Binging (or, 11-hours of Opeth, in a nutshell)

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December 28, 2012 by Beldrac

…be it booze, dope, drugs, or chocolate most of us like the occasional binge (unless of course you’re addicted.)

Some of us, music lovers, have occasional binges when you immerse yourself in the musical catalogue of a band and don’t emerge until completely saturated. There, frankly, aren’t many bands out there that are good enough to pull me in like that, but one of them is Opeth.

Opeth

I generally start the binge with double-shot “Blackwater Park”, today specifically I wanted to hear this great track: (“Harvest”)

Some might argue that’s not a very good song to introduce this era of their career, but “Harvest” is a beacon for the departure from the harsh edge and growl-dominated vocals that helped establish them. Sure, the preceding “Still Life” had plenty of quieter parts with clean vocals, but this stands out in the timeline of their career. Perhaps one could say that “Blackwater Park” is their equivalent of the “Metallica/Black” album, simply because it signaled a big change from what the audience had grown to expect. Regardless, this was the album that fueled the evolution of one of the greatest bands of our generation. (All this, perhaps, thanks to Steven Wilson’s influence.)

Next up I go for a tall glass of “Ghost Reveries.” This was the first album Opeth released on Roadrunner Records – always been considered (by me at least) as a rather “commercial” Metal label – and my biggest fear was that Opeth were (god forbid) selling out. Turns out they didn’t but this remains my least favourite album from the (continuing) Roadrunner years.

As the skies outside darken I move onto “Watershed.” This followed up “Ghost Reveries” and was more of the same… just better. The opening track “Coil,” is an acoustic introduction to a very hard-hitting album, not so much in the sonic sense but I found it to be quite deep, very dark, and prone to inducing a very pensive mood. Great tracks like “The Lotus Eater” and “Hessian Peel” provide punch and energy to the album, while “Burden” brings to life that Opeth-trademark 70’s Prog/Soul that the band (and their fans) love so much. I especially like Mikael Åkerfeldt’s ghostly howl at the end of “Hessian Peel.”

It all began with an album named as it is adorned – “Orchid” is a very dark album with sharp contrasts, one the one hand you had crass and black Death Metal, on the other passages of Floyd-ian qualities. They were never a Black Metal band but in the early days their music has a distinctive black tint. The first track, “In Mist She Was Standing” encapsulates almost perfectly what the band would go on to create over the next few albums. What I love the most about this one is the raw sound it has, in some acoustic parts you can hear the guitar strings vibrate when being struck and it has a very “Live” atmosphere.

Just before the stroke of midnight and a few days too late, “Advent” announces their second album, “Morningrise.” If “Orchid” had a black tint then this album is a very dark shade of grey. Truth be told this is my least-favourite of their albums, but tracks like “Black Rose Immortal” and “Nectar” still shine.

“My Arms, Your Hearse” marked the first big shift in their sound and what you heard on this album would go on to be refined and remolded over the following decade or so. The songs on this album seem more cohesive than before, the acoustic or softer parts flow in and out of the aggressive parts more evenly than on the first two albums. An interesting note about this album is that the names of all the tracks are also the last word(s) of the preceding track’s lyrics. “Demon of the Fall” is one of those tracks that get a real big reaction at their live shows and on this album, it’s wicked and menacing.

My brain needs a break and as I settle down on my bed, “Damnation” comes on the stereo. Of all the Opeth album titles this one is the most powerful, the album however is quite the opposite. They shocked a few fans with this one as it contains no growls and no Death metal. I recall some fans on forums voicing disappointment and concerns that their favourite Death Metal band has gone soft. To me though, this is the perfect showcase of what the other non-metal side of the band is all about – 70s-inspired Prog Rock and even though these sides can appear polar opposites, it’s unmistakably and distinctly Opeth.

A few hours later (as the sun rises) I pick this up again with “Heritage.” If the shift in style for “Damnation” was a big deal, this was even bigger. It had all the swagger of a 70s Psychedelic Prog album, album cover ‘n all, musically lathered on with use of instruments such as a Hammond organ and Mellotron. Once again, Opeth pushed the boundaries a bit and came up with something so uniquely Opeth, no fan can really resist it. Tracks like “Slither,” “The Devil’s Orchard,” “Haxprocess,” and “The Lines in my Hand” really stand out. “Slither” was written as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio in a style similar to one of his bands, Rainbow:

With only two albums left perhaps their darkest album to date, “Still Life” comes to life with the mighty “The Moor.” Together with “Godhead’s Lament” it forms one of the most epic openings to an album I’ve heard, the clean vocals in the latter especially. This was released before “Blackwater Park” and the style is quite similar though I daresay, a little more accessible through its Prog influences and clean vocal passages. I wouldn’t be able to pick one favourite Opeth album because there seems to be one that’s best for certain moods or occasions, but “Still Life” is probably the most-consistently great and would certainly be a contender.

Lastly come “Deliverance.” It was recorded around the same time as “Damnation” and i.m.o. remains their heaviest effort – it’s as if they felt they had to balance out the featheriness of the one by cloaking the other in molten lead. This album grew on me, slowly, but is the truest showcase of the technical musical talent these guys have and these are some of best songs they’ve written for a live audience. The title track is a great example of this and hits you head-on like a stampeding herd of wildebeest, but follows the common progression to slow down in the middle with some clean vocals interspersed with growls, before building up again to a grand finale.

And so the journey comes to an end, I seriously considered also watching the three live DVDs and might yet, but for the sake of this post, I think I’ve rambled on for long enough.

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