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Opeth - Orchid

1995 Candlelight Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-08

It's pretty rare to find a band that refuses to fit any mold that will hold interest for more than 5 minutes. Most aspirations are too high, resulting in a garbled amalgam of good intentions. Opeth manage to draw from a variety of musical sources to produce gothic death metal on an epic scale. I not only mean epic in length, but in scope, as you feel each note as it is released. Another impressive feat is that the bass can hold the rhythm, and just explode out at times, very tastefully, I may add. Both albums are very similar, Orchid seems a tad on the heavier side, while Morningrise may be more melodic. Very consistent drumming lays a solid foundation, allowing the guitars to explore without distracting attention from the melody. These immensely dark guitar lines are punctuated by Mikael ?kerfeldt's tortured vocals. The production, courtesy of Dan Swan?, is crystal clear, with just layer after layer of guitar there to swirl around. While each track is different, they do seem to blend into each other, separated by noticable interludes, including a fine piano piece by Anders Nordin. Orchid is a succesful blend of jazz, folk, classic rock, death metal and classical guitar which is at the top of my recommendation list, along with Morningrise. The interplay between the electric and acoustic guitars borders on genius, and both albums together comprise over 120 minutes of excellent music, what more could you ask for $30? Century Media is distributing these puppies, so they should be easy to pick up.

Opeth - Morningrise

1996 Candllight Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-08

Another incredible album. More focus on melody this time, with dark, technical guitar lines over a constant stream of double bass. There is a non-linear feel thrown in as well, combined with a sense of maturity eminating from the band. The review for this would be similar to that of Orchid, except to say that I prefer this album. The opening riff blew me away, and it never let go. This is a must have for any fan of melodic death. Trust me, if you like Dissection, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, you will love this album. <br><br> I just want to add a little to this review, as after a year, this is still a record that makes it's way into my player quite a bit. One of the reasons that this review is so short is that Opeth really defy classification, which is probably the central theme in every review you will read. There's is just something here which makes the tone so driving and emotional. The acoustic "breaks" aren't so much a "stop" in the metal tone but a bridge between the dark and the light. This is one of those few records were the more you say the less information you pass on. Get this and see for yourself why many consider Opeth to be forging a new direction in music.

Opeth - My Arms, Your Hearse

1998 Century Media Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-08

I figured it's high time that I reviewed this, as it's been my tape of choice (along with The Haunted on side B) for biking for some time now. As can probably be told from the previous reviews, Opeth are one of my favorite bands, fusing progressive passages with real heaviness, muscular drumming and Mike ?kerfeldt's killer vox. Here we come to a turning point. I seem to smell a pattern with creative bands. They release a sensational album which revitalizes the scene, then they either break up, or follow their opus magnus with a semi-mundane offering. I won't name names, but I have been so disappointed in the last year that I was wondering if all the bright lights in metal were fading. Several big changes in the Opeth camp had me a little worried as well. Half of what made Opeth was gone. Dan Swan? would no longer be producing. Yikes. A slight sigh of relief when I found out Fredrik Nordstrom (In Flames, At the Gates) would have a hand in this, but then Opeth were also moving from Candlelight to Century Media. Yup, things could be grim. With anticipation I chucked this into my player and crossed my fingers... A sigh of relief could be heard outer-island as I just listened, and listened, and listened again to the brilliance which is Opeth. Martin Lopez (ex Amon Amarth is an excellent replacement, and ?kerfeldt's bass work is comprable to the past, but all this would be for naught if the dynamics were grown, and thankfully the songwriting abilities have done nothing but gone stronger over time. Biggest changes are the production, which is much meatier than the first two, Lopez' funkified approach to metal drumming, and ?kerfeldt's heightened confidence on his clean vocal parts. Songs are also shorter, although this change is not as apparent as others. If anything, the whole band is more refined, able to direct their ideas into a tighly cohesive attack. It's this coupled with the emotive power thrown into the mix which just beckons for repeated listens. Lyrically, this is a concept album based on a fictional ghost story penned by ?kerfedlt (at least as I understand it!). In short, Opeth are masters, and My Arms, your Hearse may just be their best work yet, which is saying a lot. A must have.

Opeth - Still Life

1999 Peaceville Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-08

I guess I should preface this review by saying that this was the only new CD release that I purchased this issue, which should give you an idea of the esteem that I hold for this mighty group. I really thought that My Arms, Your Hearse was going to be the album that catapulted these guys to the big time, but something tells me that Still Life may just accomplish what should have happened last time. There really wasn't much of a time lag between this and the last Opeth release, meaning either that new inspiration was found, or that a lot of the ideas found on SL are extensions of what began on MAYH. My thinking is the latter, for much of what was first heard on My Arms is continued here, while some of the incredible heaviness is sacrificied in order to build the overall mood of the album. While last year's opus was supercharged with aggression (and there still is a fair amount here), there's something that seems inherently more reserved this time around. Mikael's vocals are sitauted more in the clean area of his vocal spectrum, highlighting the beauty inherent in these compositions, but while it may not be true, it seems as though the clean/soft parts dominate the heavier sections, losing some of that great contrast that was ever present... The "fault" may be in the production, because all of the elements are in place, but things don't explode out as they did before. I highlight "fault" because that's a really relative term here, maybe imperfection is a better choice of terms, because as one of my favorite bands, they are more subject to scrutiny, but I doubt that this band could ever do wrong. I must admit, I was a tad disappointed upon the first few listens, but this album has grown on me over time (Opeth albums are always difficult to digest all at once), and it's safe to say that Still Life is another album worthy of induction into the death metal hall of fame. Several songs on here are easily among the best material presented so far, yet slow periods in the middle of the album make this a difficult casual listen. This is how it should be though, Opeth always requiring more from the listener than most 3 minute mark bands. Criminally only available as an import as of late 1999, Peaceville did the right thing by signing this highly creative, incredibly talented progressive band. Now if only someone would get it together and release it in the states!