Monday, February 10, 2014

Soundtrack of my Life

Opeth - Ghost Reveries

I'm embarrassed to admit I was a bit late getting aboard the Opeth train.  My first experience with the band came when I caught the end of their set at Gigantour in 2006.  I really dug how funny frontman Mikael Akerfeldt was.  The dude cracked a bunch of jokes before each song and a lot of his one-liners stuck.  But, I wasn't a big fan of the music.  Looking back, I think I was just excited to see Lamb of God and Megadeth, and everything before they came on was an annoyance.

Some months later, I was looking for some new music to get into.  I remembered how funny Akerfeldt was live, and though I wasn't sure I'd be able to get into the music, I picked up Ghost Reveries, their most recent album at that point.  It only took about ten minutes to blow my mind.

Ghost Reveries opens with the epic track "Ghosts of Perdition".  This ten-minute-long opus weaves through tempos and intensities.  One moment the band is playing the most frightening, brutal metal you can imagine, and the next moment, the band quiets to a whisper.  Akerfeldt's voice goes through similar metamorphoses.  One minute, he's roaring out one of the scariest death metal screams there is, and the next, he's cooing like an angel.  The song twists and turns through frightening territory to beautiful soundscapes.  Towards the end of the song, Akerfeldt busts out a soaring, melodic solo which is the highlight of the whole song.  He doesn't just throw down a cloud of notes and scales.  His solo makes melodic sense, and carries the song to a higher level.

"Ghosts" is the template for the rest of the record.  Songs like "Baying of the Hound" and "The Grand Conjuration" collide the terrifying roar of metal with quieter, more serene moments, while "Reverie/Harlequin Forest" mines more melodic territory.   "Atonement" and "Hours of Wealth" provide more peaceful, reflective moments.  Akerfeldt's band are more than game enough to keep up.  Co-guitarist Peter Lindgren matches Akerfeldt riff for riff.  Drummer Martin Lopez and bassist Martin Mendez provide a versatile rhythm section that can handle anything that Akerfeldt throws at them.  Keyboardist Per Wiberg adds atmosphere and texture to the proceedings.  No matter how proggy things get, how droney and elastic the riffing gets, the band hangs together and produces a top-notch noise.

I think the reason Ghost Reveries was so important for me is because it showed me that music could be progressive and complex without the musicians playing 500 notes a second.  Seriously, before Opeth, that's what I thought prog was.  It also showed me the value of intensity and texture in metal.  Sometimes it's good if it's not blaring electric guitar riffs and blastbeats all the times.  And sometimes, when you follow up quiet passage with a roar, it makes the roar so much more epic.

Here's a little taste from Ghost Reveries, "The Grand Conjuration".  \m/ HORNS UP!! \m/  

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