Saturday, November 4, 2017

Opeth - Still Life (1999)

It has been a while since we checked on the Opeth discography, and there are reasons for why that is so. First off, Manic Movie Month happened. Second off, Super Mario Odyssey happened. And third off, a bunch of new music happened. In short, my busy side took over a little too much of my life, but the time has come to go back to the progressive Swedes and take a look at their fourth studio release, entitled "Still Life".

Just like the last release, "Still Life" is a concept record, about a man that has been shunned from his village for not following along with their religious beliefs. He returns years after to get back together with his loved one, which leads to several problems along the way, both for our main character and the "council". It is an album that Michael himself has called "anti-christian", not satanic in anyway, and I think it is a very interesting way to give critique to religion as a whole, doing it in the poetic way that only Opeth can do.

The sound of the album is a lot like "My Arms, Your Hearse", a blend of the soft prog rock and the more guttural and dark death metal vibes. But with better funding from their new record company, Peaceville records, the band had an opportunity to take their music to the next level, which of course starts with the production that is a lot more clear cut than its predecessors. It can be seen as a positive or a negative thing, depending on who you ask, but to me, it gives the music a chance to stand out more, to reach out further to the listener. There is no question to me that the production helps elevate "Still Life".

This is the start of the Opeth 's golden age, the era where they find themselves as one of the great genre defying bands that changes metal as we know. While "My Arms, Your Hearse" did sort of show it, "Still Life" perfected the Opeth sound that we all know and love, the sweeping, haunting melodies that blends so well with the brutal aggressiveness of the drums and Michael's harsh vocals. They also put in some real slow moments too, like the acoustic "Benighted" that is just so beautiful and soothing.

But this album is not about the songs in my opinion, it is about the whole picture, how all of the songs match up to create a smooth flowing album that translates to an amazing experience. It also has a very long lasting effect too, for I have listened to "Still Life" about 15 times now, and I am still not tired enough to stop myself from another listen. It knows when to go soft, when to go heavy, and when it is time to shift momentum. It is a well oiled machine that runs smoothly without any hitches, and the band all helps out to keep it running perfectly.

"Still Life" has a lot of life to it, and it is a spiritual album that just feels right in every way. From the concept, to the performance, this album is fantastic for many, many reasons. The only real grief I have with it is that some songs do pad some of the run time (especially the ending song "White Cluster"), but it is not by much, it is something you can easily look past. All in all, go listen to it already, it is the start of the prime era of Opeth, and what a start it is.

Songs worthy of recognition: Godhead's Lament, Benighted, Moonlapse Vertigo, Serenity Painted Death

Rating: 9/10 White Clusters

More reviews of Opeth
My Arms, Your Hearse
Blackwater Park
Ghost Reveries
Pale Communion

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