Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Music Review - Opeth - Damnation

Possibly my favorite Opeth album. Sure, it's not really metal but that's what make it so unique... there's metal aggression beneath those supposedly tranquil melodies and therein lies the uniqueness.

Opeth is the salvation of the metal genre. Yes, that's quite a bold statement to make considering I forgot to take my medication this morning but it's true. While I sincerely doubt that their music will ever get broad airplay or rotation on MTV14, Opeth has consistently made music that inventively blends boundaries, music that most only wish they could create, ultimately influencing countless musicians. One day one of these musicians will find a way to water down the magic until the public finds it palatable and then that musician will make millions (think Collective Soul and King's X). When that happens, remember that it was Opeth who figured out the alchemy to combine death metal, prog, pop and classical.

So why does this Podunk reviewer think Opeth is so funk-tastic? Any band that can make death metal appealing to this Beatles-raised farm boy has got to be doing something right. The first Opeth album I heard was Blackwater Park, their fifth release. Starting with crushing guitar, vocal growling and thunderous tones the band opened the curtain on their dark night and like the dawn after a tumultuous thunderstorm, shards of light dappled in the puddles, birds returned and colors regained their brilliance. I still don't know how they pull off this trick time and again, seamlessly and effortlessly fading harsh tones into acoustic manna and back again.

With Damnation, Opeth is taking a huge risk for any metal band - tossing out the distorted guitars and writing an album of clean, acoustic songs. The majority of metal bands simply don't have the chops, hiding their sloppy technique behind volume, but Opeth does this with ease. Far from an album of ballads, Damnation is a compelling, sinister, haunting rumination on human loss. Acoustic guitars, mellotrons, pianos, clean vocals with perfect pitch harmonies create an atmosphere that is much heavier than one might expect and yet retains an almost other-worldly lightness. There are goosebumps on these songs with your name written on them.

Astounding production, intricately and expertly written songs, beautiful melodies, tastefully selected instrumentation - it's a masterpiece! Fans of Tool and Radiohead especially should buy this album and immerse themselves in real music. Musicians of all styles and calibers should buy this album as should anyone who has ever owned a Led Zeppelin recording or imbibed water. Plain and simple: this is a great album regardless of your personal musical tastes and I'm going to hold my breath until you add Damnation to your music collection.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp in 2003.

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