Thursday, September 4, 2014

Opeth - Pale Communion (2014)

Like many other fans of the Swedish progressive band Opeth, I was a little hesitant about approaching their 2011 album "Heritage", a album that once and for all left the band's death metal roots to instead focus on more mellow music and inspirations from the world of jazz and fusion. When I eventually took the courage to listen to the album, I found that it actually was another solid effort by the Swedes, but I also felt like there was something missing to really lift the album. So now that Opeth is back with its 11th effort, I was hoping that they would further develop their style even more to create a album that was truly worthy of belonging in their legendary discography.

So first let me say this, I would not really consider "Pale Communion" to be a metal album. Mikael Åkerfeldt only uses his clean vocals in this album and there are only a few spots where an electric guitar is heard. This is more or less a continuation on what the band did on "Heritage", but it feels more cohesive this time around. There is a clear red line that goes through the entire album, but you can also easily extinguish individual tracks by themselves, a attribute that I sort of missed in "Heritage" and gives "Pale Communion" an upper hand.

But the one thing I really love with "Pale Communion" is that the classic Opeth sound is still there. The progressive melody loops, the constant development that keeps you guessing, and the fine detail work on the instrumental department. And the song that shows all these parts the best is the 10 minute song "Moon Above, Sun Below". The song may lack some epic qualities, but it makes up for it by being a diverse track that shows tons of emotions and styles. You are thrown back and forth through almost everything between the sky and earth, which is just a fantastic feeling.

Another very interesting attribute that Opeth is known for and that most of the songs on "Pale Communion" have is that they build up to a unique and marvelous ending that makes your neck hair rise. The endings on "River" and "Eternal Rains Will Come" have a fantastic ability to build up from the ground and ultimately blossom out fully at the end. I would love to see this being used more by other bands, since it is a great way to capture the listener.

Besides from the already mentioned songs, we also have the simplistic "Cusp of Eternity", the soothing "Elysian Woes", the instrumental "Goblin", the sort of oriental "Voice of Treason and the finishing song "Faith In Others". This means I have mentioned all of the songs in the album, and they deserve it. There is not a single song in "Pale Communion" that deserves to be forgotten since they all have something in them to make them memorable. And together they create a album that shows good variety, while still keeping a certain focus point.

Even if "Pale Communion" is a fantastic album, it could still be considered as one of Opeth's weaker albums up to date, but comparing this album to such classics as "Blackwater Park" and "Ghost Reveries" would be unfair. If "Pale Communion" should be compared against something, it should be "Heritage", and I personally feel that this album is a much more organized and well thought out album than its predecessor. This new era of Opeth may not have much metal in it, but it still sounds awesome, and it will be very interesting to see how far the band can take it in the future.

Songs worthy of recognition: River, Eternal Rains Will Come, "Moon Above, Sun Below", Voice of Treason

Rating: 9/10 Goblins

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