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Opeth: My Arms Your Hearse

There are still a few months left in dear old 1998, but here's a fact that you can bet on: once the year has left us, Opeth's My Arms, Your Hearse will be showing up on every "Ten best" list in the metal world.

Head honcho Mikael Akerfeldt refuses to pay any attention to genre titles: he and fellow guitarist Peter Lindgren write songs which take the best elements from any number of metal subcategories, and blend them seamlessly, as if they were meant to be used that way all along. Here we have black metal tremolo picking, sinister death-growl vocals counterpointed against clean and compelling narrative, atmospheric chord phrasings which recall Voivod and Rush, and elegantly composed lead melody lines which slowly weave a framework to these lengthy and wonderful songs. Opeth are the Unification Theory of metal; living proof that all things work to the good of the intelligent songwriter.

After a brief instrumental opening, "April Ethereal" gives the listener a quick introduction to the band; here, in the space of just under nine minutes, Opeth struts their collective stuff, working many of the entries from their bulging book of tricks into a coherent and mature piece.

Opeth have a clear understanding of a point that I've been emphasizing for years: aggression means nothing if there is only aggression surrounding it. That is, extreme vocal styles don't really carry any emotional weight when they take up the whole album; they only work when they are shining the light of contrast on more sublime singing. Eight minutes into "When", Mikael sings several verses in a clean, hypnotic tone; he does a similar maneuver near the end of "Demon of the Fall," a crushingly heavy song which suddenly does an about-face to play itself out through a few minutes of relative calm. When moments of restraint such as this are coupled with moments of unbridled fury, the result is as powerful as a kick in the stomach; it's the juxtaposition that makes it so effective, not the extremity itself. At many places throughout My Arms, Your Hearse, Opeth demonstrates just how important this principle is; rage met with calm, fierceness of emotion met with fierceness of control.

Other high points include "Credence," a breathtaking and refined piece that never leaves acoustic territory, and "Karma", a smart and engaging bit of bombast segmented by a fast-picked acoustic interlude that is just perfect, echoed by fantastic vocal lines.

In a musical climate filled with imitators and endless reiterations, Opeth are an island unto themselves. My Arms, Your Hearse is one of this year's few essential purchases…for all listeners.

Added: January 1st 2004
Reviewer: SoT Archives
Related Link: Web Site
Hits: 7145
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Opeth: My Arms Your Hearse
Posted by Hugh Dark on 2007-02-27 14:49:42
My Score:

It is on this release that things are beginning to heat up. To bad they did not tour for this release as the material goes over really well in a live situation. The band was really developing its heavy side and the clean vocals are showing much improvement in their effect and range. There seems to be a clear vision on where the band is going on the road to Blackwater Park. The one thing the band struggled with on this release was with the production. It's a little murky and is contrary to the musical development of the band. Eventually, as you all know, Steve Wilson captures the vision of the band and together they scale unimaginable heights. This cd deserves a full scale remix with someone taking a good week to do it right. The remaster (only a little louder) gives you a version of Celtic Frost "Circle of the Tyrant " for your listening pleasure and gives you a little more for your dollar.

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