Opeth have been hailed as the saviours of metal by fans and the rock press alike. Thankfully, despite their obvious talents Opeth seem more keen on producing mind-blowing music, leaving the metal messiah complexes to Fisher Price acts like The Rasmus. In doing so it seems the band have single-handedly succeeded in redefining the previously cheese-encrusted genre of progressive metal with a humility that should be admired.
Opener Ghost of Perdition is a perfect tour of the band’s all-encompassing abilities. A brief clean intro lick blasts into the type of harsh, discordant riffage the band have established a reputation for, while less than three minutes later the listener is transported into an acoustic outtake from 2003’s Damnation.
If, during the course of this 10-minute epic you fail to see just why Opeth are perhaps one of the only bands in metal who manage to merge unrivalled creativity with such awesome brutality, then you should turn off your stereo, return the album and never listen to music again.
Baying Of The Hound and Reverie continue the schizophrenic mix of atmospheric ethereal interludes sandwiched between crunching riffs and wailing lead. Not since Genesis (circa The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway) has a true progressive rock band sounded quite this good…
The addition of a fifth member for Ghost Reveries has helped to broaden both the spectrum and scope of Opeth’s sound. Blending in seamlessly, Per Wiberg’s keyboards provide atmospheric layers during quieter moments and a growling foundation for the more frequently frantic ones. Having already exhibited his talents across the last three Spiritual Beggars albums, I wonder how Opeth have survived for so long without such a beneficial integration to their ranks.
Of course, Ghost Reveries is not perfect. Without a doubt, Beneath The Mire is the weakest moment simply because, although there is so much variety in the content of this eight-minute mini death metal opera, it is a crying shame that its criminally sub-standard synthesised orchestral strings were allowed to make it past the demo stage.
Perhaps my only other disappointment on this mighty opus comes in the form of the lyrical content. While I wasn’t so naïve as to expect analogies of joyous days whiled in the summer sun, the frequently glum references to “evil hounds”, “veils of fog” and “being drowned in the mire” create the most unpleasant image of a horror B-movie starring Jim Morrison trying to front a death metal band. Aside from this, the “oh so dark” theme to the songs amounts to little more than a vague flirtation with occult imagery that does little to provide nearly as much sustenance as the breath-taking instrumentation present here.
Nevertheless, this does not stop Ghost Reveries standing alongside Mastodon‘s Leviathan as a contender for the best album to emerge in the past 12 months. The two bands have enough aural distance between them to prevent one eclipsing the other and perhaps that is due to both having so tirelessly slogged away at forging their own respective “sounds”.
One unfortunate inevitability that taints the subsequent breakthrough of any genre-defining band is the wave of impostors and imitators who ride all the way to the bank on the back of such innovative musicians. Thankfully, Opeth have a hope of escaping this trauma simply because their musical wizardry is so technically advanced, it’ll take a seriously talented bunch to even come close to them.