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Opeth: Ghost Reveries

After a brief, calm and serene opening segment, "Ghost of Perdition" blasts forward with furious guitar passages and Mikael Akerfeldt's rampaging death metal vocals. So begins the Roadrunner Records debut from Opeth Ghost Reveries, one of the most anticipated progressive metal albums of the year, and also sure to be one of the most talked about and argued over release from the Opeth catalog. Why you ask? Well, for one now that Opeth is signed to a larger label, many will question and accuse of "sellout", and others will bicker about the addition of keyboards and use of more clean vocals. In reality, this is a maturing Opeth, a band that is coming to grips with the second stage of their career. Damnation and Deliverance were the brother and sister combo CD's that were released a few years back, and these albums were a signal of the direction that Opeth were going to be taking in years to come. While Deliverance was perhaps the heaviest and most straightforward record the band had done, Damnation succumbed to their progressive rock affinities, and featured lush Mellotron, acoustic guitars, clean & melodic vocals, and somber musical landscapes. Now a few years later, Ghost Reveries combines the best of both of those worlds, and while perhaps not the instant classic that Blackwater Park, Morningrise, or Still Life were, it is easily one of the best albums to come out this year and another gem for Opeth that only gets better with each listen.

Back to "Ghost of Perdition", a fantastic opening cut, the band utilizes all of their strengths, including complex guitar riffery, death and clean vocals, and moments of beautiful acoustic guitar work. Now, with the addition of keyboard player Per Wiberg, the band adds in some Hammond, Mellotron, electric and acoustic piano, and synths into the mix. Never though do they overload the music with keys, but just enough to add a new dimension to their sound. "Ghost of Perdition" sees Wiberg painting with a splash of Mellotron here and there, but this song is all about metal fury caught in an ebb and flow with the more tranquil acoustic moments, a classic Opeth characteristic. On "The Baying of the Hounds", Wiberg's Hammond organ is more out front, combining with Akerfeldt's and Peter Lindgren's heavy guitar chords for an almost Deep Purple-like sound, and Mikael switches back and forth between brutal growls and melodic clean sections many times. His guitar solo on this one just screams, and it's important to note that the overall lead work on this album is much more technical and fluid than in the past. The closing sequence on "Hounds" is lovely, with lulling acoustic guitars, Mellotron, piano, and Martin Lopez's gentle percussion, and just when you think the song is going to out on that calming note, the band lurches back into the mix for a extreme death metal workout on the song's final moment.

"Beneath the Mire" is a Mellotron lovers dream, with Wiberg pulling some ominous sounds out at the intro accompanied by the clean electric guitar riffs from Akerfeldt and Lindgren. Before long the song becomes a plodding death metal number, but then changes back to a serene and atmospheric progressive rock piece, complete with Akerfeldt's haunting clean vocals, liquid guitar solo, and layers of piano and acoustic guitar. This back and forth war goes on for the entire song, and both elements combines at the outro of the song which turns it into a symphonic and proggy death metal treat. The band throws in some Middle Eastern percussion and guitar tones on "Atonement", a song that has plenty in common with Porcupine Tree or Pink Floyd thanks to Wiberg's chilling keyboard work and Akerfeldt's effects laden vocals. "Reverie/Harlequin Forest" returns the band to metal land, but this time Akerfeldt uses mainly clean vocals. While the longest piece on the album, there are not as many intricate riffs and passages on this one as you would expect. Lyrically, by this track you begin to notice similar themes in each song, which leads me to believe that Ghost Reveries was intended or written as a concept piece. It's as if the character in each tune is making some long journey, and in this song he references hearing the hounds baying behind him from the last song, as other references of the mire, ghosts, his fever, and eternal darkness are in just about every track. As with every Opeth album, the lyrics are pretty dense and bleak, and here is no different. On "Hours of Wealth", the character finds a way to rid himself of the fever that's been hindering him from the outset, but he realizes that the fever is gone because he is no longer, and now he must spend his days in darkness looking at the world from far away. It's a pretty depressing but emotional piece, littered with piano, Mellotron, clean guitars, and Akerfeldt's passionate vocals. It's the calm before the storm...

"The Grand Conjuration" is the albums centerpiece, the song that really sees the new Opeth hit their stride. Opening with complex guitar riffs and keyboard textures, the band then blasts back and forth between a haunting and evil dark tone to a raging death metal statement, and it really works here. Akerfeldt's death vocals are venemous on this piece, and the rhythm team of Lopez and bassist Martin Mendez work overtime to create layers of intricate grooves. I'm sure that over time this song will rank up there with other Opeth classics and become a fan favorite. The last tune is the lush and breathtaking "Isolation Years", complete with acoustic guitars, keyboards, and soaring vocals. It seems to close the story somewhat, with the lover of the main character realizing that he is gone and lamenting the years that she will now live alone in isolation.

Ghost Reveries contains a lot to take in, and it's not one of those albums that you get into right away and discover all its nuances. This is an album, like a fine wine, that matures and ages over time as you begin to discover all the hidden flavors and characteristics that it has. It's certainly Opeth's most ambitious project to date, and contains a few songs that should rank in the future as Opeth favorites, like "Ghost of Perdition", "The Baying of the Hounds", and "The Grand Conjuration". The production of the album is stellar, and with artwork and design courtesy of Travis Smith, you can expect a professional and gothic looking layout. Opeth have now arrived in the mainstream.


Track Listing
1) Ghost of Perdition (10:29)
2) The Baying of the Hounds (10:41)
3) Beneath the Mire (7:57)
4) Atonement (6:28)
5) Reverie/Harlequin Forest (11:39)
6) Hours of Wealth (5:20)
7) The Grand Conjuration (10:21)
8) Isolation Years (3:51)

Added: July 8th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Opeth Website
Hits: 7918
Language: english

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Opeth: Ghost Reveries
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-07-08 10:47:17
My Score:

Several careful listens to Ghost Reveries should suffice to see Opeth's move to Roadrunner Records hasn't changed or affected their musical vision the least bit. I've played this disc seemingly hundreds of times and each spin cements my opinion that this is still a great Opeth album that gets better and better. So if you put off checking it out because of some people claiming they "sold out", I urge you to think again and buy this album and form your own opinion.

Ghost Reveries is one of the most varied albums in Opeth's catalog, displaying a rich compositional style blended with passionate songwriting and stylistic cohesion. I cannot stress the "passionate" part, as some of the songs are among the most haunting and emotive Mikael Akerfeldt has written. While the band had plenty of time to rehearse and perfect the material on Ghost Reveries, there were also songs that were recorded in one take or even put together in the studio. The compositions are very organic from start to finish, and the addition of keyboard player Per Wiberg only serves to add more dimension to their music as opposed to influence their direction in a negative way.

Speaking of Wiberg, some of the songs on the album are very much accommodating, as they allow Wiberg to pull out ever-colourful synth sounds, blazing organs, grand and electric piano, and the Mellotron. Though his presence isn't as prevalant on the heavier cuts such as "Ghost of Perdition" and "The Grand Conjuration", there is still a solid wall of synth sound built around the relentless riffing and demonic death metal growls. "Ghost of Perdition", a terrific choice to open the album, also sees Opeth taking on some distinct Tool influences, particularly in the syncopated rhythm guitars and eerie percussion work. The guitar tuning and some of the chord progression evoke Tool's "The Grudge", which is no big surprise considering Akerfeldt has always cited Tool among his favourite bands. The other heavy number "The Grand Conjuration", on the other hand, highlights the band's technical proficiency, with an epic arrangement and very fast yet well-written lead solo. Akerfeldt's vocals on this song are among his best in his career.

"Baying of the Hounds" is arguably the finest cut on the album, introducing 70's organ sounds contrasted by great transitions and awesome clean vocal harmonies. Lopez' drumming on this track is sublime while Wiberg's keyboard acrobatics culminate in a somewhat avant-garde instrumental break which is then followed by an interplay between blazing guitar solos and thundering rhythms. The piece features some of the best lyrics on this album and is impressively finalised with a climactic ending. Also, note that the title of this song was actually inspired by the lyrics of Comus' 1970 debut First Utterance, namely the opening song "Diana": "The dim light she comes peering through the forest pines / And she knows by the sound of the baying, by the baying of the hounds".

The heavy and softer parts contrasted on "Beneath the Mire", which is actually one of the hidden gems, show a unique development of ideas, implemented with maturity. Wiberg's Mellotron is central to this number, while Mendez' bass takes on a slightly funk vibe halfway through, rendering it his most powerful performance on the album. The guitar preceding the tranquil piano section is out of this world while Opeth's love for 70's prog is best exhibited during the last thirty seconds where odd sound effects are married with awesome drumming and clean harmonies, which, strangely enough, evoke Still Life to me. Another track that bears a Still Life resemblance, not musically but based on its progression, is the aforementioned "Baying of the Hounds" in the way that is has a similar recklessness to it.

While all eight songs on the album are amazing in their own way, "Reverie/Harlequin Forest" deserves a special mention. The longest song, it serves as an anchor to glue the first half of the album to the relatively moodier and somewhat more laidback second half (with the exception being the obvious "The Grand Conjuration"). This song has Akerfeldt's best vocal harmonies, starting with the "A trail of sickness leading to me" part at the beginning, where harrowing growls provide dynamics that make this piece so sinister, and ending with the slightly folky chorus that goes like, "It is all false pretension...", which, yet again, precedes a thunderingly brutal scream whilst numbing guitar drills and beautiful melodies surround everything.

The two mellow songs, criticised severely by some, "Hours of Wealth" and "Isolation Years", actually make an immense contribution to the varied nature of Ghost Reveries. Actually you may be as surprised as I was that "Hours of Wealth" is a song whose vocals Akerfeldt did in one take and felt the need to defend in several interviews and even his own official forum (something he very rarely does), while he admitted being literally in tears singing "Isolation Years". The former also features a devastasting blues solo and even some a capella vocals and ranks among Opeth's most diverse pieces; whilst "Isolation Years", despite seeming rather simplistic at face value, makes subtle switches between 5/8 and 6/8 beats.

Opeth has never disappointed me. Ghost Reveries is a very solid addition to their discography; it still retains every element that made Opeth so great in the past while also embracing a wider and more diverse expression of artistic integrity.

Opeth: Ghost Reveries
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-10-01 15:03:34
My Score:

With the release of Ghost Reveries, the Swedish powerhouse Opeth continue their journey in becoming one of the key leaders in the Death Metal genre. There are those that have followed Opeth since early in their career and they can clearly identify each change very succinctly. The band has trekked musically since Blackwater Park (which some consider their masterpiece) to Damnation which was met with some hesitation. On Damnation the band took a very abrupt turn and made the entire piece Progressive with not much Metal on it at all. This was not received well by the diehard Death heads. The record showed that the band had grown and matured over time and during this has achieved a level of transition that most other bands can only hope for. No longer simply a very good Death Metal band, they have shown that all genres can be progressive if they are creative enough and have the daring to try. I don't want to lie to the audience and say I have been an Opeth fan for many years-as a matter of fact while the name is long familiar, it was not until the Lamentations DVD that was released early last year that I even sat down and tried to absorb what this band was all about. The DVD showcased their entire Damnation CD and then the band played some of their heavier material at the end. I listened to friends copies of Orchid and Blackwater Park to get a better idea of where they came from. It was an interesting study.

So as I listen to this CD I have to say how very interesting it is as an overall piece of music. If you respected the band before based on their experiments you need to know that they have raised it up a notch on this album. There are moments when you would think this was a Pink Floyd CD or even something by Rush because of the varied musicianship happening all over the record. Keyboardist Per Winberg really shows his skills in all tracks and there is a lot of Mellotron happening. Now don't get me wrong, for this also has a large amount of killer Death Metal vibe to it with Michael Akerfeldt's voice growling through the deeply Progressive melodies. However, during the times when Akerfeldt sings "clean" you will be amazed at how good his voice is. He sings on an equal level of both styles throughout the CD. With Martin Mendez on bass, Peter Lindgren on guitars and Martin Lopez on drums the band really captures a great feel which requires several listens to fully appreciate. My favorite tracks are "Ghost Of Perdition", "The Grand Conjuration" (the CDs longest track) and "Beneath The Mire", for each one affected me a certain way while listening. You need to be open minded to enjoy this record for if you expected Opeth to remain the same you are cheating yourself. This is a natural progression from Blackwater Park, to Deliverance and Damnation, and combines the best of both sides to make a new masterpiece.

This CD also comes to us courtesy of Roadrunner Records and this is the group's first release on the label. Combining this new partnership with that continued musical advancement gives Opeth the chance to reach their largest audience yet. This transmission might have the band risking the label of "sell out" but fans that come off with this opinion need to realize that while we experience these songs an hour at a time or at a live show, the band lives and breathes them every second of their day. This action comes about naturally for change is a necessity of survival in most musical cases. Roadrunner might not have been the label fans expected them to be on because of the current roster, but as a label they are taking steps in their own survival by bringing Opeth to their list just as they did Nightwish. This aspect worked well for SPV Records and Metal Blade, on where there are varied artist styles and each continues to strive to bringing us the best Metal that they can. This CD is a recommendation for Metal fans of all genres.



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