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Watershed

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Reviews

Average Rating
★★★★½
(69 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • I’m getting a little tired of this band making me spend hard earned doe on every piece of material they put out. Its getting very old. I have no choice I guess. Unbelievable band.

    Still Life still rules though.

    Posted on February 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I’ve been a fan of Opeth’s since “Still Life” — though I’ve since bought all of their albums. I keep waiting for this band to peak — for the wave to break on the beach and then pull back, never to return. I kind of thought the “Deliverance/Damnation” period was that point. The band seemed to me at their weakest during that time. But then “Ghost Reveries” comes out and melts my face, and now we have “Watershed”.

    Quite simply, this is — in my opinion — the finest work to come from Opeth. None of their prior albums, to me, are as clearly a declaration of exploring new territory while at the same time still making an Opeth record. I love their previous stuff, but it’s been done — you know? Honestly, I didn’t know what to think of this record at first. I don’t think it gelled until I’d listened to it 5-6 times. It’s definitely a record that is made to be listened to from start to finish, and it hangs together very well.

    If you’re not an Opeth fan yet, I think this would be an excellent introduction. All the elements are there and it’s so very fresh. Witness the power of a great band at the top of their game.

    Posted on February 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • 4.5 stars. While I do not think of “Watershed” as their finest hour, Opeth have crafted an intelligent Progressive Rock/Metal album that continues with the direction of their previous album “Ghost Reveries” but incorporates more Rock than Metal this time around. Mike Akerfeldt is the only remaining band member who has made the entire journey from debut album to current day activity. After hearing that all the other band members were gone I was listening to this new album and waiting for a huge crash and lack of creativity but “Watershed” is innovative beginning to end. Mike Akerfeldt wrote most of the music on previous albums anyway, so my anticipation of the worst was almost entirely unnecessary. With this new recording he adds even more ’70s Prog-Rock touches than ever before all the while maintaining that undeniable Opeth feel to the music. As far as hearing anything here resembling albums from the past I am frequently reminded of the slower sections from “Still Life”. Those thinking this new album is going to be their most Metal album yet will be disappointed. In fact, the very first time through “Watershed” I was a little confused. The more times I spin the CD the more details I notice, the more ingenious the arrangements become, the more impressive this album sounds. “Blackwater Park” and “Still Life” continue to battle for the top spot as my favorite Opeth album, but I intend to listen to “Watershed” many more times in the future regardless of where it ranks in their amazing catalog.

    Posted on February 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Among the unknowing, Opeth has a reputation as one of those typical Scandinavian black metal bands. But they left most of that genre’s stereotypes behind ages ago when they went prog. This album will probably divide longtime fans sharply into two camps – those who praise the band’s continuing progression and experimentation, and the rest who cry sellout. (You can see that pattern in the reviews here.) Regardless, open-minded and adventurous listeners will find this album unexpectedly fascinating. The album is primarily quiet and haunting, with snippets of brutal metal appearing occasionally to manipulate the mood. (Your typical prog metal band constructs albums in the opposite fashion.) Keyboards and melodic vocals are prominent, with the lengthy songs laid out as suites passing through many experiments in style and emotion.

    On first playing the opener “Coil,” I was telling myself that the fragile acoustic balladry was just an intro and would surely erupt into loud metal at any second, but the song remains quiet throughout. Other thematic surprises include the bizarre jazz fusion break in “The Lotus Eater” and the detuned acoustic guitar solo that finishes off “Burden.” Opeth remains among a dying breed of artists who construct albums as full compositions, with unexpected connections between songs and unconventional arrangements, and all of the band’s adventures in experimentation can be found in the extra-epic “Hessian Peel.” The only potential source of concern for this album is that with so many recent line-up changes, the Opeth sound now appears to be mostly a showcase for the ideas and talents of leader Mikael Akerfeldt and not so much a group effort, though fortunately keyboardist Per Wilberg and brand new drummer Martin Axenrot are especially impressive here. Not to mention Akerfeldt’s continuing sense of musical adventure, on constant display throughout this fascinating album. [~doomsdayer520~]

    Posted on February 16, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Watershed is the ninth Opeth album; and in some ways it signifies a new start for them. This is not totally surprising, given the band has a new guitarist and a new drummer now. Also, they they seem to be in a transition phase musically because Watershed, while encompassing lots of their past hallmarks, also delves into new musical territory.

    The differences are mainly demonstrated in their impenetrable song structures, as Mikael Akerfeldt has constructed the album in a more evocative way this time time around. Unlike any other Opeth album, Watershed begins with the short acoustic track “Coil”, where strummed acoustic guitars and beautifully arranged string work form the leeway for Akerfeldt and female guest singer Nathalie Lorichs to deliver the verses in an addictively melodic tone. Lorichs’ vocals are amazing, and while the song clocks in at only three minutes, that’s its charm.

    Overall, Watershed is no where near as heavy as the previous Opeth discs, as it boasts a more experimental aesthetic throughout. However, the second track “Heir Apparent” is arguably the heaviest, most brutal Opeth song to date. Not only is it crushingly heavy, it is also the first Opeth tune with no clean vocals whatsoever. Sure, they have other tracks like “Blackwater Park”, “Wreath”, “The Amen Corner”, and “April Ethereal” among others, but all of them contain some clean backing vocals, whispers, humming, et cetera whilst “Heir Apparent” is delivered with Akerfeldt’s unmistakable growls from start to finish. Occupied by an assault of guitar fury in its chaotic intro, the piece contains laser-precise drumming and Akerfeldt’s suffocating vocals that are contrasted by deft string work and clean, psychedelic-like guitar harmonies soaring over Axenrot’s percussion. The ending to the song is equally baffling: smooth layers of guitar melodies overlapping each other.

    New drummer Martin Axenrot will pleasantly surprise many an Opeth fan with his performance here. Not only does he play with admirable restraint on most of the album, but he also proves how capable a drummer is on “The Lotus Eater”, which is another sound experiment for the band. The drumming on this dissonant tune is stupifyingly good, perhaps among Opeth’s finest. Certainly the most technical song on the disc, it features blast beats over which Akerfeldt sings with clean vocals and then growls atop rapid-fire guitar riffery. Very interesting. The rhythm exercise of the song brims with energy, particularly during the instrumental break where guitars, drums and bass clash with each other without taking away from the composition.

    Akerfeldt’s love for the 70’s is exemplified by the gorgeous ballad “Burden”, whose main melody is very similar to the stuff Dan Swano does on Unicorn’s Emotional Wasteland album. A bit like the material on Damnation, this one sees Opeth branching off into pure balladry mode, with moving guitar solos and vocals. The ending is especially confusing, as Akerfeldt’s guitar is manually detuned in the finale. They obviously did it to escape the mellow ballad mood of the tune, and it definitely sets it apart. Despite that weird ending, Opeth proves they can write the best songs in any genre.

    This album contains some of Akerfeldt’s most enigmatic and personal lyrics, hence the reason why they have been excluded from the booklet. “Hessian Peel”, the only ten-plus-minute song on the album, is a total embodiment of Opeth’s current musical and lyrical vision. From the sombre acoustic intro to the mournful clean vocals, it evokes a funereal atmosphere where Martin Mendez’ bass stands out in the mix. Too bad the bass in Opeth has been almost inaudible since the band’s Dan Swano-produced albums, but this track has a healthy dose of his bass throbbing beneath Axenrot’s calculated drum battery and the guitar duo’s smashing rhythm parts. The song also contains some backward lyrics, most notable between 2:03-2:22. Obviously a reference to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, the lyrics read: “Out of the courtyard | Come back tonight | My sweet Satan| I see you”. It’s a dark tune with ghostly bursts of atmosphere, and Per Wiberg’s Mellotron sounds as well as the string arrangement further enhance the tune’s power.

    Great shifting of dynamics permeats “Porcelain Heart”, the only track Akerfeldt co-wrote with Fredrik Akesson. This is perhaps the only song where polar opposites are merged in a single composition: hammering guitar riffs are side by side with oboes (speaking of which, there is plenty of flutes, oboes, cellos on this album — all live, not keyboard generated) and Akerfeldt’s shift from hellish growls to lullaby-like singing in the middle part attests to his diversity. This is perhaps his most haunting moment — very emotive and heartfelt.

    The album ends on a creepy note with “Hex Omega”, a curious mix of waves of guitar dissonance, strings floating across the whole track, and a forlorn piano motif. The droney ending of the song lends it a very creepy feel as well.

    Watershed to me is a transition from Ghost Reveries much the same way Still Life was from My Arms, Your Hearse. It was only with Blackwater Park when they fully achieved the sound they were aiming for, so I feel their next album may present a larger picture as to where they want to go musically. At any rate, this album is another worthy addition to Opeth’s back catalog.

    Posted on February 16, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now