Opeth - "Deliverance"
(Koch Records/Music For Nations 2002, KOC-CD-8437)
From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
I've been interested in hearing Opeth since Jeff Fitzgerald reviewed their Blackwater Park CD in AI #16. Jeff's interest in the band was due to Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree's involvement, and his description of the band's blend of progressive rock, dark wave folk, and death metal left me intrigued. Deliverance is Opeth's sixth release and the second to be co-produced by Wilson (who also contributes backing vocals, guitars and mellotrons. The band is from Sweden and consists of Mikael Akerfeldt on guitars and vocals, Peter Lindgren on guitars, Martin Lopez on drums, and Martin Mendez on bass.
The opening and closing tracks, "Wreath" and "By The Pain I See In Others", struck me as being similar. I've never been a fan of the unintelligible doom metal vocal style and Akerfeldt has the deathly growl down pat. But the music is a different story, being firmly in the metal realm while drawing on progressive rock influences to create a sort of dark haunting beauty. The dual guitars of Akerfeldt and Lindgren offer up a tasty platter of variety, strategically mixing in the metal and prog rock styles such that everything seems to fit nicely rather than being a glom of unrelated styles. There's plenty of power chords and shredding, but tasteful playing resulting in complexity and epic song construction is clearly the overwhelming focus.
"Wreath" transitions, still blazing, into "Deliverance" as if they were part of the same song. But the atmosphere soon calms, moving through a lulling melodic segment on which we hear Akerfeldt take on an entirely different vocal personality (or is that Wilson?). If it is Akerfeldt, then this guy is a really good singer! I guess he's intentionally playing different roles on this song as he alternates between this style and the doom growl. But overall, this is another epic progressive track that evolves through numerous thematic segments, making for an intense metallic roller coaster ride.
"A Fair Judgement" is one of the more sedate tracks of the set, consisting of easy paced metallic but highly melodic segments, tasteful guitar solos, somber piano melodies, and heartfelt vocals. After the brief but pleasant "For Absent Friends", "Master's Apprentice" kicks in. This is one of the most overtly doomy tracks of the set with some absolutely frightening vocals, but also has melodic sections where Wilson's influence is most apparent, at some points sounding like they would be at home on a Porcupine Tree album.
In summary, Opeth excel at blending highly intense metal with progressive rock, making them something of a crossover band that would appeal to a diverse audience. The music is thematically complex and well thought out and the playing is top notch, though I hesitate to call them either prog-metal or technical-metal because those terms imply something that doesn't accurately represent what Opeth are about. Musically, Opeth strike me as a power metal version of their fellow countrymen, Anekdoten. In fact, some of the similarities are striking. Progheads who are into metal would most certainly dig these guys.
For more information you can visit the Opeth web site at: http://www.opeth.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz