6 September 2014

Opeth - Pale Communion

There are few bands which have wondered so far away from their initial origin point, most bands dip their toes into something different, the audience hate it and the next album is build are a return to their original form.  Opeth are not that type of band, Opeth are a strange beast.  Starting off as a death metal band, they did not start to change to current band leader Mikael Åkerfeldt gained control before their first album was even released.  Since then, they have always been adding elements of prog rock & metal to their works.  A few times, fans were concerned that they would drop the metal all together and become Jethro Tull.  When that happened on their last album 'Heritage' to say there was a sort of an outcry is an understatement, but that also equally depends on who you talk to.  There are still some fans who want them to go back to their early days, whilst there are other fans who love the journey as they are just perusing elements that have always existed in the band.  In regards to the Death Metal/Folk/Prog Rock debate - the fact that they have been slowly adding elements of prog to each album as they have went along; so what is all the fuss about?  I love the sense of adventure that comes with an Opeth release; until recently you have never know which version of the band you will be getting. After 'Heritage' it seemed that the prog had finally won and it is fair to say that I am very interested in where they would go from that point.  Now it is time to see where they have gone......

Now, I am going to get this out of the way now. If you want Death Metal, you will be better off looking elsewhere. There is not one of these songs that even hints towards that section of their existence, but are you really surprised?  From the opening Hammond organ riff of "Eternal Rains Will Come", the prog journey that they have always really been on just keeps continuing.  It is not that the track is an easy listen, prog music rarely is; but it is an incredibly complex piece of work that seems to be crafted by the band in a manner so effortless that it makes you wonder if they really mean it when they say that their record collection ends in 1979. "Cusp Of Eternity" is a much more energetic song (in a given sense of energetic).  The guitars feel driven and crisp on this number.  The small loop running in the background of the main verses is just on the edge of hearing and takes your focus a bit away from some reason interesting lyrics.  But the song feels a little rush (if that is something that has ever been thrown at this band).  It just doesn't get feel as fluid as "Eternal Rains Will Comes" and that is slightly disappointing to be honest. Following on is "Moon Above, Sun Below" which is the longest track on the album.  This is full flight prog, the long instrumentals and epic lyrics and changes in the music, the layering of sounds and shades to the work; it is a very impressive number and is allowed space to grow in front of the listener.  "Elysian Woes" is the fourth track on this album which natural follows on from "Moon Above, Sun Below".  With a much more laid back feel, it is one of the more quite moments of the album; but do not mistake quite for boring.  It is a beautiful piece of music and worth your attention. 

Next is the delightfully titled "Goblin"; now for the older readers amongst us and horror fans, Goblin is a very important name in connection with films such as Profondo Rosso & Dawn Of The Dead to name a couple.  Much like Daft Punk and their track "Giorgio by Moroder", this track can be seen as a direct tribute to the previous artist who has influenced their work over the years.  It is a brilliant instrumental and you can imagine it being used for any number of horror films in the future when the directors hear about.  "River" is the sixth song on this album; this is the first song on the whole album that does not at least have a dark leaning in it.  The guitar work is almost (for want of a better word) happy, it feels very carefree and at peace with itself and the world.  It is a million miles away from what they were doing just two albums ago on 'Watershed' and once again depending on your leaning, this is either a good thing or an incredibly bad thing.  It also has one of the best solos of the album, sounding like duelling guitars trying to decide who claims your soul.  "Voice Of Treason" is the penultimate song of the album, we are back in familiar, darker territory on this track; the textures and subtly of the song are mesmerising, with a string section added to bring extra tension to the work. Ending the album is "Faith In Others" which bring the album to a sombre and climatic close.  Using the spaces between the dramatic passages of the song, the band ends the album with a wounded heart being show to the world; but with that flair for the dramatic at the forefront when they use a choir and the strings again.  

Now, musically this is a beautifully constructed album; indeed I would be hard pressed to find one where the attention to detail has not been so obsessed.  You can hear it through ever note that Åkerfeldt and his merry men have pondered this, discussed it and crafted it to within an inch of its preverbal life.  So it is with a heavy heart that I cannot give this the highest mark for the blog, there is something wrong in the work for some reason.  It is not the playing, that is beyond question; it is not the passion, obviously the band loves the route they have taken.  It is not the genre either; I think that 'Heritage' (their last album) is a stunning work and it is closer to that album than ‘Orchid’.  Also I can say that the musical style they have now is as good (if not better) than some of their death metal work.  It is just that the end result is perhaps a little too clinical, a little too perfect and not the natural work that it could have been.  It is still getting a high mark as musically it shows that the band are on the right path, but maybe next time it might sound a little bit more natural and have a soul.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Voice Of Treason

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Opeth website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

For our Deezer users, here is a link to hear the album

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