Saturday, March 31, 2007

All Faith Forever Has Been Washed Away

Opeth – Still Life

Jon is still not sick of Opeth.

I've been busy listening to other stuff but my progress through Opeth's back catalogue continues behind the scenes. Still Life is one of the most highly regarded of their albums. Musically it is not much different from their later work: a combination of death metal and classic prog rock, melodic and beautiful in both modes and supported by brilliant technical musicianship.

Unlike the other albums of theirs I've been listening to this one is a concept album, telling the tale of a person who returns to the town of their birth to rescue their long lost love from the malevolent church in charge of the town. The concept didn't really add much for me, Akerfeldt's lyrics on this release suffer a little from 'Scandanavian guy writing in English' syndrome (i.e. when ones vocabulary slightly outstrips one's familiarity with the language), but it's no detraction either.

I don't like this album as much as Blackwater Park or Deliverance, as the songwriting doesn't quite reach the stellar heights of those albums and about half of the songs are relatively forgettable in comparison to their other work. Of course average by Opeth's standards is still pretty fucking good. The opening track 'The Moor' is a fan favourite for good reason, and the acoustic ballad 'Benighted' is very nice too. The highlight of the album however is 'Face of Melinda', which starts out as a ballad before getting a bit heavy towards the end. It manages to be bittersweet and edgy at the same time, and in contrast to what I just said about the album as a whole has some really great lyrics.

It does bear mentioning that this album does excel in one area when compared with it's peers, and that's the guitar solos. Akerfeldt and his six stringed henchman Peter Lindgren acquit themselves marvellously on all Opeth releases but on Still Life they've kicked things far and away into 'holy fucking shit' territory. At it's worst a guitar solo is a five minute masturbatory exercise in the listener's patience, but at it's best (and virtually every track on this album contains a perfect example) an instrumental solo expresses all the nameless things that can only be said by music with all the articulation of a vocal line without being weighed down by the crude limitations of mere language.

No comments: