“Watershed” by Opeth

Artist: Opeth
Title: “Watershed”
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: 6/3/2008
Genre: Progressive Death Metal
Rating: 5/5

When Opeth first signed to Roadrunner Records there was scuttlebutt about the label interfering with the bands creative vision and ruining it for everyone as a result but despite this kind of talk the band gave us “Ghost Reveries” which was a stunning release. It was an album that presented new worlds of heaviness meets progginess to their fans and found them reaching for higher ground in terms of musical quality. The response that the release earned them made many wonder how the band could possibly hope to follow up the album and have the output be as good or impact the genre as much as this one had done and when you place “Watershed” in your CD player you will be happy to discover that the group has surpassed all expectations with flying colors. Such seems to be the common practice with a band like Opeth for they can never be referred to as a band of predictability or following the acceptable standard and instead make great strides in their material with each and every release. They are a band that has become as important to the Death Metal genre as Rush had become to the Progressive Rock genre so many decades ago. That being said, the scene and its ever changing geography are in excellent hands.

To discuss “Watershed” is not an easy task because the album is a rich tapestry of everything you have ever heard from Opeth before as well as sounds that you had hoped to hear them blend together as effortlessly as they seem to be able to do. It begins with the soothing “Coil”, an acoustic number that finds Akerfeldt’s clean vocal joined by the beautiful sounds of Nathalie Lorichs who provides him with a charming female counterpart for the albums introduction. The pace and nature of the opener is far different from anything Opeth had done as an album start and this will take some listeners by surprise. “Heir Apparent” hits you immediately after like a slow moving train as the song builds itself up. The riff is crushing but it pauses to allow some subtle piano from Per Winberg before picking up to a speed that we are very familiar with the band delivering. It’s tight without question and will impress with the numerous different styles that are employed in it. We find some traditional Death Metal here that leads to an almost Folk ballad pause before the track gets back into the righteous smashing we had only heard moments before. The first single from the album was “The Lotus Eater” and while blistering at points the vocals are a fine blend of clean and growls that fight for position on the track. There are quite a few Progressive interludes happening with this one and with the rate they come at the listener they are sure to impress even the harshest critic. When this third track ends you are left with the early conclusion that this could be one of the best Metal releases of the year and you’ll smile as you realize that you have four more to go through. The bands homage to classic Doom and Gloom Metal comes to the fore during “Porcelain Heart” and while the riffs trudge like a giant the drums of Axenrot stagger the imagination at times with their speed. He was clearly an amazing choice to replace the bands former drummer Lopez. Another stand out and new addition comes in the way of new guitarist Fredrik Akesson who was most recently seen in Arch Enemy before coming on board with Opeth.

While all of the songs are rather lengthy and run about eight minutes on average outside of “Coil”, it is “Hessian Peel” that is to be considered the epic as this one runs past the eleven minute mark. The track begins with acoustics and a Folk feel. The tune remains as a seemingly subtle number for a few minutes but when it gets to just below six minutes it changes direction and comes off like a completely different song. The listener is not expected to “get” this album right away because there is just too much to absorb and are advised to listen to it a couple of times straight through to allow it to work its magic on your musical processing center. It seems as though Opeth is continuing to push the envelope and explore new ground with their music and remind us about just how creative a Metal band can be when they set their minds to it. This is a release that deserves both accolades and applause and I congratulate Mr. Akerfeldt for doing it once again. If you are a fan of Prog, Metal, Rock, Funk, Folk or all of the above then you will find all of this presented to you on this intelligent and brilliant release. Thank you Opeth for once again leaving me speechless.

The only downside is that the album doesn’t feature any lyrics to the songs which I would have loved to be able to read. There is some amount of liner notes but they seem to be written in runes and who knows if they even say anything in the first place. The album art was done by long time Opeth artist Travis Smith and the photos inside are not band candids but instead mood inducing and gloomy shots. Roadrunner Records has also issued a special edition of this album that features enhanced packaging, additional tracks and a DVD. On this I can say no more since I only had the standard version.

Track Listing:
1. Coil
2. Heir Apparent
3. The Lotus Eater
4. Burden
5. Porcelain Heart
6. Hessian Peel
7. Hex Omega

Official Website: www.opeth.com

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