What would happen of Porcupine Tree''s Steven Wilson and Death's (late) Chuck
Schuldiner were to merge? If you were to add in Mikael Åkerfeldt's love of Black
Sabbath, '70s prog pioneers Camel, and the rare Scandinavian space rock vinyl LPs
he collects, you'd get Opeth. Heavy as hell yet with an almost Floydian elegance
and with progressive rock's complexities - and with equal appeal among the
progheads and the headbangers.
"A Fair Judgement" starts with elegantly simple piano work courtesy of
Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, who has now produced three Opeth records, and is
the only song without any death-style grunting at all. In fact, you could easily
pass that song off as a Porcupine Tree track. But full credit goes to Opeth
themselves, who remain true to their extremely sophisticated brand of death
metal - heavy as hell in parts, then transitioning seamlessly into mellow
symphonic prog, and back again.
Two albums were recorded in the same studios, at the same time, under the
same producer (Wilson) - and the tracks were divided into heavy and mellow.
Swedish Grammy winning Deliverance is the heavy record, while the
wonderful Damnation was Opeth's first foray into all-symphonic
progressive rock, and demonstrated the band's impressive musicianship.
Deliverance has often been called Opeth's heaviest effort to date -
but you'd be advised to take that with a pinch of salt. Yes, the opening track
is extremely heavy and the first half is clearly based on the accepted standard
death-metal format - right down to the chord sequence. And yes, there's proportionally more of the heavy and less
of the mellow stuff here. But the heavy isn't really any heavier -
there's just more of it.
The drumming on this album is out of the top drawer, and the tightly coupled
dual guitar work of Mikael Åkerfeldt and Peter Lindgren is an absolute pleasure.
With 5 of the 6 songs running longer than 10 minutes, there's plenty of
opportunity for involved song structures and sophisticated interplay between the
instruments, tempo shifts, key and meter changes, and a powerful tantric swell /
release / swell that will draw you into this record's magic. At the time it was
released this may have been the most complex Opeth album to date, eclipsing even
the brilliant genre-defining Still Life. And at the same time, the band
seems to have built more emotion into this music than in any prior efforts (listen
to the outro to the title track). The expressive grunting comes straight from
the bowels of Satan, and the clean vocals stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the
best in the business - soft and melancholy, and the haunting intelligent lyrics
are perfectly delivered.
Deliverance is brutal yet beautiful, deathly yet angelic, and its
heaviness is a perfect foil for its mellow sister-CD, Damnation. Get them
both. Listen to them together,
3. A Fair Judgement
4. For Absent Friend
5. Master's Apprentices
6. By The Pain I See In Others