posted on 6/2008 By:
When in comes to Opeth, I’m in the rare camp that believes they are in fact a brilliant yet slightly overrated band that’s been treading water since, My Arms, Your Hearse; still my favorite Opeth album. I had hoped that the much hyped The Ghost Reveries would have fixed my general apathy towards the band, but I have not listened to that album since 2005 (nor any Opeth other than MAYH for that matter). However, Watershed sees the band once again rise above the masses and deliver an utterly amazing effort that rekindles the creativity and brilliance of their storied early career.
Basically, most folks tend to gush over an Opeth album because it’s simply a new Opeth album, but on Watershed, the reason to gush is that it's simply a lucidly wonderful album in its own right, not just another Opeth album, and I’m actually gushing.
I’ll warn you right away, the resultant ‘return’ is not due to a sway back to the band's heavier ways, as to be honest I found Watershed, in its entirety to be the bands ‘cleanest’ or ‘lightest’ overall effort, with an almost Damnation like sense of acoustic prevalence at times. But it marks a progression and expansion of the band's signature light/dark textures to heights of sublimely progressive and enveloping ambiance and brilliant musical juxtapositions.
On the light side, amazing acoustic opener “Coil” sets the tone for the album with Åkerfeldt dueting with folk vocalist Nathalie Lorichs to provide one of the most beautiful and elegant acoustic numbers I’ve heard in years, and highlighting Åkerfeldt’s much improved clean vocals. “Burden” sees more (seven minutes worth) of blissful, acoustic proggy-ness and sees Åkerfeldt in an even more somber and introspective mood than usual while the lengthy “Hessian Peel”, “Porcelain Heart” and closer “Hex Omega” features in depth and vast forays into ultra proggy and orchestrated, flute and piano laced introspection. Even the likes of “The Lotus Eaters” and “Porcelain Heart” contain extended moments of pristine acoustics weaved into the heavier moments. Not that Opeth have never done that before, but on Watershed they seem so much more integral and interwoven to the entire song rather than a simple mood piece or interlude; just listen to the shifts in “Porcelain Heart”- just stunning.
And speaking of the heavier moments, when Opeth do bring the thunder, they bring it like they have not in many years. For example, second track “Heir Apparent” is about as dense, menacing and atonal as I’ve ever heard Opeth, and standout track “The Lotus Eaters” even with its bizarre mid song disco shift has blast beats weaving brilliantly with Åkerfeldt’s clean and growled vocals. And while the growls and harsher moments are relatively infrequent, they arrive with such well placed timing and artful tenacity, they complete the album's overall prose with a subtle harshness that still offsets the album's far more frequent, extended instrumental and elegant segments.
Ultimately when you hear tracks like “The Lotus Eaters”, “Porcelain Heart” and “Hessian Peel”, they all have that “Demon of the Fall” vibe of greatness and seminal live favorite feel that’s been missing for about a decade now (though admittedly “Ghost of Perdition” came close), that elevates the album into classic territory and a sees Opeth further cement their legacy in the annals of metal artistry.
posted on 6/2008 By:
As one of only two remaining MetalReview.com staffers from the historic Ghost Reveries review, I felt somewhat obligated to offer my two cents on Watershed. I even went back and reread my review of that album. I must say I was a bit surprised at what I had written, probably because I haven’t listened to the album much (if at all) since then. At any rate, Watershed – if nothing else – proves to be an appropriate follow-up, although a bit of a puzzling one. Even for Opeth, this seems like a short album – seven tracks clocking in under an hour. For those not enthusiastic about their mellower material, that takes it down to under 40 minutes of quality Opeth. I guess I’ve become spoiled and just expect them to fill the plastic each time out.
I thought Mikael Akerfeldt to be a bit daft in kicking the album off with the three-minute acoustic “Coil,” a feeling compounded by the dirge-like introduction to “Heir Apparent.” Things pick up around the 1:20 mark and I start to remember what first attracted me to the band. It's progressive yet heavy, Akerfeldt’s growl harkening back to Blackwater Park – although that may be because that is the last album I can remember reacting to. There’s even a section at 4:15 (and 4:29) that gives me some serious Emperor flashbacks, bookended by some straight death metal riffs. By contrast, “The Lotus Eater” is more what I remember from Ghost Reveries, with a more progressive feel and a mix of clean/growled vocals.
The first three tracks effectively summarize the ying and the yang of this album. The remaining four tracks can be easily linked back to them. “Burden” is a mellow acoustic track a la “Coil” only with more instrumentation. “Porcelain Heart” continues in the same vein as “The Lotus Eater” – but those first three quieter minutes are a bit of a chore to get through. “Hessian Peel” most closely resembles “Heir Apparent” as it exchanges heavy parts for lighter parts, although it doesn’t really pick up until the 5:45 mark. Then for some reason the album ends with the (mostly) instrumental “Hex Omega.” Akerfeldt’s vocals here barely rise above a whisper, making the track sound like a lullaby in between the sweeping instrumental choruses.
As previously stated, Watershed is an appropriate follow up to Ghost Reveries, even if it is a bit lean on material. It will not change anyone’s opinion of the band, so “Opeth Are Gods” camp can continue their battle against the “Opeth Suck Ass” camp. If you don’t think I’ve given an opinion here, consider that a tepid album will elicit a tepid reaction which will result in a tepid review. Basically I’m caught in the middle here – loving the heavy parts but frustrated by the increasing amount of mellow.
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