Opeth may be the most difficult band to ‘get into’ for someone new to their catalogue. Unlike most metal bands that manage to release two, maybe three albums that are considered solid, Opeth has released 8 albums, each of which has stood the test of time in a genre whose audience’s tastes seem to be in constant, dramatic flux. Discounting Orchid and Morningrise, both respectable early works that are mandatory if one is to comprehend Opeth’s musical evolution, that leaves six albums to digest. Add to this the fact that Opeth writes epics that demand repeated listenings, and it becomes clear why listening to Opeth is indeed a formidable investment.
As many reviewers have said, My Arms, Your Hearse is a great album for someone new to Opeth. I would argue that Blackwater Park and Still Life are equally worthy of such accolades, but it is my belief that to get someone hooked on a band, you must play them the band’s finest work, which for Opeth is My Arms, Your Hearse. One could easily write ten pages about Opeth. Their music reaches a compositional depth and complexity that no metal band I can think of has managed. Certainly Opeth takes inspiration from a handful of predecesors, but from the diverse assortment of bands and performers that is their influence Opeth has truly created a genre within which only they perform.
My Arms, Your Hearse is not Opeth’s most polished album, nor, I would argue, is it their most thematically complete (see, Blackwater Park). What makes MAYH Opeth’s finest work is a combination of several factors. Being Opeth’s third release, MAYH is somewhere between the profound maturity and coherence found on later releases such as Blackwater Park and Deliverance and the more adventurous, youthful (or less focused) song writing heard on Morningrise and Orchid.
The atmospheric jazz interludes of MAYH are some of Opeth’s most memorable and their live set attests to the aural beauty of any song off this album. And it is no wonder that Opeth consistently closes their sets with Demon of the Fall, arguably the most haunting and intense song the band has written.
I bought this album in 9th grade because a sticker on the front compared them to In Flames who at the time I was enjoying (this was between Whoracle and Colony, before In Flames stopped being worth listening to) so I figured I would invest in my small but growing metal collection. It took me a year to fully appreciate this album, a year before I stopped listening for parts that sounded like In Flames (of which there aren’t many) and realized what a veritable masterpiece I had stumbled upon.
If you read other reviews you can get a better idea of the band’s music, but hopefully I have articulated why this album, and this band, is worth investing one’s self in. Because Opeth demands an investment. They are not a band for three minutes car rides or the CD player between class (although I’ve used them for both). To appreciate what Opeth has to offer means sitting for a half hour or longer and simply listening. After doing this five, six times and each time hearing different aspects of their music, you might begin to understand why I feel I can say that opeth is one of the most important bands in the past 10 years. But you’ll have to decide for yourself.