Opeth – Watershed (2008): Review

opeth

Produced by Mikael Åkerfeldt and Jens Bogren
Label – Roadrunner

There’s little to criticize Opeth’s consistent and imaginative back catalogue. Right from their raw inception they have been brave enough to incorporate all the elements and varieties of metal, from death metal, to black metal, to prog, to traditional acoustic music, with a skill and panache that invokes the impression that above all they are immensely talented musicians, with admirable arranging skills and strong songwriting abilities. The album title for this, their ninth studio recording has some merit; the necessary line up changes that occurred following 2005’s “Ghost Reveries”, and the creation of what many will consider to be the most revealing and majestic album of their illustrious career. The real masterstroke is that “Watershed” is so musically seamless. Just seven songs, none of which meander aimlessly, constantly challenging the listener by their broad shifts in style, from traditional folk with added flutes and attentive musical harmonies (“Coil”), to death metal growls and kick drum pedal fills merging into driving black metal and then traditional progressive metal (“Heir Apparent” “Hessian Peel”). There’s even somber gothic overtones in the quiet moments of the closer “Hex Omega” which gravitate to a climactic symphonic peak that’s seismic in its musical ambition.

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Much credit must go to singer, guitarist and producer Mikael Akerfeldt, a songwriter who understands that developing and evolving differing styles in a piece of music should be smoothly organic and never forced upon the listener. Yes, he takes chances, and sometimes they might not work for every metal head; “Burden” for example has a hint of unfashionable 70’s AOR, but at least he’s attempting something that’s ambitious in a climate where many bands of their ilk are banging out the same nauseously tired old riffs. Few writers in their field would test the senses by launching into a full scale dual guitar guttural cacophony that cools down to a jolting clavinet solo complete with skipping prog/jazz rhythms. Even fewer, would attempt a nimble dual acoustic workout where each guitar is deliberately detuned whilst the pair continue unabated. It obviously shouldn’t work, and the cackle at the end proves that for all their virtuosity, Opeth’s light hearted approach smacks in the face of the deadly serious, po-faced attitude of many in the world of metal.

Guaranteed high impact, “Watershed” certainly won’t bring metal back to the mainstream, but that was never the intention. Opeth’s sole intention is to create extravagant, adventurous, and impressive pieces of music, and without doubt this album succeeds admirably.

8/10

Tracklist
1.”Coil” 3:11
2.”Heir Apparent” 8:48
3.”The Lotus Eater” 8:48
4.”Burden” 7:41
5.”Porcelain Heart” 7:59
6.”Hessian Peel” 11:24
7.”Hex Omega” 6:57

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4 responses to “Opeth – Watershed (2008): Review

  1. A band that have been on my radar, but I’ve never really listened to them beyond a track or two. I believe I have an album here amongst a bunch of stuff that I haven’t really explored yet.

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