SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT: OPETH IS STILL F*CKING FANTASTIC
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Sunday Spotlight, in which prolific masters of yesteryear get their just due…first up: the almighty Opeth, whose live double CD, The Roundhouse Tapes, comes out this Tuesday.
I thought that when Alpha-Boy first introduced me to “The Moor”, the opening track on Opeth‘s timeless classic album Still Life, and my balls finally dropped, the music couldn’t get any better. How could this unrealistically epic band trump what had to be their crowning achievement? I now realize in retrospect that in a way, A.B. chose the perfect introduction; from Still Life, there were a few unique directions to go in: the shockingly perfect aggressive groove of Deliverance, the mellow come-down of Damnation, the rough, throw-back sound of My Arms, Your Hearse, and of course it wasn’t long before I discovered Opeth’s true masterpiece, the indefatigable Blackwater Park.
For those that get it, there is no greater progressive metal outfit; Opeth perfectly defines what intelligent, brutal, precious power in the form of electric music ought to be. Be forewarned — this band is often so unbelievably overwhelming that uncontrollable reactions may occur. I will admit that they do take themselves quite seriously, which some could offer a snicker towards, but they actually deserve to…in this genre we call metal, no other band strikes as perfect a blend of the sublimely pretty and darkly gutteral (allbeit groove-heavy). Talk about dynamics!
The band’s last studio recording, Ghost Reveries, is no exception – the tracks that stand out the most are indispensible to any die-hard fan, despite the overall album lacking the comprehensive vision that Opeth’s previous works of genius do. That said, aside from a handful of moments feeling slightly canned, the opening track alone is worth the price of admission. And how could you possibly top the prior gems? They’re of the highest ilk imaginable. I hasten to say that the ride could be somewhat downhill from here, allbeit totally valuable nonetheless. However, Opeth mastermind Mikael Åkerfeldt recently claimed that the newest studio recordings are his favorite yet. So there’s that.
And now, as Opeth ponders its next move in the face of two major personnel changes – the loss of both perfect drummer Martin Lopez and phenomenal powerhouse guitar player Peter Lindgren occurred within the last year and a half – the band is preparing to release a live double CD entitled The Roundhouse Tapes (already out in Europe and due stateside on 11/20).
This set of recordings is from a November 2006 performance at London’s Camden Roundhouse, what I imagine had to be one of the first with the adjusted line-up of the band. New guitarist Fredrik Åkesson (ex Arch Enemy, Crux) and new drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot (ex Bloodbath, Satanic Slaughter, Witchery) have some extremely big shoes to fill, but judging by the decisions thus far by bandleader Åkerfeldt, it’s hard to expect anything less than a shining new direction from a classic yet enduring band. Can’t wait.
Opeth’s next gig is in March 2008 on a 24 hour cruise from Stockholm to Helsinki, which I am seriously considering going to.
5 juggernauts by authentic superheroes:
OPETH – “The Moor”, from Still Life (1999)
OPETH – “Deliverance”, from Deliverance (2002)
OPETH – “Windowpane”, from Damnation (2003)
OPETH – “Blackwater Park”, from Blackwater Park (2001)
OPETH – “Ghost of Perdition”, from Ghost Reveries (2005)
(The middle three albums were produced by Porcupine Tree’s frontman Steven Wilson. Whoa!)
Visit Opeth on myspace (and listen to 4 more tracks)