This is where it all began. Twelve years ago, in 1994, a young band from Sweden who called themselves Opeth journeyed into the Unisound studio with Dan Swano to record what would be the first album in a line of classic progressive death metal albums, the legendary Orchid. The band that would forever change the face of metal over the years by incorporating progressive rock and folk elements into their music like no other, launched this debut onto an unsuspecting public who were left scratching their heads in amazement. This was no ordinary death metal. Sure, Mikael Akerfeldt's growls were lethal and fright inducing, but he tempered them with scattered melodic clean passages that were quite beautiful. In addition, plenty of intricate, folky acoustic guitar interludes were woven into most of the songs from Akerfeldt and Peter Lindgren, and when mixed with the complex and heavy electric guitar parts made for an uncanny sound that was surely metal, but highly reminiscant of the great progressive bands of the 70's.
While still fairly raw, Orchid still shows all the great characteristics that would come to the forefront on such mammoth albums as Still Life, Blackwater Park, and Ghost Reveries. In fact, each Opeth release is considered a classic in the eyes of many, most who believe this band has yet to release a weak album. Kicking off with the 14-minute "In the Mist She Was Standing, a true epic in every sense of the word, Opeth creates frightening yet oddly poignant waves of sound, with lyrics steeped in mystique and nature. Akerfeldt's deep growls and melancholic clean vocals take the listener through a mesmerizing ride, complete with brutal yet melodic weaving guitar thunder, showing the amazing dexterity of the two guitarists, while drummer Anders Nordin and bassist Johan De Farfalla provide the intricate rhythmic background. "Under the Weeping Moon" starts off as pure unadulterated death metal, before succuming to an extended prog rock middle section complete with repetitive rhythms, whammy bar guitar effects, and plenty of atmosphere, before manic guitar riffs and Akerfeldt's demonic wailing brings everything back to a furious pace.
After the brief piano interlude that is "Silhouette", the band charges in with the doom laden "Forest of October". The lyrics again are bleak and cold, dealing once more with solitude, despair, and nature, and musically the band recalls early Cathedral and perhaps Candlemass, but with plenty of progressive elements. Akerfeldt's clean vocals are quite effective here, sandwiched in between plenty of angry growls and Celtic Frost-type grunts, and at over 13-minutes, the band takes the listener through many twists and turns, but the overall effect is quite chilling, which goes along well with the lyrical content of the piece. The solo section especially shows some dexterious leads from both Akerfeldt and Lindgren, as well as nimble drum fills from Nordin. On "The Twilight is My Rope", another lengthy epic, the band embraces once again their prog rock roots, with mesmerizing acoustic sections, complex electric passages, and overall it just drips with atmosphere and emotion. Also check out De Farfalla's great liquid bass lines here as well. The solo acoustic guitar piece "Requiem" is quite lovely, and it's a shame that it's as brief as it is, but there's barely time for a breath, as "The Apostle In Triumph" segues in like some uptempo yet gloomy folk piece. It's not before long that soaring guitar harmonies seep into the mix with loads of melancholy and despair, as Akerfeldt once again sings of the deep dark forest and yearning for redemption that only the skies and heavens can provides. It's chilling stuff, made more so thanks to Akerfeldt's gravelly death vocals. The bonus track is a rare rehearsal recording from 1992 called "Into the Frost of Winter", which shows an extremely raw Opeth in their early stages. Parts of this song later made their way into the song "Advent" from the Morningrise album.
There you have it, the beginnings of one of the most beloved band bands on the current metal and progressive rock scene. Opeth would later on hone their craft even more, smoothing over the raw sound that is so apprent on Orchid yet retaining all of their power, even increasing the heaviness as well as the progressive and folk elements. So begin the journey with Orchid, and take it all the way to the latest installment Ghost Reveries. Discover the world of Opeth, you won't be disappointed.
1. In The Mist She Was Standing
2. Under The Weeping Moon
4. Forest Of October
5. The Twilight Is My Robe
7. The Apostle In Triumph
8. Into the Frost of Winter-bonus track