Opeth makes a triumphant return with their 11th album, Pale Communion. Many people consider their 9th album Watershed to be...well...a watershed moment. It marked a transitioning point for the band where the Death Metal aesthetic of the band was slipping away for a more Progressive Rock feel and Mikael Akerfeldt's Death Metal growls had disappeared since their last album Heritage. Many people gave up on the band at that point feeling that the band had jumped the shark musically. So with that being a strong case for a lot of former Opeth fans, they are skeptical of what the band would be putting out next.
The band has made it their niche to make evil sounding music whether it is from their beginning of Orchid, to their mid career point (at least so far) Blackwater Park, to arguably their most crowd pleasing and highly regarded album, Ghost Reveries.
Pale Communion is no different. Lyrically, Opeth is just as dark and evil as ever. Vocally, the Death Metal growls are still gone. Maybe one day they will return, but much like albums like Damnation and Heritage, there is no need for them here. The album starts off (Eternal Rains Will Come, Cusp Of Eternity, Moon Above, Sun Below) much in a way that parts of Ghost Reveries, Watershed and Heritage go, where it is sinister in a heavier Progressive Rock feel without the need to go into Death Metal territory. It still has some Heritage vibe to it, but unlike Heritage, it more rocking and upbeat. Elysian Woes sounds like a track that was taken straight from the Damnation days, a great somber ballad placed in a great spot on the album. Goblin has been said by Akerfeldt, to be heavily inspired by the band Goblin, and indeed it is. The song is all instrumental, just like Goblin, and showcases the evil that 70s Progressive Rock can be. River starts off with an acoustic into and beautiful vocal harmonies. The song eventually picks up a bit, but not in a Hard Rock but very much like a mid-era Porcupine Tree (Signify-Lightbulb Sun) song would be. Although Porcupine Tree frontman, Steven Wilson mixed the album, he did not help write any of the songs, but Akerfeldt was indeed inspired by Wilson. The second half of River goes back into the evil 70s Progressive Rock and gets into one of the darkest and heaviest riffs of the album. Voice Of Treason starts off with very ominous keyboards followed by a very Ghost Reveries inspired song riff. the song is one of the most upbeat on the album and one of the few instances of double bass on the album (although only used in one riff about 3/4ths through the song). the song ends how it begins with ominous keyboards with segue ways into the final track, Faith In Others. This is another track that really focuses on the somber side of the band with it's slower-mid tempo stylings. It starts off much like their song, Burden, and mid way through goes into a keyboard (piano)/vocal break with leads into the classic Opeth signature tone for ballads. 3/4ths into the song it has a grandiose orchestral moment what is one of the best moments in any Opeth song, finally closing into a slow and somber end to the album with keyboards and strings and Akerfeldt's final words for the album.
Clocking in at 55;38, Opeth's 11th opus is nothing short of what many will consider to be a miraculous comeback album. If you are one of those who only like Opeth for the Balls and Chunk Heavy side of Opeth, again, you will be disappointed. If you dig Opeth's 70's Prog side that they experimented with on Watershed and on the most with Heritage, this will be to your fancy. But more so than anything, if you enjoy the dark, somber stylings of Damnation, the clean sections of Ghost Reveries, and of course Watershed and Heritage, this album is for you. To put it best, this is the album that should have came out after Watershed.
Opeth- Pale Communion (Roadrunner Records) Release Date: August 26th, 2014
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
That Drummer Guy: Radio DJ, Interviewer, Reviewer, overall...an OK guy.