OPETH – BLACKWATER PARK

by Jonny Lieberman on July 28, 2006

blackwaterpark1

The book and subsequent movie High Fidelity did a pretty good send up of record store clerks and music geeks who do things like categorize their music in terms of relevance. People of this ilk are also way too into the history of rock; they are constantly spouting off about how rock evolved from the blues. So what? Einstein evolved from a hamster if you go back far enough (I know – they shared a common ancestor).

Opeth has nothing to do with the blues. Opeth has nothing to do with rock. In fact, they have nothing to do with Scandinavian Death/Doom Metal . Much like the great and northern NoMeansNo is always lumped in with “punk” even though they redefine the genre at every sound check, Opeth completely transcends not only Death Metal, but music as well. These guys pull off more shit during the first song on their first album than the majority of bands will in a career.

On their fifth album, Blackwater Park, Opeth not only pick up where they left off with Still Life, but they keep on running so as that no other band even has a chance to ever catch them. “Bleak” is the name of track 2, and it is the highlight of the record. Think Middle Eastern death metal. Not only is Ackerfeldt the only Cookie-Monster voiced guy I can listen to with a straight face, but his clean vocals are more gorgeous than usual.

Like all Opeth records, Blackwater Park is a true masterpiece. Anyone who tells you different thinks that REM’s old stuff is good.

Ruthless Ratings

Buy It Or Burn It: Buy It. Plus, that way you get all the track listings. They have songs called, “The Drapery Falls” and “Dirge For November.”

Quantify It: 10 out of a possible 10. No weak spots or nothing.

When it was suggested to Mr B that Opeth were as good as Nomeansno he replied thusly

I seriously hope you were taking the piss.

This is just production line doom, death, black, shite, kak metal.

I won’t say that this is the worst band I’ve ever heard cos they aren’t, but as good as Nomeansno? You’ve got to be fucking kidding.

They desperately want to do for death/doom/black metal (though they’re not like any of those bands, HONEST) what Metallica did for thrash in the 80′s and to a certain degree they do succeed but that’s not exactly a hard achievement with the musical genre they’re trying to advance being the bottom of the musical food chain.

I could make a better record if I taped myself having a wank. (sorry “The Gerogeriegege” have already done that)

Lets review the songs in no particular order:

  1. Leper Affinity – ooh, Voivod sound good lets copy them and rehash Leper Messiah for a title
  2. The Funeral Portrait – Lets cover ground conquered in the 80′s
  3. Harvest – A classic guitar intro, how original, let’s follow it up with some boring wank and more original acoustic shit
  4. Patterns In The Ivy – Acoustic guitar again what a fucking shock.
  5. Harvest – Acoustic shit yet again. Are these guys desperate for and MTV unplugged slot or what.
  6. Dirge For November – Surprise Surfuckingprise another acoustic intro. God these guys are so deep!!!!!!!!!!!
  7. Bleak – Doesn’t really sound like anything apart from shit metal.
  8. Blackwater Park see no. 7

Here are (only) 10 bands/artists you should check out before OPETH (Not counting NoMeansNo)

  • Can
  • Spacemen 3
  • Black Sabbath
  • Buddy Rich
  • Ruins
  • The Prestidigitators
  • Killdozer
  • Funkadelic/Parliament
  • Captain Beefheart
  • Any Jah Wobble except “Take Me To God”

Mr. I know what the fuck I’m talking about B.


Erich Swings to the Rescue

Mr. B., what have you done?

Listen gubnuh, you’re wrong to say that black/doom metal is the bottom of the musical food chain. We all know that that position is occupied by Creed, Kid Rock and the other plankton sold at malls. Scandinavian metal is much closer to the top of the chain – like an octopus or something. If we’re talking about popular music only, it’s a tiger shark. Listen to Covenant for God’s sake! But that’s not the main issue; Opeth is.

Opeth are masters of all that they survey and there are two main reasons. One is emotional intensity. I suppose it’s no surprise that this would be lost on a Brit. We say “Unwound,” you say “Travis.” We say “Fugazi,” you say “Radiohead.” Let’s call the whole thing off. Or maybe just the Spice Girls. Anyway, Opeth’s music has this quality that only great music has, by which even simple melodies somehow feel like the climax of a Bergman film. I can’t explain it, but it’s there.

Second, melodic complexity. Culture is no excuse here. Opeth’s music is sometimes like a great symphony insofar as a casual listen reveals pleasing, but simple sounding and intuitive choices. Like pop. But unlike pop, if you listen more closely, as the normally astute Mr. B has obviously failed to do, and you hear complex and unusual melodic choices. How many other rock bands have melodies of this quality? As far as I know, only POD and Blink-182.

Opeth are amazing in all of the more mundane ways, like musicianship. But the above is what sets them above. Metallica are a good comparison, but I’ve found that Metallica aren’t as good as they sounded when I was 15. Opeth really are as good as I thought Metallica were ten years ago.

But hey, if you can’t hang, you can’t hang. Stick to kidney pie and Oasis. I am gonna check out that Japanese techno girl you were raving about though.

Mr. B Replys

Sure Kid Rock etc., is lower in the musical food chain than Opeth but that goes without saying. If Opeth are an Octopus then NoMeansNo are Jaws who eats people who eat octopi.

As I said it’s not the worst album I’ve heard, but for me they are covering conquered ground. They haven’t contributed anything fresh musically, and while I understand that freshness isn’t a pre-requisite for liking something, it is for a band to be considered the best in the world! All the way through this CD I just kept thinking that I’d heard it before, from the suspicious “Creeping Death” sounding lick toward the end of the title track to the “Shudder To Think” vocals of “Bleak”, I could go on. For me it isn’t emotionally intense at all. It doesn’t take me to that special music place your trying to describe, it just makes me think of other bands who took me there.

I will let the “Bare Naked Ladies” sum up my defence.

IT’S ALL BEEN DONE

I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one

With regards to Metallica, are you sure you haven’t filed it in the wrong sleeve and put on “Agent Steel’s Unstoppable Force” or something by mistake?

“Master Of Puppets” sounds as good as the day I bought it (Jesus that’s 17 years ago).

DISCLAIMER 1 Mr B in no way endorses Bare Naked Ladies products and that no attempt should be made to play their CD’s in the home environment. Radio DJ’s are trained professionals or are supervised by trained professionals and Mr B will not review any Bare Naked Ladies CD’s sent to him.

DISCLAIMER 2 Mr B in no way endorses Steak & Kidney pie or any other meat based product (although if your desperate there is a chip shop in my home town of Penrith that serves a nice home made one with thick gravy)

DISCLAIMER 3 Mr B does not endorse OASIS who are so lacking in ideas that now they’ve run out of Beatles songs to rip off they’ve started to rip off their own songs. Do yourself a favour America, ignore them as you have wisely done most other UK pop music.


Schultz Weighs In

DISCLAIMER; no one has EVER IN ALL HUMAN HISTORY won an argument on who is a good band and who is crap. So I’ll start out with some facts.

These 4 things don’t mean you have to like Opeth, but they are true.

  • Opeth has chord progressions where 4 OR MORE melodies are playing at the same time. Most metal does not.
  • Opeth has many moods in one song—from the epic to the dissonant to the acoustic/melancholy to the wacky prog/technical stuff. Most metal does not.
  • Opeth has songs that don’t follow the usual verse/chorus/bridge/verse/chorus of METALLICA or THE BEATLES, or the do-this-8-times-then-do-that-8-times blueprint of later metal bands. There actually seems to be some thought put into the arrangement of the songs..
  • Their kick drum doesn’t sound all clicky. Christ I hate that.

Abandoning objectivity, let me say why I think Opeth is among the best:

Most bands are lucky if they were even recorded correctly. Some really lucky bands have catchy riffs, or good loud/soft dynamics, or emotional realness, or creativity. Opeth has EVERYTHING on EVERY SONG. That can’t be just luck. Knowwumsayin? I’ve been to literally a dozen metal record stores in 4 countries and asked for ‘more music that sounds like opeth’ EVERY TIME the response has been, ‘no one sounds like Opeth.’

Maybe I’ll ask them if anyone sounds like CAN or FUNKADELIC.

About

Jonny was the site’s co-founder and helped carry the place in the early years. There was a falling out with Erich and he left the site for good, but a lot of his reviews live on. He has moved on to a successful career writing about cars. Look him up.

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