Saturday, September 3, 2011


I only use the time machine for research purposes - but last night I used it to fly into the future and get a copy of the new Opeth CD. I'm sorry if I disturbed the time space continuum and I promise to buy (another) copy on Sept 16th when the album comes out.

[note... later bought a copy the same day Sept 3 from a Tower Records which clearly didn't read the note about the release date being Sept 16. So you got my money Mikael.]

this really does sound like something Keith Jarrett or Thomas Stanko would release on ECM. Not sure how this fits in with everything else, who played it, who wrote it... its fairly pleasant but maybe not their greatest track ever.

The Devil's Orchard:
I had heard this already when they released it on July 20th on stereogum. Crazy loops within loops and mellotrons, if there were some growling in this it would sound like the natural progression of the band from Blackwater park - Deliverance - Ghost Reveries - Watershed ...
Akerfeldt covers Nitzche? "God is Dead", he sings twice.
I can say that the drum sound here is a bit different and jazzier than Watershed. It seems like the drums are lower in the mix and the snare is a bit brighter. Some very interesting percussion things happening with bells in the middle section.
Lots of progressive type organ fiddling here in the style of 1969-1970 king crimson or 1974-1976 Camel if you prefer ... And then comes the Opeth rhythmic craziness and the obligatory epic guitar solo ... still Opeth after all these years.

I Feel the Dark:
Starting with some precise acoustic guitar and Mikael Akerfeldt channeling Nick Drake, he's quickly joined by some mellotron and piano in the background before bringing in the full band. A very brooding and bubbling underneath with heavy echo type guitar solo opens up into a kind of middle keyboard section. Reminds me that I haven't listened to Anekdoten for years now...
Whoops... the aliens just landed at 2:58. We'll see if they are willing to sit in for a few bars. For a while the vocals will go one way and the drums another ... will they meet again?
At 4:20 we bring in a bit of heavy riffing which then gets replicated on the acoustic before this crazy keyboard bubble machine effect brings in some more singing. The textures, layers, sounds, keyboards, guitar tones rolled out already on this album is quite impressive and we are only on song 3. Regarding the lyrics (the first song was instrumental) they seem to conform to the time old Opeth theme of I am an evil guy who is being possessed by some darkness and that's why I had to kill those people/women/townfolk/children etc.

Now the Opeth boys have opened up the throttle. This song moves in a 70s rock 4/4 speed demon way which i'm not sure they've ever tried before (certainly not with this Ian Paice backbeat). Its a pretty cool tip of the hat to Deep Purple and what have you and Opeth make it their own by changing and chopping up the beat now and again on the drums. Classic Mikael Blackmore Akerfeldt mini solo at 2:14. This guy has done his homework and probably heard "Burn" about 1000 times in his lifetime. Followed by some great layered vocals and their own special crazily times breakdown which dissolves into renaissance guitar. Well, Blackmore never did THAT.

wiki says:
Nepenthe play /nɨˈpɛnθiː is a medicine for sorrow, literally an anti-depressant – a "drug of forgetfulness" mentioned in ancient Greek literature.
Opeth? shocker.
We start out deep in the underworld of reverb and classical guitar. jazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzyyyyyyyyyy.
This album really has covered every style in my music collection (except perhaps death metal) in 4 1/3 songs. Opeth is probably the only band who can turn that corner on a dime and go from black metal to ECM new age folk jazz within a measure of 4/4. This album will do that in every song it seems :)
And now a great guitar solo before diving back into the ECM ocean to avoid the helicopters hovering ahead with the depth charges.
And then the guitars break the surface - this solo has to be Frederick Akesson. I don't think Akerfeldt can do that sort of fast tapping.
Its going to be interesting to see how they pull this stuff off live - there are so many sections of quietly plotting between the very fast sections of actually cutting peoples heads off musically. lyrics? more feeding demons and receiving instructions from Lucifer. He's not being honest with us - he's receiving instructions from Ritchie Blackmore and Bobo Stenson on this 10th album.

Opeth is the best sounding jazz trio never to have played Newport. Or Winterfell. Not enough will be written about the excellent drumming here. Axenrot is really cooking with the Miles Davis Quintet here. Its so far back in the mix that it never takes over or interferes with the delicate piano and vocals --- but it adds another layer or interest.
Haxprocess is apparently a swedish chemical term for taking progressive rock keyboards and distilling them in "black metal nonsense" lyrics before suspending them in Manfred Eicher's wet dreams. Its an innovated process that has only been done... once? I guess the next album will need to prove that the thesis can be replicated. Its a new genre and I have to admit by listening to Keith Jarrett, Camel, Deep Purple, King Crimson and well... Opeth for the last 8 years I seem to have been preparing myself to receive the gospel. Not sure what I'm going to do with it just yet ... But how many other death metal bands leave you with the strange compulsion to listen to Jan Garbarek when you finish their records?

To his credit, Akerfeldt feels like he can now write for planet earth as an instrument and not just a 4 piece metal band. This song starts out with some classical type flute run which then segues into some indian percussion and tangerine dream electronic background fizzing. Its a rather interesting minute of world music as black metal brooding which is cross cut with some more ECM piano and a heartfeldt "Ä man needs a maid" moment. But if you make it that far you will get some great jazzy guitar runs with the full band in tow. In perhaps the heaviest moments so far, the full band goes electric and drags the waters for about a minute or so. The guitar riffing here twists and turns with the best of them. And around 5:00 Ian Anderson gets a bit of a nod too. It seems flute and heavy metal can coexist after all. Maybe the Grammy should have gone to Tull and not Metallica? In any case, you can't accuse Opeth of being too conventional at this point or repeating themselves. They don't even repeat themselves with a verse chorus verse in the same song. This song dissolves with distant piano tinkling and old school static... don't they all ? (no, they don't)

The Lines in my Hand
Tony Williams gets to start this one off. Martin Mendez gets a bit of a moment in the sun - maybe he is underrated. This song is a really cooking jazz rock jam with some acoustic guitar overdubbed on top. The later sections of this song get heavy - very heavy by the standards of this album.

Starting off with the itsy bitsy spider on PRS guitar and tube Laney the rest of the band falls in to a mid speed 6/8 stroll through poisonous forests and leslie rotating speakers. "Feel the pain / in your brain / insane". When the clean Akerfeldt voice breaks through triumphantly we are soon back in more cross cut waltzing. The technical and graceful playing of these four guys (and whatever keyboards they have tacked on) is almost taken for granted on their tenth album, but its not easy to get metal musicians to glide together like that. As producer, composer, player, arranger --- I have to give Mikael Akerfeldt a lot of credit. Nobody does this better than him. And as far as I know nobody does this at all.

The Marrow of the Earth
twin guitar funeral of the rest of the genre of "music made on planet earth"

Overall rating:
Maybe they are the best metal band of all time? The argument can be made. So what if this isn't even a metal album. It has to be one of their best albums of all time --- maybe Blackwater Park has better anthems, maybe Ghost Reveries is heavier and has better riffs and maybe Watershed has better guitar solos --- but clearly they have never rolled out all of the chops, all of the effects, all of the orchestration, all of the black metal lyrical nonsense (well on that point nothing changes), all of the time signature + 1 trickery like on this album. Maybe it can't be proven to be their best ever after just one listen (and ... ahem... 13 days before the album is even released) but i can say with conviction that

this is the most opethy album opeth have ever made.

they did it.

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