Still Life is one of the most beautiful albums ever made. Beautiful in terms of every attribute; Scope, Intent, Execution, Musicianship, — literally everything about Still Life is gorgeous. Even and especially Akerfeldt’s ultra-growl vocals. Opeth is sadness. Better put, Opeth is understanding the beauty that can be found in sadness. I’m grabbing at straws here, because writing any sort of objective review of this or any other of Opeth’s four albums is a Herculean task. With the exception of our very own Mr. B, I have never read a negative review of Opeth. Speaking of the Greeks…

I was trying to think of an appropriate metaphor that could help me illustrate the scope and sweep of this record. Here is what I came up with:

The Odyssey by Homer

Yeah, that is what I just wrote. Here’s why. It is not so much the lyrics, though for the Death Metal genre the lyrics are Durrell to all other band’s Bukowski. In The Odyssey you have Ulysses running around and doing stuff. Epic stuff. Musically, Opeth is an odyssey. These guys just do not let up. They kill all matter of mythical beast and pry open the eye of your typical “Cycloptic” metal fan. I’m talking to you, Mr. Korn Fan. So, roughly, that is why Still Life, and really to be fair all other Opeth Albums, are like The Odyssey. Here’s more.

In The Odyssey, Ulysses comes back from his “odyssey” and finds his wife taken with a new man (or men, depending on how you read it) and his home basically overrun by strangers. He goes through the full gamut of human emotions. Jealously, pain, betrayal, confusion, bitterness, anger, revenge, bloodlust and finally murder. Then in one of the more brutal passages in literature (especially interesting if you believe that Homer is the foundation of Western Civilization) Ulysses slaughters every single one of the interlopers. Note the similarity to Still Life The protagonist of Still Life does basically the same thing when he returns home after a fifteen year adventure to find his love and bride-to-be, Melinda, bequeathed to another man. Check these lyrics;

Darkness reared its head

Tearing within the reeling haze

Took control, claiming my flesh

Piercing rage, perfect tantrum

Each and every one would die at my hand

Choking in warm ponds of blood

At last, weak and torn I went down

Drained from strength, flickering breath

Call it archetypal if you will, though Viking culture was pretty fond of uber-warriors returning home and kicking ass. See Holgar The Dane. I can’t tell if just before all that bloody bluster Melinda had been taken away from him, or if she was killed. No matter, either way he lost the girl. Not only does Akerfeldt paint us this horrific picture lyrically, but he does it with his throat as well. Moving from the softest of joys to the most harsh and extreme, his growl is legendary for a reason. Even when compared to what he did one album previous on the famously brutal My Arms, Your Hearse, Mikael’s vocal skills reflect new levels of sorrow and melancholy. Opeth as a band, solidified for the first time since Orchid, also goes from weepy to homicidal at the drop of a hat. Check out the 5:50 minute mark of “White Cluster.” My point is, Still Life is not only epic, it’s mythological.

Opeth really cranked it up a notch with this, their fourth release. I mean, can you think of another death metal band where the melodies get stuck in your head? No, you can’t. With the exception of their latest record, Blackwater Park, no other record can even sit on the same shelf with Still Life.

Ruthless Ratings

  • Buy It or Burn It: Um, in a word, buy. Not only is it one of the best records you will ever buy, but the packaging is real nice, too.
  • Quantify It: 10 points out of 10. Still Life is that good.
  • Amount of times a day you think about the fact that Opeth will be releasing two albums simultaneously within the next few months: 4

Here is a review I wrote for Amazon.com before Ruthless existed as a site

With Still Life, their fourth album, the masters of Swedish Melancholy are back with a vengeance. Simply put on this album, the hard parts are heavier, the soft parts are creamier and the mood is sad, sad, sad.

Opeth are utterly frightening musicians. They excel in areas where other bands are afraid to even tread. Like pulling off thrash breakdowns in the middle of grinding death metal riffs, only to throw in a lone acoustic guitar in for one measure. The singing ranges from classic cookie monster growl, to genuinely sweet, melodic bridges. Again, this is ground that Opeth has covered in the past, but their mastery of it is becoming more and more complete. And the drums are booming.

If you are reading this you are probably already a fan of Opeth. Maybe you have just heard that they are pretty good. Even within the doom metal circles, these guys have a great rep. But Akerfeldt, Lindgren, Lopez and Mendez take it way up a notch here. Because they are not just singing about dueling trolls and God’s withering touch. They are talking about women and how sad this makes them. In other words, they realize they are human. Which is a good thing.

I played this album for my best friend in my car and when I asked him how he liked it, he replied, “It’s perfect.” Indeed.

About Jonny Lieberman

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.