21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century... So Far

#3: OPETH – BLACKWATER PARK

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We recently polled a wide array of musicians, managers, publicists, label reps, and writers from within the world of metal to find out what they thought the 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century So Far have been. Eligible albums were released between January 1, 2000 and  April 1, 2009. Each panelist turned in a ballot, with their #1 album worth 21 points, their #2 album worth 20 points, and so on and so forth. The ballots are now in and we’ll be counting down one album a day until we reach #1. Today we present the #3 album, coming in with a total of 237 points…

Opeth, Blackwater Park (Music for Nations, 2001)
Mikael Åkerfeldt – Vocals/Guitars
Peter Lindgren – Guitars
Martin Mendez – Bass
Martin Lopez – Drums
Produced by Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt

There is no metal band that traverses the chasm between beauty and brutality as confidently as Sweden’s Opeth. From their first album Orchid on through last year’s Watershed, Mikael Åkerfeldt and his bandmates have embraced the complexity and romanticism of 70s progressive rock, rejecting two of metal’s central tenets: it’s gotta be simple, and it’s gotta be ugly.

On the surface, Blackwater Park is prototypical Opeth – it folds acoustic and electric passages, furious blastbeats and 6/8 waltzes, clean tones and disharmony into lengthy suites, each one ornately detailed and flawlessly played. Pretty much any one of Opeth’s post-millennial opuses could have made it on this list (and another one did – check #10), so why does this one sit loftily at the #3 spot on this list?

Blackwater Park represented Opeth’s  “Ah-ha!” moment, when all of their ambitious ideas crystallized into a set of back-to-back amazing songs, rendered in glorious Technicolor sound. The riffage on “Leper Affinity,” “Bleak” and the title track still rank among Opeth’s most thrilling; “Dirge for November” and the interlude “Patterns In the Ivy” feature some of the band’s most hauntingly spare music; a multi-tracked Åkerfeldt blazes through vocal harmonies on ”Harvest” and “The Funeral Portrait” like a death metal Boston.

Blackwater Park was Opeth’s best-sounding record to date, thanks largely to producer Steven Wilson, also the guitarist of ambient prog band Porcupine Tree. The mix is spacious and detailed, its acoustic and electric textures meshing and flowing beautifully. Wilson added depth to a set of songs that already existed in four dimensions. Sonically, musically and lyrically, it all came together on this one. Opeth have continued to follow their singular path to ever more intriguing places, but they’ve never cut a better record than Blackwater Park.

-SR

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THE LIST SO FAR:

#4 – Killswitch Engage, Alive or Just Breathing

#5 – Converge, Jane Doe

#6 – Killswitch Engage, The End of Heartache

#7 – Lamb of God, Ashes of the Wake

#8 – In Flames, Clayman

#9 – Gojira, From Mars to Sirius

#10 – Opeth, Ghost Reveries

#11 – Deftones, White Pony

#12 – Tool, Lateralus

#13 – Mastodon, Blood Mountain

#14 – System of a Down, Toxicity

#15 – Nachtmystium, Assassins: Black Meddle, Part 1

#16 – Machine Head, The Blackening

#17 – Hatebreed, Perseverance

#18 – Lamb of God, New American Gospel

#19 – Mastodon, Remission

#20 – Shadows Fall, The War Within

#21 – Slipknot, Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses

THE PANEL OF VOTERS

Chris Adler, Lamb of God
Dan And, Bison B.C.
Ben Apatoff, Apatoff for Destruction
/Metal Injection
Jason Bittner, Shadows Fall
Tim Brennan, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Freddy Cai, Painkiller Magazine
Ian Christe, Bazillion Points
Reverend David J. Ciancio, Yeah! Management
Betsey Cichoracki, Relapse Records
Paul Conroy, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
J. Costa, Thy Will Be Done
Dallas Coyle, ex-God Forbid/Coyle Media
Doc Coyle, God Forbid
CT, Rwake
Anso DF, MetalSucks/Hipsters Out of Metal!
Vince Edwards, Metal Blade Records
Charles Elliott, Abysmal Dawn/Nuclear Blast Records
Brian Fair, Shadows Fall
Leo Ferrante, Warner Music Group
D.X. Ferris, author 33 1/3: Reign in Blood/Freelance Journalist
Mike Gitter, Roadrunner Records
Nick Green, Decibel
Matt Grenier, August Burns Red
Anthony Guzzardo, Earache Records
Kevin Hufnagel, Dysrhythmia
Mark Hunter, Chimaira
Steve Joh, Century Media
EJ Johantgen, Prosthetic Records
Kim Kelly, Metal Injection
/Hails & Horns/Freelance Journalist
Josh “The J” Key, Psychostick
Jason Lekberg, Epic Records
Eyal Levi, Daath
Bob Lugowe, Relapse Records
Matt McChesney, The Autumn Offering
Jake McReynolds,
Psychostick
Marc Meltzer, The Syndicate
Josh Middleton, Sylosis
Matt Moore, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder
Vince Neilstein, MetalSucks
Sammy O’Hagar, MetalSucks
Anton OyVey, MetalSucks/Bacon Jew
Rob Pasbani, Metal Injection

Alex Preiss, Psychostick
Carlos Ramirez, NoiseCreep/Universal Music Group
Brian Rocha, Fresno Media USA
Jeremy Rosen, Roadrunner Records
Axl Rosenberg, MetalSucks
Satan Rosenbloom, MetalSucks/Cerebral Metalhead
David Bee Roth, MetalSucks
Jason Rudolph, Heavy Hitter, Inc.

Amy Sciarretto, Roadrunner Records/NoiseCreep
Carl Severson, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Gary Suarez, MetalSucks/No Yoko No/Brainwashed
Geoff Summers, The End Records/Crustcake
Bram Teitelman, The Syndicate/Metal Insider
Alisha Turull, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Christopher R. Weingarten, 1000TimesYes/Freelance Journalist

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