Monday, August 26, 2013

Blackwater Park - Opeth (Album)

This week we'll be journeying to Blackwater Park*, the fifth album by progressive death metal band, Opeth. Many musicians have been involved with Opeth in the years since its conception in 1990. The one constant, Mikael Åkerfeldt, is truly the driving force behind the band, providing both the dirty and clean vox, as well as nearly all the guitar work. The songs are fairly linear, with very few refrains. Åkerfeldt, like many technical rock musicians, is harkening back to classical compositions, with their focus on long movements and themes.

If it wasn't for the hair, I'd have a hard time picturing this guy screaming his brains out.

Opeth, I believe, fits somewhat snugly in the progressive death metal genre, with one interesting exception: some feel that they draw from influences which are too varied to continue to be considered a death metal band**. And indeed, in one movement you will find yourself deep within the harsh, tortured world of death metal, in the next you are drifting in a Floydian haze of neu-jazz. I love the variety offered on this album. It is metal, but it's also a sincere artistic expression, written by a real master of the genre. So adept, in fact, that he seems to be over-reaching its borders.

If you are not a fan of "screaming," I encourage you to try this album out anyway. Like the finest Tool songs, this album can be fully enjoyed with either eyes closed, or by reading along with the mood-setting lyrics. Attention to detail augments the brutality here with a deftness I have not previously heard in the genre. The bass plays a very prominent and important roll in establishing the mix of sounds achieved. The lyrics are well-written. The mixing is fabulous. Perhaps most interesting is how--even within the framework of complex rhythms and full-voiced screaming, the technicality of the songs, the lack of choruses and refrains--the songs are actually quite catchy. A few listens through they will already feel familiar, classic even. For me at least, I had the feeling that I had known these songs for years, and I was singing along before I even knew I knew the words.

MA 8.26.13

*Was that kind of lame? Saying, "journeying" like that? I hope that wasn't lame...

**Source: the hilarious and bizarre "discuss" Wikipedia page for progressive death metal

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