Saturday, February 3, 2018

Opeth - Watershed (2008)

If traveling back ten years to the past, one can only wonder how many Opeth fans would have believed you if you said that the then brand new record "Watershed" would be the last Opeth record with death metal elements to it. Just imagining their reactions, everything from laughter to pure despair, is just fun as hell. To be perfectly honest though, I am not sure even Mr. Åkerfeldt himself knew this would be the last "old school" Opeth record, even if he had mixed in a lot of more calmer rock elements to his band. Is this truly a final hurrah to the heavier side of the band, or just another high quality piece of art?

It certainly starts very calmly with "Coil", where Mikael not only get some help from the new members, guitarist Fredrik Åkesson and drummer Martin Axenrot, but also from the latter's current girlfriend Nathalie Lorichs, who gives a helping voice. It is an atmospheric start to the album that is certainly welcoming, but that all changes when "Heir Apperent" attacks. This is the exact opposite, a heavy and dark track that oozes of early Opeth, crushing you with some of the heaviest parts you have ever heard from the band. It is an instant classic that definitely sets the bar for the rest of the tracks.

Those two opening tracks do represent what I think is the strength of "Watershed", the contrasts. Most of the album is fairly calm and collected, but when you least expect it, Opeth smacks you in the face with a blast beat or a monster riff. This album is playing with you, leading you somewhere, just to suddenly swing you around and go in another direction. It never stays still, evolving into different shapes that are stranger and stranger. You might be sitting there, enjoying some quality metal, when suddenly it transforms into something more rock oriented. This makes "Watershed" one of the most versatile Opeth albums to this date, but it is not always a good thing, because it does feel a little disjointed at times, not following that red line.

Fortunately, there is a lot of quality music that you can enjoy to distract you from the fact that "Watershed" might have a pretty schizophrenic personality. All of the seven songs in here has something to offer, whether it be the the pure brutality of "Heir Apparent", the harmonies of "Porcelain Heart", the oriental vibes of "Hex Omega", or the beauty of "Coil". All songs (except for "Coil") are quite lengthy too, so there is a lot to discover in this album even if it only contains seven tracks, which is just great for your replay experience.

Also, may I recommend that you all pick up the special version of this album, because it does have some good stuff to offer too. The bonus track "Derelict Herds" has a strange guitar tone to it that makes it so intriguing, and also some really nice rhythms too. The two covers (Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sighs" and Marie Fredriksson's "Den Ständiga Resan") are also really neat, showing even more sides of the band.

While this album might be a little to uncohesive for some people, I just find that the quality of the craft outweighs its differences. "Watershed" impresses on so many level that it can make your head spin if you try to get it all in, but it certainly makes every listen exciting, because you might find a new favourite time and time again. It has killer track, great production, and impeccable performances, what more could you really ask for? Okay, maybe one or two of the songs in here could be more refined to stand out more, but that is basically it, "Watershed" is a brilliant record, which makes it even sadder that this was the final stand of Opeth's origin, before being left in the shadows for (probably) all eternity.

Songs worthy of recognition: Heir Apparent, The Lotus Eater, Porcelain Heart, Hex Omega

Rating: 8,5/10 Coils

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

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