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Opeth

Ghost Reveries

Review by Josh Turner

This album is not as dire as Deliverance or as docile as Damnation. Instead, it finds itself in the middle layers of their muddy dark waters. As with all their discs, it has some parts that are similar and some that are completely different. From Still Life to the present, they seem to find some way to refine their technique. Opeth apparently improve upon the last with each and every submission. They continue this trend and keep the streak going, making this their best album to date. For people who prefer Blackwater Park, this could easily become their preferred pet. While it has many harsh and heavy parts, it should even appeal to fans who like the softer elements. I expect this to score well with all the judges.

The disc takes us into the hidden corners of a dungeon and then delves even deeper. During its most dreadful moments, we find ourselves in the buried regions of the foreboding underworld. Following their grimmest moments, there eventually comes a reprieve and angels pull us out of this molten prison of pyre. Some of these changes will be so abrupt; they will shock you and leave you possessed. In the course of their counsel, these progressive metal priests will exorcise the demons and bring luminous delight to all your darkest desires.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ghost of Perdition
The first few notes might make you think you are back to the subdued state of Damnation. A mere moment later and you're slammed in the face with a glob of metal sludge. They couldn't have started the album with a more compelling piece and it really gets the adrenaline going. In addition, intermingled with the madness are ghostly transparent sections done solely on the acoustics. This offsets the overwhelming mass of the heavy metal and gives a breather to the crazy hysterics. While every piece takes you places, this is one of the highlights due to the sheer dexterity of the players and the range of its passages.
The Baying of The Hounds
While the last left us with morbid melodies, this has absolutely rabid riffs. The beat mauls like a pack of perturbed and pestered mongrels. Loosed from their cages, they run around the track at a consistent pace. When they finally catch up to the rabbit, they rapidly rip its head off. If that's not enough, these mangy mutts get even fiercer. Their alpha dog, singer Mikael Åkerfeldt, is easily the most vicious of the bunch. The few times he appears friendly with clean vocalizations, he is quick to bear his teeth. He growls when you've gotten too close and it's obvious he'll bite. It could be dangerous, maybe even fatal, if you don't respect the mood swings of these irritable creatures. After ravishing a meal of raw meat, these bloody hounds eventually tire and take a cat nap. The closing two minutes are peaceful while these nasty dogs doze away. At this point, the keyboards are the shrill sound of the electric fence that keeps them confined to their quarters. Ensuing the onerous elements are some real progressive ones. Aspects of the trailing instrumental are very much like Dream Theater's Octavarium and before it's done, the piece even passes through the prickly path of Porcupine Tree.
Beneath The Mire
While the opening tracks pilfered their past works, this one is the genuine artifact. It's a pumped-up version of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." This remake doesn't have P. Diddy rapping over the top. Instead, this stew is much meatier and it's served in a hearty bread bowl. This might be my favorite Opeth song to date. It really steps up the staircase and brings their music to a whole new level. However, just when it seems they've brought us to heaven, much to the devil's mirth; the song goes straight into the burning mires of hell.
Atonement
They continue to take us into new and different dimensions. This one journeys to the tune of a psychotically psychedelic beat, which is not too unlike the hallucination sequence in the Beavis and Butthead movie. While the marines may have landed in medieval times, they arrive with a trailer full of modern technology. At war with the evil empire, their armies have the advantage of laser-guided missiles, advanced armament, satellites, and stealth. These time bandits make their mark and wipe the enemy out of existence. Just like that, in a poof, the door closes and they're gone forever. In this instance, they sound more like Porcupine Tree than Opeth and it's much too domesticated to enlist with the Eaters of the Dead. I'm sure these weary travelers are welcome within the confines of In Abstentia or Deadwing. While this tune is serious, it's loony at the same time. As an example, bongos can be heard hovering somewhere in the mix. Plus, this is one of the most passive pieces on the album.
Reverie/Harlequin Forest
They go back to their roots and splash in the murky moats of Blackwater Park. After disturbing hallowed ground, the poltergeists are livid. They toss inanimate objects against the walls, up and down the halls, and all the lights are feverishly flickered. They cause quite the stir as they fully utilize each channel of the stereo. Guitars are cleverly dubbed from one speaker to the next. As Chappelle would say, turn that left headphone up! They certainly do, turning it up and down, and then they give the other one equal attention. Don't mistake their practical jokes and pranks to mean a friendly disposition. While these creatures of the night look harmless, like all the other occupants of their lair, they have murderous intentions. Turn your back and they'll suck your blood dry.
Hours of Wealth
This is a combination of RPWL's "Farewell" and some of Sting's more relaxed releases. The monster will come and take you away to an island of souls. The vocal passages are more along the lines of Joni Mitchell while the smoky blues guitar is inspired by Stevie Ray Vaughn. Opeth must have really turned the screws to tune into these otherworldly ideas.
The Grand Conjuration
In some ways, this is the pinnacle piece. It picks up the pace abruptly from the last and takes us to the album's coveted climax. This is a grumpy old man with guttural outbursts; hooting, hollering - the entire works. It has angst and anxiety as it attempts to work out its frustrations. In contrast to the rest of the album, here you'll find the most evocative emotions and the moodiest melodies. At times, it's like a pool of sharks in a feeding frenzy. At other times, it's the painstaking sound of torment and torture. Yet, it makes several fine imitations to the kind of passionate pieces one could peer upon in the galleries of Porcupine Tree. It's Opeth, so expect them to slap on thick coats with a deep and profound series of broad strokes. Speaking of art, the bongos return, reminding me of the kooky theme music that used to play while Starsky & Hutch canvassed the neighborhood. I also hear Dream Theater's Scenes from a Memory in places. Take the word of Nat King Cole. This is one song that should be unforgettable.
Isolation Years
They do something uncommon and end on a sleepy ballad. Its spirit carries on and fades away into spectral vapors. This is not the type of occult you would typically expect to be practiced by Opeth. However, this album is so varied; it's not totally out of the question.


 
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