Opeth are a progressive death metal band from Stockholm, Sweden. Formed in 1990, they were originally called Opet, and have released 9 critically acclaimed albums to date.
Opeth have had various line-up changes over the years, but the key member, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Mikael Åkerfeldt is the band’s heart and soul.
What are they about
Opeth are personified by prodigious musicianship, complex song, lengthy compositions, and eclectic musical styles. Opeth juxtapose ear bleeding heaviness with the muted and melodic.
GUIDE TO THE BEST OPETH ALBUMS
Ghost Reveries (2005)
Opeth had been steadily gather respect, acclaim and, perhaps most significantly for a band who’s music could politely be described as “challenging”, success. The progression plainly visible throughout their work to date is delivered in here in sharply focused and dramatic form.
Like Opeth’s best works Ghost Reveries is both brutal and beautiful, juxtaposing complex riffery and guttural roars with wistful melody and atmospheric ambience, all against a backdrop of plaintive yet exhilarating narrative. With 4 of it’s 8 tracks over 10 minutes, this is not something that can be conquered in a couple of listens; this album takes work, but it will keep rewarding you attentions with endless hidden treasures.
Ghost Reveries doesn’t pull its punches. The opening cacophony of Ghost of Perdition takes us on a sinister journey building to a heart pounding crescendo before meandering into the retro-prog quirkiness of Baying of the Hounds – surely 2 of the best songs ever recorded by Opeth. We are then taken on a macabre journey through the dark recesses of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s mind. Musical styles are mixed effortlessly: blues (Hours of Wealth), brutal death metal (The Grand Conjuration), eastern tinged prog (Atonement).
The final coda sees the sinister cacophony of The Grand Conjoration – like being set upon by a pack of hungry wolves – before being soothed into a daze The Isolation Years, gasping for more.
Beautiful, complex, epic. A towering achievement that left their peers so far behind the game it’s difficult to see how anyone will top it.
If 1999’s Still Life marked the epoch of Opeth’s emergence from murky progressive death metal swamp, Blackwater Park was the album that really defined what they would become. Majestic and spooky, Åkerfeldt’s black metal leanings can be found throughout.
With Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson twiddling the knobs, Opeth’s sound became deeper and more textured, at times giving it a cinematic feel.
Stylistically, this was their most eclectic, blending their traditional sound with more mainstream elements. Bleak and the title track are true classics of the genre. Songs within songs within songs yield devastatingly original compositions but still leaving one feeling like you’ve listened to a song rather than a collection of riffs and meanderings.
Opeth’s music is always bleak in tone, but Blackwater Park is ultimately uplifting. This feels like wondering around a collection of paintings by the old masters – endlessly perplexing and beguiling.
How do you follow a critically acclaimed and genre-defining masterpiece like Ghost Reveries? By recording another critically acclaimed and genre defining masterpiece. Watershed sounds at once familiar and totally different. This is no mere rehash of former glories but a whole new genre in itself. Watershed contains Opeth’s heaviest track – the unrelenting Heir Apparent – and their most commercial – the Pink Floyd meets The Eagles dirge, Burden.
Less sinister in feel than their previous albums, Watershed sounds like Åkerfeldt has put on his slippers and is smoking a pipe, listening to Scott Walker. It is by far their most commercially successful album to date.
Yes, several of these tracks could comfortably air on VH1 or BBC Radio 2.
But a compromise this is not. Watershed is ruthlessly well constructed and deceptively complex.
Ultimately less satisfying (perhaps because it’s less challenging) than Ghost Reveries or Blackwater Park, it’s still cut above almost everything else release in 2007.
Initial described the heavy one to its mellow companion, Damnation, released 6 months later – both produced by Steven Wilson – Damnation’s has a lot more to offer than just pseudo-death metal brutality. Damnation is clearly a commercial rock album, but he didn’t keep all the melody back for that album, as ever Deliverance delivers aggression and ambience in equal measure.
That said, other than the staggering title track, Deliverance lacks the immediacy of other albums, and often veers into the tedium of their earlier albums.
That aside, this is still considered a classic and is a must own for anyone with even a passing interest in Opeth.