Heart was released as a single, which can be viewed here. You should note that the full album track is actually a hefty 8 minutes long.

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Old 25 Jun 2008, 17:58   #2 (permalink)
Shas'Vre
 
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Default Re: Opeth's got a new CD out!

I know. A friend of mine has the special edition. I want the CD to, but I'm a little short on cash lately, with Wacken, and the In Flames concert.
BTW, are you by any chance Dutch?
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Old 26 Jun 2008, 15:29   #3 (permalink)
Shas'El
 
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Default Re: Opeth's got a new CD out!

Quote:
I know. A friend of mine has the special edition.
Yeah, I only have the normal version. I'm annoyed that I miss out on Derelict Herds but the other songs are covers so I'm not really too bothered about that. Although Watershed's booklet has a lot of great art and meaning in it, it doesn't have the lyrics printed in it which is a bit annoying because I'm pretty sure that I'm very close to unravelling the narrative of the album and the lyrics would help with that.

Quote:
but I'm a little short on cash lately, with Wacken, and the In Flames concert.
Aren't Opeth going to Wacken? They're touring England in November, I'm hoping to get tickets, but I, like you am a bit strapped for cash.

Quote:
BTW, are you by any chance Dutch?
I'm too English to be Dutch
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