Opeth made a transformation about 8 years ago from growling doom/death metal to prog rock in his purest form. I think we can blame Steven Wilson for this happening when he infected Opeth's main man Michael Åkerfeldt with the prog virus which resulted in their earliest prog album Damnation. At first you'd think it was a one off but 8 years later he sold his soul definitely to prog. Only on live concerts he will roar like in the old days to never deny his past as a (death) metal singer. Over the years Opeth have built a nice catalogue of 13 studio albums and a few very good live albums too. This 13th album with a Latin title that means “Poison in the tail” is the first one that is bi-lingual. In English and in Åkerfeldt's native language, Swedish. I've listened to them both, but I'll stick to the English part. Although I can say that I've got the impression that Mr. Åkerfeldt voice sounds more relaxed in Swedish.
Opeth already released a quartet of really excellent prog albums, and this is their 5th. Their previous album Sorceress made a damn good impression on me. So the bar is raised very high for this one. Garden Of Earthly Delights is an instrumental mainly electronic interlude that already gives you a gloomy mood in which to start this 10 track prog manifest. After this introduction you will be dragged into a rollercoaster of prog! Melodic, orchestral, beautiful choruses, Michaels excellent voice that goes everywhere from perfect cleans to brilliantly chosen chords in harmonies. Hammond organs and tonnes and lots of Mellotrons. (Oh, how I love this instrument). But also subtle piano fills all done by the talented Joakim Svalberg. Guitars, heavy or acoustic, each solo more beautiful than the next. Also the Swedish speaking samples and even Gregorian chants mixed together with classical, jazzy, melancholical arrangements, perfectionist Åkerfeldt and his mates make it whole. An extra mention, I think Universal Truth could be a left over from the also excellent Storm Corrosion project he did with Wilson.
But despite of all the superlatives the unique fact is, that it's still Opeth. The distinguished sound of this band from Orchid to In Cauda Veneum is always recognisable, not only through the sound of the singer, but also the style of Opeth. Many may be prejudiced that they are too heavy, no, they're not (anymore)! I think Opeth is one of the greatest prog bands of this time, inspired by the big names from the seventies, Åkerfeldt perfected it. If you are a prog fan that has listened to prog music for many years, or if you are new in this genre. This album takes you to the absolute top!
Note: The 5.1 mix on the Blu-ray takes it to an even higher level. As the sound in stereo is great, but compared to the 5.1 mix it sounds rather flat. It sounds even more dynamic in 5.1.
***** Erik van Os (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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