I've never understood the immense hype behind Opeth - ever. Theres nothing wrong with the band, at all, but I constantly pick up a vibe which makes me delay listening to them properly again and again. Maybe it's the sickly pretentiousness which I get the impression of from Ackerfeldt, or the raging fanboys of the band I so often encounter, or the way it feels like the band used metal ironically, and showed their real colours in the latest album. This time I'm ignoring the slight repulsion and listening to an album all the way through. About time I found out what the fuss was about.
The album as a whole is certainly very intense, technical and epic sounding, and makes use of exceedingly diverse elements, which, I suppose, is the wont of progressive metal. While admirable,this seems to sound a bit sterile, and although well arranged, quite a lot of it seems to go down the path of guitar-wankery, as opposed to being for the sake of making the song good. Don't get me wrong, a lot of it sounds good however, and the songs are as memorable as they are elaborate, with great hooks permeating through the slightly too crisp atmosphere, which is more reminiscent of a "film about the atmosphere" than the atmosphere itself, making it sound a little bit more perfect than would be optimum for a more wholesome feel. Certanly, I enjoyed the individual aspects; virtuoisity and arrangement, for instance, more than the feel given by the tone and it's running-partner production. Songs like Porcelain Heart appealed to me a lot, but I'd certainly enjoy them more if the bumps and clunks hadn't been ruthlessly ironed-out of them.
The softer sections are pleasing, despite often being placed for no other reason than the fact that the song didn't have one already. The lean guitar is certainly smooth and pretty, and Ackerfeldt's clean vocals are excellent, and interesting, especially in the way in which that they are given to, as opposed to in any way influenced by, usual metal vocals. They go well with the soft-sections, and also, miraculously work, albeit somewhat less gracefully, in the heavier sections in which they sometimes appear, despite being so overtly nothing to do with conventional metal. The synth works nicely too, and while, as I mentioned, it's a little too well produced and shiny, there are also some definitely beautiful sections, such as in Hessian Peel. The softness juxtaposes reasonably well with the heavier sections which manage to retain a lot of head-nodding energy amid the minefield of "progressive" bits with a somewhat watered-down feel.
In all honesty, I don't feel utterly swayed by listening to the album. I was vaguely aware that Opeth were quite good before listening, and I still have that awareness. Perhaps me and Opeth are not meant to be, and although the album is damn good, the product of extremely accomplished musicians, my verdict is still he same; When it comes to progressive extreme metal, at risk of sounding like a dick, I still prefer Enslaved.
This is by no means bad. 7/10.
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