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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!