Monday, September 12, 2011

Underground Classic -Opeth 'Blackwater Park'(Music For Nations, 2001)

What with the oncoming winter weather, darker , longer evenings, and the fact they have a new album due out in a little over a week, it seems appropriate to take a wander back through Swedish metal legends Opeth 's gleaming back catalogue , and take a look at what may still be one of their finest albums, 'Blackwater Park'. Now, I know what you're thinking, Opeth?Not that underground mate.But there was a time , before Roadrunner Records, festival headlining spots, and Scuzz Tv when these prog kings were a little less recognised in the metal world.Indeed, one can look at 'Blackwater Park' as the beginnings of the band breaking out of the extreme metal underground , and indeed forging their(well deserved) reputation as one of the best bands in the world.

Their fifth album, and their first time working with Porcupine Tree mainman Steven Wilson as a producer, 'Blackwater Park' was, as Eduardo Riviera of Allmusic put it, the band's "coming of age" album, an eight song collection incorporating a dizzying array of styles and moods, everything from harsh symphonic death metal, to     folky, psychedelia tinged wanderings, to good old fashioned heavy metal.Opener , and live favourite 'The Leper Affinity' is a monster, all bombastic riffing , and frontman Mikael Akerfeldt's guttural roars, morphing suddenly into  Akerfeldt's angelic croon and backed by elegant, elegaic guitar picking.'Bleak' is all blissed out riffing from Peter Lindgren(since departed)that undperins Akerfeldt's  grisly lamentations,  then at it's mid section ,it tapers off into a section of ghostly beauty, and eventually spazzing out into demented , Emperor style cosmic unease.

'Harvest' follows, a soaring, heartfelt, strongly folk influenced ballad ,that, if Wikipedia is to be believed, Akerfeldt claims to have stolen wholesale from an obscure band called Camel, though knowing the Swedish shredder's penchant for deadpan tomfoolery, especially where the press is concerned , this might be taking the piss.Fourth track 'The Drapery Falls', later released as a single, is , as ex- Kerrang! journo Dom Lawson put it, simply "the best ten minutes of music ever put to tape", and he may just be right.Emotive, heavy, epically structured, it's what all good heavy metal should be, and, on a personal note, when aired at Rock Am Ring 2008 in front of this young blogger, caused a little more than a few tears to be shed, such is the power the song holds over ahem, SOME Opeth fans ..  But moving swiftly on. . . .

'Dirge For November' is a masterwork of restrained songwriting and seventies prog sounds that provides a moment of , let's not call it relief, but shelter, before it segues into an extended passage of  funereal death metal.'The Funeral Portrait' is  one of the band's trademark stompers, with a central riff that Iommi would be proud of.'Patterns In The Ivy' is a short slice of instrumental nirvana, with some delicately pitched piano that provides another moment of respite before the monstrous title track, and it's thunderous swaggering groove brings the album to an earth rattling close, with possibly one of THE BEST FUCKING RIFFS EVER, Akerfeldt and Lindgren showing what  a  guitar can and should sound like, a growling, menacing beast of a tone that doesn't so much go for the ears as the base of the spine, a primal stimulation of your lizard brain that sits in the cerebellum for weeks . . . .
What makes 'Blackwater Park' such a great album though is a  tremendous sense of atmosphere, something Opeth excel at .There is a genuine sense of wintery, shadowy foreboding, and also ethereal beauty to the eight  offerings here, a feeling that, even though Blackwater Park as a place might not be the most welcoming place in the world, you'll still want to visit it again and again, digging a little deeper each time.

The band are at present about to release what is, on advance evidence, another masterwork of heavy music in ' Heritage' on September the 20th.Before then though,if you haven't already before now,  take a little trip  back through this fantastic band's body of work, and revel in the work of what may eventually become known as the most important band of our time.

For fans of ::Emperor,  Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd,Death

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