on 26 August 2014
From what I'd read in articles leading up to the release of the album, I knew I'd be expecting something special when listening to this latest release from Opeth. Mikael Akerfeldt had said in numerous interviews that he'd been wanting to concentrate on melody a lot more for this album and he really was telling the truth. This album is one of the most melodic Opeth releases, if not the most melodic release in their entire catalogue. Not only is the singing melodic but also the guitar parts and the strings, making for an extremely listenable album.
The songs are memorable, catchy and with all the right twists and turns / light and dark bits that we all love Opeth for. The Prog elements really work on this album. Even though they're a lot more subtle when compared to Heritage it makes it sound very organic and fluid. It's obviously progressive but not in a jarring way, which is also down to the emphasis on melody. People moping about the 'excess' of prog that Heritage was (apparently) seem to forget that Opeth have always been progressive. They've certainly gotten more progressive over the years but they've not released anything that's been completely out of the blue. This is them taking the prog of Heritage and cleaning it up a bit. Heritage had to happen for this album to be made, although oddly enough it sounds as if this would've been a more logical follow up to Watershed than Heritage was (I would like to point out that personally, I love Heritage and have absolutely no problem with it).
I've listened to the entire album a good 4 or 5 times now and it's rather addictive. No one is like Opeth. I've heard people say that the Opeth of today release music that is '70's prog worship', and I've never heard so much bollocks in my life. This, to me, is a very modern sounding album in both the music and the production. Opeth just do prog differently to say, Dream Theater. You really feel that everything is about the song, and there's never too much showing off, although my only complaint is the fact that Fredrik Akesson doesn't show off enough, because he can seriously play. The solo on Cusp of Eternity is fantastic and in terms of modern guitarists he must be one of the most underrated players out there. I'd like to praise everyone's playing on the album actually. The whole thing is very well played and performed. Mikael's singing is brilliant as always and I love the choir of Mikaels that pop up throughout the album.
Probably my favourite Opeth release, although to me there isn't a single album of theirs that I dislike. If you're in the mood for some very well crafted, incredibly melodic progressive music with lovely string arrangements (a very nice addition to Opeth's sound!) then buy this album. There will always be the crowd of people who feel as though they're entitled to another Blackwater Park but to us fans who can appreciate that Opeth's sound has progressed and was obviously headed towards this direction then I think it's only fair to call this Opeth's crowning achievement so far.
on 22 September 2014
Opeth, like all progressive rock bands before them, have evolved. It took them a while, too - whilst they have pushed the boundaries of metal in many ways compared to their metal peers, looking back over their back catalogue it becomes clear that they almost became victims of their own success. Carving out a nice unique formula for themselves, it was still that - a formula. A heavy bit with growls here, a heavy bit with clean vocals there, an acoustic bit after that, do each section 4 times and repeat for 10 minutes or so. Don't get me wrong here - that's not necessarily a criticism, as pretty much all of their albums are amazing, and to be fair they didn't always stick to that formula, but with Watershed you could feel the whole thing getting a little tired. But the problem was, by having followed the same formula for so long, the fans had come to expect a certain type of thing from an Opeth album. So how does Akerfeldt allow himself to musically evolve naturally as his heart desires without pissing everyone off? The answer it turned out was simple - just do whatever the hell he wants and if he has to piss everyone off in the meantime, well, so be it. Evolve he did, and piss the fans off he also did. And so Heritage was born. It was interesting, but still missing something. It was great to finally see the birth of a new direction (in my humble opinion, anyway) whilst retaining the typically bleak atmosphere of Opeth, but it just felt like it was continually building up to something and never quite getting there. Like Akerfeldt was glad to be doing something different, but still holding himself back a little.
Well, well, well. Along comes Pale Communion. Whatever Akerfeldt was trying to achieve with Heritage, well, here it is, and it was worth the wait. He has finally set himself free of the shackles of his own making, and it is absolutely glorious to hear. I won't go into a track by track breakdown here, as the standalone single release of Cusp of Eternity prior to the album's release taught me one thing - Opeth are not a singles band. I found myself disappointed when I first heard that song. But why? Because it didn't do absolutely everything I wanted Opeth to do in one song? Not every song can be a Ghost of Perdition... but then it doesn't have to be. It seems that what Opeth have realised is that you don't have to do everything in one song - after all, you have a whole album to fill! That's why Ghost Reveries, despite being my now second favourite Opeth album (it was my first until this one came along), kind of fizzles out towards the end - you have absolutely everything you could ever wish for in Ghost of Perdition and Baying of the Hounds, leaving the rest of the album feeling a little empty and anti-climatic (even though it is all still brilliant). With Pale Communion, the genius is spread evenly throughout, and Cusp of Eternity is just one of the many flavours Opeth have graced us with on this album. Taken alone, it is still a fantastic song, but it can be appreciated so much more when taken as part of a greater whole. And Pale Communion is indeed one of those albums that you have to listen to from start to finish to fully appreciate the depth and enormity of it.
There is something unique and brilliant about every song here, and it would take a whole essay to describe them all. I could point out a few of favourites - Eternal Rains Will Come is a stunning opener, going from an evil-jazzy intro into a sweeping melodic mini-epic; River pays homage to CSN and the Allman Brothers Band in what is probably the first ever happy(ish) Opeth song and showcases the unbelievable musicianship of this band; Voice of Treason is a slow, brooding and absolutely mesmerising journey with a Kashmir-style middle-eastern flavour, and if this is indeed Opeth's Kashmir, then Faith in Others is their Stairway to Heaven. No words can do that song justice - just listen to it and bathe yourself in the glory that is Opeth at their absolute best.
By letting himself off the chain, Akerfeldt has created his most adventurous, creative, emotional and bold record yet. As a long-time Opeth fan you may lament the loss of the growls and heaviness. But to accept Opeth as a progressive band means to accept that, like all other true progressive bands, they are naturally going to evolve from album to album. Look at King Crimson - with the exception of the first two or three albums, they could have been a completely different band on every other album. But why would you want the same thing over and over again? You can always put on Blackwater Park or Still Life if you want to listen to old Opeth. And isn't that the great thing about music - it is here forever. And I am extremely grateful that Pale Communion will be here forever too, for it is one of the greatest albums of this generation. Sir Akerfeldt, I salute you.
on 25 August 2014
The forums are fit to bursting with fan and critic opinion and reaction to the latest career curve ball from Opeth, and, as an open minded (and admittedly, bit older) fan, I find it hilarious that people can't accept the decision by Mr. Akerfeldt to move away from the days of the death growl onto a more progressive rock pathway with excitement and good grace. I've been a massive addict of this band since Blackwater Park in 2001 and have absorbed each and every album with utter amazement and delight, and I love the aggressive, death metal side of their catalogue as much as anyone, and sometimes I do yearn for a bit of that, but I promise, if you approach this album with an open mind and the thought that the willingness to break the mould and be 100 times more exciting than most bands out there today is what got you into Opeth in the first place, then this album could take it's place at the top table with the aformentioned BP, Still Life, Deliverence et al as one of your fave Opeth releases. It flows beautifully, and is far more cohesive than previous opus Heritage, and in my opinion contains some of Akerfeldt's strongest writing to date. From the labyrinthian opener Eternal Rains...with it's glorious layered vocal harmonies, to the epic and challenging Moon Above, Sun Below with it's stunning opening riff, straight from Satan's record collection (just cause there's no death growls, don't mean it can't evoke the Devil). Some have criticised Moon Above, .. for being boring and plodding, give it time and open you ears. The album then really open's up into anything goes territory, with prog-tastic instrumental Goblin, sounding just like um...Goblin, the stunning River, evoking an Opeth-ian version of The Moody Blues. The album climaxes with possibly the finest 16 minutes of music your likely to hear this year, starting with Voice of Treason, with cinematic string stabs and urgent drumming and a beautiful central vocal melody, ripping into a massive riff-centred chorus, with a familiar Eastern feel, it's immense. The album finishes on a high, with the gorgeous Faith In Others, which Steven Wilson endorsed as possibly Opeth's finest song so far. While that is subjective, it is probably Opeth's most emotional, beautiful and frankly tear enducing moment to date. The central vocal melody from Mikael is beautifully delivered with a passion and humanity so far unheard, that combined with the slow and lovely string drenched progression, it feels perfectly placed to end a proper opus. Also, the album is littered with the most beautifully constructed guitar solos on any Opeth album so far, just amazing. In summing up, my advice to any disillusioned fan, listen with wonder and an open mind and this will reward you no end. The most exciting thing is you have so many different sides to this band, you really can have your cake and eat it...that and the thought that the next album might be the one where he growls again........
on 28 August 2014
I am a diehard Opeth fan, I love pretty much every album they had ever done. The only exepction from me was Heritige. Heritige while not a disaster, felt like an album lacked cohesiveness and the songs meandered a bit. There seemed to be a lot of pointless meandering that didn't need to be there, so I was a little nervous going into this album. Turns out I need not have worried, this a glorious album.
Yes, I think it can be safely stated that this is not a "Metal" record in any sense of the word. This is prog album, make not mistake.
The simple way to review this album is that they have taken the melodic prog rock of Heritige, and refined it further. The meandering that I felt hampered that album is gone, and the songs are extremely cohesive. The melodies on this album amazing, ranging from fragile beauty to almost hear wrenching dispair. Mikael's vocals on this album are stunning and really capture a lot of the emotion on this album
What I think really elevates this album way above Heritige is how well it works as a whole. Like Blackwater Park, Pale Communion is at it's best when listened from start to finish, as a complete unit. It is a testament to the band that they are able to make each song fit so perfectly, that it ceases to be just a collection of songs, but something far greater. That's not to say there are no stand-out songs. My personal favourite songs are the insanely progtasic 16min Goblin, which is a tour de force of musicianship and the somewhat devisive Moon Above, Sun Below with one of the best Opeth riffs ever commited to tape.
If you didn't like Heritige much, this is still worth checking out as I feel it is a far stronger album. If nothing else, this should confirm if the bands evolution is one that fits with your personal tastes of the band. Blackwater Park is still my favourite album of theirs, and I think they may never top it, but this is a great album all on its own, and well worth a listen.
on 6 October 2014
I had to let this one sink in for a few weeks before reviewing. With this album comes a clear statement that Opeth have changed direction permanently.
If you like their new melodic, 70's inspired prog rock sound then this is the pinnacle of their achievement thus far.
I have to say though I morn the loss of their broad spectrum of emotion from staggeringly evil to soft and plaintive this is a bold and successful progression. Bands that continue to evolve and follow their own star are the most intriguing to me. Mikael has pushed Opeth towards growth continuously. I can now say that I love this album but it takes repeated listens to really appreciate it if you are a long term fan.
All In all it's a 5 star album. I love 'Goblin'. What a riff!
on 1 September 2014
GREAT MUSIC, FAULTY BLU-RAY
Beware if you're interested in listening to this album in surround. The front left and LFE tracks from the blu-ray are OUT OF PHASE, which makes the soundstage extremely odd and destroys what would've been another terrific mix by Steven Wilson. It creates a weird "hole" at the left side of the soundstage, with almost no bass at all and drums lacking punch and balance, due to the cancellation of audio waveforms in the air. Looks like every copy of the blu-ray is suffering from this fault, as many customers are already complaining on some forums. The stereo mix, however, is correct.
This is a great album and deserves to be released without any fault. Akerfeldt seems to have improved his prog rock songwriting compared to "Heritage", an album that was full of great musical ideas, but somewhat flawed songs. On "Pale Communion" the songs structures are better, more cohesive. Roadrunner needs to fix this screwed up blu-ray. If they do, I WILL change my review to 5 stars, because the music deserves it.
on 17 September 2014
Its Opeth. Top quality Opeth. What more needs saying? If you're new to Opeth, don't expect to get it on the first listening, it gets better and better the more you hear it. It repays your full attention: it's NOT background music. There are parts where it has me ready to weep because the sound is beautiful. But then I'm an Opeth obsessive so I make no promise to be at all objective. I just love it.
on 24 September 2014
Ok here we go. Unless you've had your head under a rock on Mars for the last three years, you'll know that in 2011, Opeth decided they were going to discard the growling and released a pure 'prog' album, `Heritage', almost ending civilization as we know it in the process. And in all honesty, the reason `Heritage' caused such consternation is not necessarily the change of direction (bands such as Metallica and Paradise Lost have made bigger transisitons without fuss), but that Heritage was, lets be honest, a deeply flawed album. Disjointed, jumbled, unfocused and perhaps even contrived, it was a case of Mikael Akerfeld trying to run alongside the prog giants before he'd learned to walk.
All of which makes follow up `Pale Communion' a terribly important release. Not only for the band, but for heavy music in general. Opeth are one of metal's flagship bands, regularly being featured in chin-stroking broadsheet newspapers alongside the likes of the Manics and Coldplay; another failure would have been bad news all round for the darker end of the spectrum.
So is it another failure? Most definitely not. `Pale', although broadly following Heritage's template, is a vast improvement in almost every possible way, as I will describe. Due to each track having a unique identity that I will break my normal rules and carry out a track-by-track breakdown:
`Eternal Rains Will Come' makes a great start, with a couple of minutes of oblique prog noodling serving as an intro for a gorgeous vocal riff that sees the song out. Take note Mikael, it works this way round...
`Cusp of Eternity' you may have heard, being the single, and possibly one of the most conventionally structured tracks Opeth have ever released. A definite Eastern feel to this one, it wouldn't be out of place on an Oprhaned Land album. A compliment yes, and deserved for a fine song.
`Moon Above, Sun Below' is the album's Prog-athon, 11 minutes long, alarm bells rang for me, but it works superbly provided you accept that its essentially two songs segued into one at the 6 minute mark. The two halves bear little resemblance to each other, but this isn't too much of an issue, as internal flow and logic of each half are impeccable. A pleasant surprise to say the least.
`Elysian Woes' is a softer song in the mould of the revealed `Damnation' album. For me the weakest song on the album, it starts prettily enough, but progresses little and wilts towards the end, eventually sort of petering out with a whimper. Fans of Damnation may enjoy though, I'm more of a Blackwater Park man...
`Goblin' is an unashamed tribute to Seventies Hammond-led prog/funk. An instrumental, its decent enough but probably won't sit on anyone's track of the year list.
`River' starts beautifully, with a lilting Akerfeld vocal line that could almost be Country and Western. However at the three minute mark it wanders into heavier territory through a series of tempo changes, losing the effect of the start of the song. Full marks for the first three minutes, but the only song on the album that runs into Heritigean song structure difficulties.
`Voice of Treason' is another Eastern-sounding track, somewhat reminiscent of Zeppelin's `Kashmir'. Simpler in structure than most, it builds towards another superb and heartfelt vocal line. Probably the best track on the second half of the album.
And finally `Faith in Others' leads us out with a passionate and heartfelt semi-ballad.
So there you go. Although `Pale' has its flaws, it's a welcome return to form. Richer in melody, more logical in structure and just downright better than its predecessor, and needless to say that the musicianship is first rate throughout. Its a delight and a relief that Opeth have found their feet in their new direction. And you know the best thing? There will be better to come. Welcome back Mikael, all is forgiven...
Like many I was a little dismayed when Opeth headed off in a more prog-rock direction ( as opposed to their prog-metal roots ). Watershed was not a huge favourite with me but I stuck with them, then Heritage came out and I just didn't like it at all. Like many I'd loved their earlier stuff, having been listening to them since "My Arms, Your Hearse", seen them several times live, so I've invested a lot of time in them and I wasn't going to let all that go to waste.
I'm always willing to give artists a fair crack so PC arrived and I bought it. First listen...oh no Heritage Mk II! Much to my shame I didn't get past the first track! Two weeks later I was discussing Opeth with a mate and I decided to give PC another fair hearing, really listen to it, a few times if need be.
I have to say after a couple of days with it and I'd completely forgotten the golden rule of an Opeth album, IT TAKES TIME TO GET INTO! It's really growing on me.
Stand out tracks, obviously "Cusp of Eternity"!
"Goblin" - I really love this track despite it sounding like a 1980's cop show incidental music track! Ha ha!
"Eternal Rains Will Come" - Really mellow track with menace.
As others have referenced, the Metal Injections review is spot on, at first listen die-hards will just lose it saying it sounds all weedy and proggy, but the clever thing Akerfeld and Co. have done is managed to take all that anger and aggression from the prog-metal work on previous albums and somehow keep mellow out but keep the underlying tone of menace in their music.
If I'm still honest, no it's not one of their greatest albums ( hence the 4 ) when compared to stuff like Damnation and pick any track from Deliverance, Ghost or Blackwater but this is certainly damn fine album that deserves respect and deserves people giving it a fair chance and not just writing it off as Opeth-gone-soft. People expect things these days to be instant gratification, well I don't think Opeth have ever delivered instant gratification, you have to work with them to get into their music. I've disliked most of their albums at first listen but I've persevered and been rewarded in spades. So stick with it and give it a go, if you like it, brilliant, if not well at least you were open minded enough to try .
on 25 August 2014
Pale Communion is the 11th album by Swedish progressive metal titans Opeth. It was released on 25 August, 2014 via Roadrunner Records, having been pushed back several months from it's initial release of June due to not having all the logistics ready for its release. Pale Communion was produced by Mikael Akerfeldt and was mixed by Steven Wilson. Mikael has stated that this album has more melody and is the first Opeth release to feature strings. Pale Communion has the lead single "Cusp Of Eternity".
Opeth are no stranger to evolution. Since Blackwater Park, and notably in the albums that followed, the band have evolved their sound and have continued to push the envelope. Since Ghost Reveries (2005) - to me, their absolute magnum opus - the band have been on this quest to show their progressive rock side and have since dropped all things that made Opeth the savagely heavy band they were once were. This has left many of the fans isolated and distraught. When "Cusp Of Eternity" broke onto the internet, much like "The Devil's Orchard" from Heritage when the single was released, fans were both excited and dismayed at the same time - some loved it, some hated it. The single has a `modern' production to it, but sounded very progressive to my ears, with a catchy chorus. I loved the single and couldn't stop listening it so much that I even had it as my ringtone, that's when I realised that the fever of excitement had caught and knew I would be counting down the days until the album's release.
Throughout their evolution, members have come and gone. The famous five and the five that would release the best Opeth albums is one that will always stay special to me. Blackwater Park (2001), Deliverance (2002), Damnation (2003) and Ghost Reveries (2005) are special albums and not be outdone, however, Watershed (2008) was a step in the right direction after the loss of two key members (Lindgren and Lopez). It showed that the two newest members of Opeth could do just as well, if not try and alter Opeth's legacy. After Heritage was done, keyboardist Per Wiberg stepped down and was soon replaced by Joakim Svalberg as Opeth were about to embark on a worldwide tour. Heritage was a wonderful album, despite what some fans who prefer the heavier side of Opeth might say, and still to this day it remains one of my favourite Opeth albums of recent times. I would definitely place it in my upper top five of favourite Opeth records.
Pale Communion, then, Opeth's 11th record and their fourth for Roadrunner Records, from "Eternal Rains Will Come" to "Faith In Others" is an accomplished Opeth album given that there are strings on this album, most notably in the last two tracks. It has melody on this album than any other Opeth album - the `melody' instantly making it different - and when this sounds like it does then I would go as far calling this album "magic". Heritage was a complete revival of Opeth's sound and it gave the band life again, so I really don't care what fans will say, and the band are moving into a `progressive rock' territory.
If you saw the Metal Injection track-by-track review (you've probably read it a thousand times, like me) then you'll have some inkling what you are in for, although the review was of un-sequenced album. However, hearing it for the first time is an experience like no other. I always remember exactly when and where I bought Heritage. It was on it's release day - 19th September 2011 - that I went into my local HMV and picked it up right then and there, without hesitation. The rest was and is history, as they say.
As I listen through this album a few times, I'm already falling in love with it - coming back to my earlier point of it being "magic". The album sounds in the same vein as heritage (that the album is not blatantly heavy), but here and there there are are sections of heavier-sounding guitars, especially in the first two tracks and even more so with the guitar riffs on "Cusp Of Eternity". As always, there is a lot of acoustic guitar throughout this album and it helps to be that constant bridge between songs and during the songs, even serving as the the intro on "River". The main difference between Heritage and Pale Communion is that Heritage, at the best of times, sounded like a slow and pondering album only emphasised by its two instrumental opening and closing tracks. On the other hand Pale Communion sounds driven and focused.
This is one of the reasons why I think that Pale Communion will win over a lot of fans who didn't like Heritage. The album sounds fantastic, and it doesn't takes ages to get to the meat of music, the core of the album. I feel that this is the biggest difference between Heritage and Pale Communion, it's partly the reason, in all honestly, I prefer Pale Communion over Heritage - Heritage was one of those records which many people didn't understand and only a select actually `got' it. There is so much to this album for any fan of progressive rock/metal to love, albeit the lack of distorted guitars and growls (something I think will be commonplace in Opeth's music), but it also shows that Opeth, like always, will continue to push the envelope.
The fact alone that there is a 10-minute song on this album (when Heritage's longest song was "Famine") makes this album special. I'm all in favour of Opeth going this way in terms of experimentation and pushing the envelope. They are definitely turning out to be one of the most prolific bands of their generation, always managing to release quality records with each one different to the next, and I would never want any of my favourite bands to constantly release the same record after another - what, I think, many of the fans are hoping for - but really people need to get onboard with how Opeth are challenging themselves with every album. It's actually refreshing in many ways to see a big this established in the metal community - a household name that can draw large crowds - to be this rebellious.
I really love how in the last two tracks the strings play a massive part in the album. "Voice of Treason" and the epic closing track "Faith In Others" are songs that you will want to replay for the sheer brilliance of adding strings in there. I don't know if they are the last two tracks especially to close the album or if they are all throughout the album - listening to compressed files probably isn't wise. The album flows really well too, as "Eternal Rains Will Come" fades into "Cusp Of Eternity", and again, the last two tracks lead into one another. Even the track "Goblin", an ode to the band of the same name, is an instrumental track and is a real signal towards the album's descent.
Overall: Pale Communion is miles better than Heritage, now that I've had time to listen to both albums properly and compare them. One thing that draws me back to this album is how good it sounds, the instrumentation and also the way that this album flows. I'm not still entirely certain if people will `get' this album or are just waiting until Opeth to make a heavy album if they ever do. Again, I think this album that many will both love and hate, but I think that more people will like it because it sounds like progressive rock, and not progressive rock with a little Jazz thrown in there. I, however, love Pale Communion and highly recommend it if you are a fan of Opeth's progressive rock side. (Please note I haven't called this album a masterpiece as really think it's too easy for me to call it so).