On their first two albums, Opeth showed the world their take on metal, complete with mellow acoustic guitars, long progressive breaks, song structures that definitely weren’t fit for sufferers of ADD, and poetic lyrics to top it all off. Opeth were staunch opposites of what death metal “should” sound like. Rather than hammering away with ridiculous brutality, Opeth’s sound was painstakingly crafted to lull the listener in and out of certain moods, much like classical music or a movie soundtrack. This is what led Opeth to be loved by many, and despised by some. Their baroque take on metal infused melancholic prog-rock and Scandinavian folk with the ever-changing textures of their classic duel guitar harmonies. Opeth hit their progressive peak with Morningrise, and after recruiting a new drummer, the band decided to switch gears. The resulting change would shape Opeth into what they are today, and “My Arms, Your Hearse” are the earliest sketchings of Opeth’s new sound.
Whereas “Orchid” and “Morningrse” were more prog-oriented, and many of the song structures meandered over the ten-minute mark, “My Arms, Your Hearse” drops some of the more mellow experimentations and heads straight for the jugular. The song structures are more groove-oriented, less disjointed, but the boys of Opeth still keep the acoustics and prog rock going. However, rather than abruptly stopping a metal onslaught and letting acoustic guitars waltz in, Opeth layer and weave the two together, all while serving up a dose of atmospheric, melancholic death metal. Acoustic guitars are lessened here to interludes while the metal builds up to its climax. Overall, the sound here is heavier, more straightforward, but not forsaking Opeth’s roots.
Mikael’s vocals evolved very much from “Morningrise” to MAYH, this time opting for a more gutteral, deeper growl, though it wasn’t as polished or deep as it is now. His clean vocals improved dramatically, and are used more widely on songs like “When” and one of the only softer songs on the album, “Credence”. One of the interesting things about this album is how everything flows together. For instance, the last word of each song’s lyrics is the title for the next song, and the lyrics flow together as a story of sorts. (Though I have yet to figure out what it’s about.)
Another noticeable change is the production. Some may have been put off by the dry, crisp, hollow production of the first two records, but MAYH boasts a thick, full production job. The drums are more punchy and contribute to the faster songs thanks to newly recruited Martin Lopez. Guitars are much thicker and more bottom-heavy, and some new elements have been borught into the mix such as the organs on “Epilogue” or the piano tidbits spread throughout the album.
I would have to say that this is my personal favorite Opeth album, due to the atmosphere, the wholeness, and the display of how the band matured. Highly reccommended
Personal favorites: When, The Amen Corner, Demon of the Fall, Epilogue.