The long wait is over, at last I have a copy the much anticipated new OPETH album "Deliverance". Its just a pity that I've to review it because I'm speechless. Its simply amazing, better perhaps than "Blackwater Park" yet not as strong as "Morningrise" but if I would give "Blackwater Park" a 10 well...
The guys from OPETH claimed that this was to be their heaviest to date. Well its unquestionably heavier than anything they've done with the possible exception of "My Arms Your Hearse" but I was expecting something much heavier, I was expecting some influences from BLOODBATH because of the recent album they've completed with Mike on vocals. There is much more acoustic parts than I was expecting creating that unique OPETH sound including one completely or almost completely "soft" song reminiscent of those more in the style of "To Bid You Farewell" and "Face Of Melinda" than "Benighted" and "Credence". "A Fair Judgement" is at least as good as the aforementioned tracks.
We have to journey back in time to OPETH's first stroke of genius "Orchid" to find an opening track that dives headfirst into the rollercoaster of emotive madness. "Wreath" here does just that, no warning, no nonsense just simple, blunt yet deeply complex amazing aggressive Metal thrown at you to blow you away. It succeeds and was the only track to do so on first listen. "Wreath" has no acoustic sections but more than makes up for it with extra aggression making such straight forward emotions create a more personal atmosphere than their typical ever varied tracks that jump from emotion to emotion in an almost fantasy way. There are some bone crunching riffs on offer side by side with melodic lead lines taking over and detracting from the brutality to create beauty in an evolving song.
The "fan favourite" from what I've heard from others appears to be the title track "Deliverance". "Deliverance" is probably the closest OPETH come riff wise to the previous two albums "Blackwater Park" and "Still Life". The soft sections are more reminiscent of earlier works however and they contain some of Mike's most beautiful clean vocals to date and that jazzy lead guitar found in "To Bid You Farewell". The riffs are executed to simple flawless perfection with extreme intensity blending with the vocals to create the perfect accompaniment for the desired emotional effect.
Surprised was how I felt when listening to "A Fair Judgement". I was not expecting any of OPETH's softer tracks to appear because the band had stated that this album was to be brutal and because another album "Damnation" of softer songs is to be released in March next year. The track is led into by a beautiful piano intro courtesy of PORCUPINE TREE's Steve Wilson. It is here that Mike gives what is probably his best clean vocal performance to date showing that he's still improving with every release. This track eases the tense feeling one has after the heaviness of the preceding tracks. Relaxing, sombre, melancholic and breathtakingly beautiful is how I would describe this track. Primarily the vocals are used with the acoustic guitars to achieve this, but moments of distortion and some beautiful jazzy leads add to the effect.
The only non stand-out track for me is the instrumental "For Absent Friends". It's well crafted and does create a very reflective mood as suggested by the title but its not their best instrumental although better than most of them. It does however also provide the perfect contrasting lead into OPETH's heaviest moment to date, the opening riff to the brilliant "Master's Apprentices".
Is this MORBID ANGEL? ...nope there's not a flaw in my CD, the opening riff of "Master's Apprentices" is slow and so heavy that you would be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to Death Metal gods MORBID ANGEL. Here Mike showcases great variation in riffs, tempos and heaviness from some of the most beautiful soft harmonised clean vocals to the most sickening growls this side of their "My Arms Your Hearse" standout track "Demon Of The Fall". Definitely a worthy track to the OPETH name. Brutal yet beautiful.
The track that took me the longest time to get into was the closing track "By The Pain I See In Others". This is without question the strangest track OPETH have conceived to date. The various sections that make up this composition are strange fitting at best yet they are unquestionably OPETH even if they are being at their most experimental. The growling over acoustics with the strangled effect put on them has never before been used but here it is done well although I would have preferred the way this effect is used by bands such as AGALLOCH. There is a strange waltz section again courtesy of Steve Wilson which sounds as though its being played on an old gramophone. Overall there is a very personal ambience achieved in this track and only when you sit down and actually listen 100% do you fully grasp the greatness behind it.
The production is perfect on this, and as with "Blackwater Park" maybe a little too perfect. Each instrument is given the perfect levels in the mix which is maybe just a little too clean for the atmosphere the music is creating.
The band's performances are perfect with guitars, bass, drums and vocals all sounding top notch. In particular I would like to highlight the drumming of Martin Lopez which has come on leaps and bounds since his arrival around the "My Arms Your Hearse" era. His Death Metal approach mixed with a jazzy technique that up until now had made me prefer Anders creates the perfect balance of style and speed (bass drums in particular) in the percussion on this album. The bass of Martin Mendez is solid as usual and the guitars of Mike and Peter are crisp and precise. Beautiful.
Overall this is definitely an album worthy of the name OPETH. Better than "Blackwater Park" and "Still Life". Beg, borrow, buy or steal, do whatever you must to acquire this musical masterpiece. (Online November 4, 2002)