Saturday, July 19, 2008

Review: Opeth, "Watershed"

Here's one of the few bands left in metal that can, seemingly, do no wrong. Easily the most creative band in the genre, Opeth can release anything from a full-on death metal record to a soft, acoustic record with no metal at all, and fans won't bat an eye. They've done both.

"Watershed" finds the band at the top of its game, blending all the facets of its music into a product that is, honestly, like nothing else that you'll hear (outside of a couple of bands that have tried unsuccessfully to copy them in recent years). Soft balladry is followed by pummeling metal, interrupted by a shimmery jazz guitar run, some nylon-string classical guitar and capped off by some bluesy Hammond organ riffing. Sometimes all of that comes in the same song, and it's all brought together by the tremendous musicianship of the band members and the versatile vocals of Mikael Akerfeldt. Even those who don't like metal should be able to appreciate the musicianship on a song like the 1970s prog rocker "Burden," on which you'll find no metallic sounds whatsoever.

It's really hard to single out one or two songs on this record, because if you don't take the piece as a whole, you're missing out, but I'll give it a shot. "Heir Apparent" is the heaviest number on the record, opening with one of the most crushing open chords you'll ever hear, made all the more heavy coming out of the acoustic opener "Coil." Add to that a great, heavy riff on the death metal verse, and you've got perhaps the best song on the record. "Burden" shows the band's progressive leanings to full effect, while "Porcelain Heart" walks the middle ground, blending in a bit of folk, classical and metal.

I've heard Opeth described as death metal, progressive, extreme progressive, forest metal, art metal and several other variations. The truth of the matter is that they're a band that defies description, and that's a rare thing in this age of metal.

Get "Watershed."

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