(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Orchid (1995), 7/10
Morningrise (1996), 7/10
My Arms Your Hearse (1998), 6/10
Still Life (1999), 5.5/10
Blackwater Park (2001), 6.5/10
Deliverance (2002), 6.5/10
Damnation (2003), 5.5/10
Ghost Reveries (2005), 5.5/10
Watershed (2008), 6.5/10
Heritage (2011), 5/10
Pale Communion (2014), 6/10
Sorceress (2016), 5/10
In Cauda Venenum (2019), 6/10

Founded in 1990 in Sweden by vocalist and guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt, Opeth specialized in fusing progressive-rock, folk music, and heavy-metal.

Orchid (Candlelight, 1995) cast Akerfeldt's death-metal growling and Peter Lindgren's epically distorted guitar in roles (mid-tempo interludes, acoustic melodies, long and tortured songs) that were not traditionally associated to heavy metal, despite sounding like heavy metal. The harsh and experimental In Mist She Was Standing (14:09) introduced their gift for frenzied, cyclical electric-guitar melodies suddenly interrupted by an eerie acoustic passage without detracting from the emotional power; while their metal credentials were reaffirmed by the supercharged riff and infernal growl of the simpler Under the Weeping Moon (9:52).
Forest of October (13:04) boasts a comprehensive repertory of riffs that support its melodramatic atmosphere. A metal-guitar's tour de force, this piece alone was enough to show the eclectic nature of the band's program. The guitar toys with variations of a simply melody in The Twilight Is My Robe (11:03), first delivering it at frenzied pace (basically an accelerated nursery-rhyme for children) and then decorating it at midtempo, and finally deconstructing it in the acoustic section to resemble a baroque sonata. These two pieces represent Opeth at their best.
The Apostle in Triumph (13:01) restarts from the acoustic-baroque idea, coupling it with hand percussion, with the metal section following (not opening), but this time the music is more languid and less imposing.

Morningrise (Candlelight, 1996), their masterpiece, refined that manner. Opening with a torrid saltarello of death guitar, followed by the predictable growled leitmotif over frantic grindcore metronomy, the 14-minute Advent then ventures into uncharted territory: folkish acoustic passages, tempo shifts, tender vocals (as anti-death as it gets), panzer-like progressions, Another memorable folkish melody disguised as hyper-metal riffing propels the initial burst of the ten-minute Nectar, a pretext to dive into a mini-symphony of agonizing and titanic angst gracefully interrupted by two acoustic breaks. This piece is the melodic peak of the album.
This hard/soft pattern is occasionally pushed to the extreme. A sinister looping riff introduces the eleven-minute The Night and the Silent Water, but the tension is broken twice by a romantic acoustic interlude, so that the song has literally two centers of masses that are virtually opposed to each other.
The eleven-minute To bid You Farewell switches the priorities altogether, even stradding into mellow jazz-rock.
The twenty-minute Black Rose Immortal is a multi-faceted beast: first yet another death-metal rendering of a martial folkish motif (although at a slower, quasi-martial pace), then a vastly different acoustic sketch, then a sequence in which a machine-gun riff and limping rhythm lead to a majestic guitar melody, then frantic mutating instrumental jamming that leads to an a-cappella invocation, a reverbed cello-like effect, an acoustic-guitar pastoral melody, then another titanic riff supporting a (growled) variation on the main melody, another acoustic pause, and a final maelstrom of screams and metal guitars.

My Arms Your Hearse (Candlelight, 1998), featuring new drummer Martin Lopez and Akerfeldt himself on bass, sounded both more aggressive and more traditional. It featured some of their most brutal compositions (April Ethereal, Demon Of The Fall), but also four brief instrumentals (Prologue, Madrigal, Credence, and Epilogue).

Martin Mendez joined on bass after the album was recorded.

The concept album Still Life (Peaceville, 1999), about a man banned from his town who remains faithful till death to his only love, definitely placated the rage, indulging more than ever in sophisticated arrangements and dynamics. The eleven-minute The Moor (perhaps their career's peak) is a case in point. It begins barely audible. A (memorable) acoustic-guitar theme emerges. But the growled death-metal theme that should wipe it out turns out to be half-speed and poppy, and soon overcome by a choral melody. By their standards the structure is not exactly exciting. The chaotic Godhead's Lament that follows could be an attempt to restore the prestige of the band, but, again, during the acoustic break both the timbre of the guitar and the tone of the vocals mimick mainstream pop muzak. Face of Melinda wastes about half of its running time in a pointless acoustic introduction. At least the brief Benighted does not pretend to be death-metal: it is simply a mellow ballad. The nine-minute Moonlapse Vertigo resurrects the balance of Morningrise, but the glittering arrangements detract from its atmosphere. One gets the feeling that telling the story prevails over the music in songs such as the nine-minute Serenity Painted Death. The story, for what it's worth, culminates with the ten-minute White Cluster (in which the protagonist is hanged but has a vision of his love, who has just been killed herself).

Luckily, Blackwater Park (Music for Nations, 2001) returned to a more virulent sound. In fact the majestic ten-minute The Leper Affinity harkens back to Orchid with its insistent, thick guitar attack (despite the nocturnal piano coda). The temptation of the mass-market power-ballad is still there, as shown by the nine-minute Bleak, and the purely non-metal ballad Harvest winks at the pop market. If nothing else, they both do it better than on the previous album. The excess of melodrama in the eleven-minute The Drapery Falls comes as a welcome relief, because it relies on superb melodies, stylish guitar interplay and a high-caliber form of post-metal orchestration. The guitar modulates another powerful melody at the beginning of the twelve-minute Blackwater Park, and the tension never lets go, using the pauses as launching pads for ever more fearful attacks while the growling, droning vocals resonate with the guitar's vibratoes.

Deliverance (Music For Nations, 2002) summed up their art and technique. Wreath, a majestic eleven-minute gothic fantasia that proceeds from agonizing doom-metal to fast hard-rock and to quasi-grindcore, By The Pain I See In Others, a violent and theatrical ten-minute melodrama with a solemn guitar solo and a desperate vocal refrain in between bursts of madness, and especially Deliverance, a 13-minute tour de force of different (but smoothly amalgamated) dramatic forms that runs towards a catastrophic climax, increase the level of musical and emotional complexity; while the suspenseful and melodic ten-minute ballad A Fair Judgment represents the romantic zenith of the album. Master's Apprentice offers a more conventional death-metal nightmare (but the second half changes personality twice).

Opeth mellowed down a lot on the symphonic Damnation (Music for Nations, 2003), an album that was "heavy" only on the electronic keyboards and made of relatively shorter songs. This was the angelic side of Opeth without its infernal side, the exact alter-ego of Deliverance.
Tracks: Window Payne, In my Time of Need, which is probably the standout, Death Whispered a Lullaby, Closure, Hope Leaves, To Rid the Disease, Ending Credits, Weakness.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Luca Tapognani)

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Fondati nel 1990 in Svezia dal cantante e chitarrista Mikael Akerfeldt, gli Opeth si sono specializzati col tempo nel fondere rock progressivo, musica folk e heavy-metal.

In Orchid (Candlelight, 1995) il ringhio death metal di Akerfeldt e l’epica chitarra distorta di Peter Lindgren intraprendono ruoli (mid-tempo, intermezzi acustici, lunghe e tortuose composizioni) che non sono tradizionalmente associati all’heavy metal, malgrado un suono che rimanda direttamente all’heavy metal.

Morningrise (Candlelight, 1996), il loro capolavoro, rifinisce questa caratteristica, soprattutto nella monumetale suite Black Rose Immortal

My Harms Your Hearse (Candlelight, 1998) presenta una nuova sezione ritmica formata dal batterista Martin Lopez e dal bassista Martin Mendez, oltre che a un suono più aggressivo e tradizionale. L’album contiene alcune delle loco composizioni più brutali (April Ethereal, Damon of the Fall)

Still Life (Peaceville, 1999) placca momentaneamente la rabbia per concedersi maggiormente in dinamiche e arrangiamenti sofisticati, soprattutto negli 11 minuti di The Moor, l’atmosferica Moonlapse vertigo e la maestosa Face of Melinda.

Blackwater Park (Music for Nations, 2001) aggiunge Blackwater Park, Bleak, The Drapery Falls ai canoni del gruppo, riuscendo a raggiungere un pubblico più vasto.

Deliverance (Music For Nations, 2002) riassume l’arte e la tecnica degli Opeth con le imponenti strutture di Wreath e Deliverance, mentre altrove incrementa l’impatto emozionale con le romantiche Fair Judgment and By The Pain I See In Others.

Gli Opeth ammorbidiscono i toni nel sinfonico, interlocutorio, Damnation (Music For Nation, 2003) un album dalle tastiere marcate e composto da canzoni relativamente brevi: Window Pane, In My Time of Need (probabilmente la migliore), Death whispered a Lullaby, Closure, Hope Leaves, To Rid the Disease, la strumentale Ending Credits, Weakness.

Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner, 2005) is a keyboards-heavy album that does not change the equation as much as it first appears to. The hyper-romantic Ghost of Perdition (one of their most famous songs) is simply more of the same formula that Opeth has been experimenting for six years. Pieces such as The Baying of the Hounds and Hours of Wealth are more "progressive" than usual, and perhaps the execution has reached a new level of craftmanship, but overall the album is devoid of real innovation or real emotion.

The Roadhouse Tapes (2007) is a live album.

Luckily Watershed (Roadrunner, 2008), that replaced guitarist Peter Lindgren with Fredrik Akesson and drummer Martin Lopez with Martin Axenrot, returned to the madcap multi-stylistic song structures of their first album. Mikael Akerfeldt had always been Opeth's brain ever since, and Lindgren's departure did not cause any trauma, especially given the technical growth of keyboardist Per Wiberg and bassist Martin Mendez. After the brief acoustic overture of Coil, Heir Apparent plunges into nine minutes of tense and eventful paranoia with moments of silence, acoustic guitars, atmospheric crescendoes and eventually an almost Pink Floyd-ian stately theme. The tour de force of the album is The Lotus Eater, with more prominent keyboards and regular singing (alternating with the stereotypical growl), with all the instruments stretched to the limit to provide maximum emotional output before a total collapse that leads to a hilarious instrumental passage. Burden (whose main features are the jazzy keyboard solos) even exceeds in pop and atmospheric emphasis, coming close to evoking the early albums of King Crimson. Gone is the growl and the mellotron reigns. It marks perhaps the zenith of Opeth's evolution towards the power-ballad. The subdued Porcelain Heart even ventures into an imitation of renaissance music. The guitar steals the show in Hessian Peel when it opts for calm folkish strumming. The sudden tempo shifts and bursts of violence make sense only because of the gentle premises that the guitar has laid out. This is the most cryptic (and longest) piece of the album, ending with a feeble organ vibration.

Heritage (2011) was certainly self-indulgent but also marked the full transformation into non-metal. It was the first Opeth album without Akerfeldt’s death-metal growls. Its highly competent but a bit stale creative fusion of folk, jazz, rock and pop evokes many classics of the past, but only for a few seconds, as if most of the music was merely a bridge to lead from one prog-rock stereotype to the next one.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Matteo Gentile)

Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner, 2005) è un album ricco di tastiere che non cambia l'equazione per come appare inizialmente. L'iper-romantico Ghost of Perdition è poco di più della stessa formula che gli Opeth hanno sperimentato per sei anni. Pezzi come The Baying of the Hounds e Hours of Wealth sono più "progressivi" del solito, e forse l'esecuzione ha raggiunto un nuovo livello di abilità, ma nel complesso l'album è privo di vera innovazione o vera emozione. The Roadhouse Tapes (2007) è un album dal vivo.

Fortunatamente Watershed (Roadrunner, 2008), in cui si sono sostituiti il chitarrista Fredrik Akesson a Peter Lindgren e il batterista Martin Axenrot a Martin Lopez, è tornato alle pazze strutture multi-stilistiche del loro primo album. Da allora Mikael Akerfeldt è sempre stato il cervello degli Opeth, e la partenza di Lindgren non ha causato alcun trauma, soprattutto vista la crescita tecnica del tastierista Per Wiberg e del bassista Martin Mendez. Dopo la breve apertura acustica di Coil , Heir Apparent si immerge in nove minuti di paranoia tesa e ricca di eventi con momenti di silenzio, chitarre acustiche, crescendo atmosferici e infine un tema maestoso quasi alla Pink Floyd. Il tour de force dell'album è The Lotus Eater , con tastiere più importanti e sezioni cantate regolari (alternate al “ringhio” più stereotipato), con tutti gli strumenti sfruttati al limite delle loro possibilità per fornire il massimo impatto emotivo prima di un crollo totale che porta a un esilarante passaggio strumentale. Burden (le cui caratteristiche principali sono gli assoli di tastiera jazz) supera persino l'enfasi pop e atmosferica, avvicinandosi all'evocazione dei primi album dei King Crimson. Il “ringhio” non serve più e regna il mellotron. Segna forse l'apice dell'evoluzione degli Opeth verso la power ballad. Il contenuto Porcelain Heart si avventura persino in un'imitazione della musica rinascimentale. La chitarra ruba il palco in Hessian Peel quando opta per calmi strimpellamenti folkloristici. Gli improvvisi cambiamenti di tempo e le esplosioni di violenza hanno senso solo grazie alle premesse delicate che la chitarra ha disposto. Questo è il pezzo più criptico (e più lungo) dell'album, che termina con un debole vibrato d'organo.

Heritage (2011) è stato certamente autoindulgente, ma ha anche segnato la piena trasformazione in non-metal. La sua fusione progressivamente altamente, competente ma un po 'stantia, di folk, jazz, rock e pop evoca molti classici del passato, ma solo per pochi secondi, come se la maggior parte della musica fosse semplicemente un ponte per condurre da uno stereotipo prog rock a un altro.

Mikael Akerfeldt also recorded Storm Corrosion (2012) with Steven Wilson of Porcupine.

Pale Communion (Roadrunner, 2014) was also a mellow album whose style harked back to King Crimson of the 1970s, although occasionally in an original way (the eight-minute Voice of Treason). The eleven-minute Moon Above Sun Below is the reminder of what Opeth used to be and highlight, and makes this one the best album of Opeth's prog-rock phase.

Sorceress (Nuclear Blast, 2016) is mostly a demonstration of musical skills with songs that don't really have a personality.

Garden Of The Titans (2018) is a live album.

In Cauda Venenum (Nuclear Blast, 2019) marked another peak of Opeth's prog-rock phase, a little brainier and a little heavier than the three predecessors, with lengthy demonstrations of musical prowess like Heart in Hand and All Things Will Pass.

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