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Opeth – Ghost Reveries: Review

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I never would have thought that I would be doing a LATE review on a DEATH METAL album… But I guess opposite day exists. The Swedish progressive death metal band, Opeth, has been making waves for quite some time now. I’ve never bothered to check them out because of the instant turn off by the word “death” in “progressive death metal,” shallow may it be. However, progressive has made its way to my favorite genre of music, so I thought I woul open a few doors. The album Ghost Reveries, released August 29, 2005, has received overwhelming critical acclaim since its release. Today, I decided to personally investigate this.

Intro (with critic background)

There are things that need to be said for you to understand my thinking. I have one of the strictest musical tastes and am rather unopen about what I subconsciously allow myself to enjoy and appreciate. Music is at its finest, in my opinion, when it employs the highest level of complexities and musical traits in the most fashionable way. For example, I love when a vocal phrase undergoes multiple key and time signature changes in a very unorthodox, technical manner. Because of its contrast to this, I’ve shown great disdain for death metal.

I have always stayed clear of death metal due to its heavy reliance on growling vocals. To me, growling is just a deviate way to escape the inability to convey anger, pain, and other dark emotions as a vocalist; it is for singers who can’t sing. Not only this, but I also dislike how its lack of melody itself detracts from being music. In a few words, death metal has always been noisy shit to me.

After listening to Ghost Reveries, my opinion about death metal remains relatively unchanged. However, I do have an even higher opinion of Opeth. Their soft, non-mainstream rock album, Damnation, has been one of my all-time faovrites and has won my undying respect for the songwriting brilliance of frontman (and only remaining founding member), Mikael Åkerfeldt. The album in question has only amplified this.

I do not have his album, but I did not illegally download it. Actually, I spent the last hour or so sitting on a backless, hard chair searching up youtube videos for every song on this album. When a person like me can listen to an album of this genre under such grueling circumstances, it is clear that we’re dealing with one helluva masterpiece.

The Music (rating: A)

  1. Ghosts of Perdition
  2. Baying of the Hounds
  3. Beneath the Mire
  4. Atonement
  5. Reverie/Harlequin Forest
  6. Hours of Wealth
  7. The Grand Conjuration
  8. Isolation Years

With regards to the general feel of the album, its death metal aspect would be dominant to most (though its evenly split between clean and growl vocals). But others who pushed past that fact, such as myself, can see the prevalent progressive feel to the album; one of the many reasons I enjoyed it. It’s filled with time and key changes, as well as nonstandard scales/modes and phrasing. The songs are generally quite long and abstain from the normal form of music. But on a more subtle side, it has a nice touch of some blues, jazz, and folk influences. So if your willing to, as I was, try to push the words “death metal” to the back of your mind and listen to this album or you will be missing out on something special.

This is one of the most musically creative albums I’ve heard, most likely because it’s progressive rather than death metal, but I can’t say for sure having avoided the latter. But the fact remains that the level of musicianship that Åkerfeldt displays is rivaled by only a handful in the scene today. The album flows through very smoothly, where no songs feel out of place yet every song is unique. And the melodic phrasing in every instrument of every section of every song on this album is an ingenious conjuration of the most brilliant musical minds. Even though they are in a rather established genre of music, the band shows high levels of innovation in this field.

Speaking from a technical standpoint, this album is very impressive. I’ve been a huge fan of drummer Martin Lopez since my discovery of this band. In this album, he easily matches my sky high expectations with his intellectually designed drum lines. The guitar and bass were very spectacular as well, though did not leave as strong an impression on me. Personally, I was not very enticed by Åkerfeldt’s growling vocals, but to me “good growling” are two words combined that can’t make sense. On the other hand, I found his clean vocals to be deeply enjoyable. They weren’t extremely impressive in terms of technicality, but they where very well phrased and fitting to the passages they were sung in. The instrumentals altogether (save for the growling) was of high level performance in the album.

If I weren’t such a shallow person, I would have given Ghost Reveries an A+ rating. However, I can’t get around death growling; it is my only issue with the album. I personally wish Opeth would stick to clean vocals, but Åkerfeldt is loyal to his fanbase (which I admire) and will continue to provide them with the best music available in today’s world of metal.

(Note: On Nov 25th, 2009 in Australia, Opeth announced they were to record an album in 2010. I will quite possibly review this album with high expectations)

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  1. December 1, 2009 at 6:42 pm

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