Opeth – Watershed review

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Mentally tired this weekend and a headache too, so no work stuff. I promise to get back to SharePoint topics soon though…

I just read something amazing that really surprised me. Opeth (the progressive metal band that is target of a few of my SharePoint metaphors) has managed to debut at #7 on the Australian music charts with their latest album Watershed. It has garnered some pretty rave reviews and for a band who’s roots originate in some pretty brutal death-metal style stuff. It is a testament to the unique band they have become and their appeal outside your typical headbanger audience.

So I thought in between various other pieces of work I would post a review of their album. If I mention the word "SharePoint", does that make it a legit CleverWorkarounds post? 🙂

Watershed for me represents Opeth’s final transition into something completely unique. They were well on their way there when I first got into them via a recommendation from a friend. That album was Blackwater Park and it blew me completely away. At that time I thought that all death metal was bands like Cannibal Corpse and they all sung about gore and sick violence. That to me is pretty low-brow so I never took an interest. Like everyone else the growly vocals completely put me off too.

If you go and read Opeth reviews, you get a lot of people that start with something like "I normally don’t listen to this type of music but…" – I am also in this camp.

But Opeth just has a quality about them that once under your skin, is mesmerising. Their lyrics were intelligent for a start, and vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt is actually is a hell of a singer in his own right (when he is not growling). They seamlessly seem to transition from brutal yet majestic riffs to delicate classical guitarwork, usually all within the same song. So an Opeth album tends not to relentlessly pummel you with extreme metal, instead it is a journey of extremes between delicate and melodic and then thunderously heavy.

A friend once told me "Opeth are your thinking-man’s metal band" – he wasn’t that far off 😉

So what of Watershed? In short? there is a lot there to like. If you appreciate great musicianship then this album has it in spades. While 7 tracks might not sound a lot but many are a journey in themselves and all tracks (bar the first) go for more than seven minutes. So let’s go track by track.

  1. Coil is an unusual opener for an Opeth album. Instead of starting with a bang, instead they choose to start with this beautiful acoustic number with a guest female vocalist and it really works for me.
  2. Heir Apparent shows pretty quickly that Opeth aren’t about to go mainstream just yet. A thunderous, big epic start with a evil sounding crunchy riff, with enough tempo and style changes that long time fans have come to expect. A tremendous track if you like the heavy side of Opeth.
  3. The Lotus Eater is another heavy number, but a lot more progressive than the unbridled power of Heir Apparent. Both growl and clean vocals weave into a musically complex song that twists and turns from end to end – magnificent stuff but not for Britney Spears fans 🙂
  4. Burden is an absolute rip-snorter of a song.  This is Opeth trying to write the ultimate 70’s progressive rock song. The guitar work in this song is a wet dream for Brian May and David Gilmour fans, with some of the most emotive soloing I have heard since Comfortably Numb. If your a little scared of listening to this band because of their more brutal, heavy side, then this is the track for you. Mikael’s clean vocals soar here.
  5. Porcelain Heart is my least favourite track, yet the acoustic guitarwork is sublime. It has a somewhat gothic feel and sung entirely with clean vocals, yet didn’t quite gel for me like the first four tracks.
  6. Hessian Peel at over eleven minutes is an epic track that reverses the normal Opeth epic.  Normally Mikael Åkerfeldt likes to pulverise you for a minute or two until you think you can’t take it anymore before switching to a gorgeous melodic, quiet interlude. This song reverses this and is mostly a nice progressive track for around 7 minutes that builds into a rapidfire 1 minute burst of fury as the interlude instead.
  7. Hex Omega is another excellent clean vocal track that any rock or metal fan would enjoy.

It is hard to call this a metal album as there is so much more to it. Sure there are thunderous moments, but only three tracks have the death metal style vocal that some find off-putting. The quality of the songwriting and instrumentation are second to none. In headphones, the album is stunning.

If you are looking for something a little different from the norm, and have ever wondered what Pink Floyd would have sounded like had they had gone metal, then here is your answer.

Paul (back to your original programming)

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3 Responses to Opeth – Watershed review

  1. Ryan says:

    Great writeup Paul,
    Hell of a sweet album. I was blown away when I heard em this morning on TripleJ. In the Top Ten on charts? Wow.

    For anyone interested in Tourdates, check em out:
    http://www.opeth.com/index.php/tourdates

    Can’t wait for Perth’s September 2nd 2008 – PERTH, METRO CITY

  2. AdrianV says:

    You’re absolutly right, i couldn’t agree more with you, Opeth’s grown in a way that noone could ever imagine and doesn’t seem to have an end.

  3. Jon says:

    Great Review, Great Band, and Lmao at the Britney Spears Remark

    I was just listening to her new album right before I put watershed on; what’s the chance of that?

    I can feel the “WTF” coming from you right now haha

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