I’ve been struggling with Opeth for years now, trying to reconcile their reputation with what I hear on record. My biggest issue on earlier records has been the categorization of them as “progressive metal” when I’ve felt like I’ve been hearing “melodic death metal.” Now, that might seem like I’m picking nits but, as a fan of the progressive rock genre, I feel entitled to pick nits when the term “progressive” is thrown around.
But, with this album, I find myself maybe sort of “getting it” a little bit. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like at least some of the louder passages are a little mathier this time out or, in death metal terms, “technical.” And I do wonder if that’s what was missing from earlier records where I was looking for the “progressive” sound. (In earlier reviews I complain of length and songs-as-suites being substitutes for complexity.)
And I will say that, unlike some bands that seek to combine heavy music with softer elements, they continue to make absolutely pummeling music when they go loud. That’s one thing I’ve always appreciated about them, even when I was struggling to get it.
I still don’t love it when they go soft: I find Akerfeldt (and now Wilson) to be a little too wussy as a “clean” singer. (Though I will reiterate that he has an incredible voice that he can both growl and sing like this.) And I find the acoustic guitars and keyboards are too smooth and polished for me. Though, on this record, there is at least one track (the beginning of “Bleak”) where some of the acoustic guitars have a tiny bit of edge.
But I find myself enjoying this more than previous Opeth records. I’m not willing to jump on the bandwagon that claims this is some kind of masterpiece, but I do like it more than previous albums.