When it comes to the mighty Opeth, the only constant is change. Band mastermind Mikael Åkerfeldt is now the sole remaining member from the band's inception in 1990. But as each member passes through the revolving door of this progressive metal titan, they become part of the evolution. And on this, their 2005 offering titled "Ghost Reveries," Akerfeldt and company are redefining the world's conception of what it means to be "progressive."
Straight out of the gate, a blood curdling scream welcomes you to "Ghost Of Perdition." But this is no one trick pony. Death metal traits are combined with Akerfeldt's classic, melodic rock influences into a stunning contradiction. The band manages to jump back and forth, from devastating to breathtaking, heavy and distorted to acoustic and soft. An eerie keyboard presence and powerful bass tie each piece together into an 11 minute epic.
Blast beats and well played drum fills take "The Baying Of The Hounds" into another realm. Precision is the name of the game here, with bass and drums locking together as one. Vocal range is never in question, with Akerfeldt showing off his gifts time and time again. He screams with the best, and sings better than most. "Beneath The Mire" is cut from the same cloth. But to say it is formulaic just simply does not do it justice. Yes, you will find intermingling moments of brutality and pure emotion. But there is no overused structure, no time signature rule. Just when you think you know what will happen next, it changes.
The classic groove of "Atonement" catches you off guard. Have we gone back in time? Is Opeth touring with Pink Floyd or Deep Purple? Oh, not quite. "Reverie - Harlequin Forest" will remind you what year it is. Intermittent chugging over the background whine of a guitar, layered with off time drumming form an almost "follow the leader" moment, winding down to the end of the track.
But now something changes. Don't worry. This is still the same album. But "Hours Of Wealth" is simply to beautiful for words. A masterpiece in every sense, you will find yourself lost in the soundscape. Keys take a starring role, from the background synths to the piano-style lead, all breaking off to reveal Akerfeldt's emotional crooning. It is as lyrically stunning as it is musically. Ending with a guitar work that would make Santana jealous, you have mere seconds to catch your breath.
Serving as the first single, "The Grand Conjuration" finds the band back at their crushing best. Topping the ten minute mark, you get a little taste of everything. As you would expect from it's name, you get a sense of evil and darkness through vocal chants, as well as the screams and growls. The heaviest moments on this disc come here, with high speed double kicks giving way to pure death metal breakdowns.
The finale, "Isolation Years," is a story of loss. Again showcasing Akerfeldt's melodic sensibilities, the song will make your heart beat a little slower. "In isolation/She talks about her love/And as I read/"I'll die alone"/I know she's aching". Beautiful. Well written and well thought. The album fades to an end. The special edition version of "Ghost Reveries," released a year later in the typical Roadrunner Records fashion, also contains a brilliant cover of the Deep Purple classic "Soldier Of Fortune." Akerfeldt has never been shy about his influences, and it is really on display here.
As each album is recorded and released, the revolving door turns again, with more members coming and going. Oddly enough, as I write this, the band has just announced that keyboardist Per Wiberg has left the fold, and a replacement has been found. But that said, the constant isn't always change. The constant is vision. Evolution. Eclecticism. The constant is Mikael Akerfeldt.
Official Site - http://www.opeth.com
Myspace - http://www.myspace.com/opeth