Band : Opeth
Album : Pale Communion
Release Date : 25.08.2014
Record Label : Roadrunner Records
Genre : Progressive Rock
Reviewer : G. Damgacı – Sense of Tune
Opeth is a Swedish progressive rock/metal band which was formed as a death metal band in 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden by former vocalist David Isberg when he asked former Eruption member Mikael Åkerfeldt (16 years old at the time) to join the group as a bass guitarist. Bands name is derived from Wilbur Smith’s novel The Sunbird.
Throughout its history Mikael Åkerfeldt became Opeth’s prominent driving force and today he actually evolved the band from black and death Metal boundaries to an experimental and progressive project. Today Opeth’s music is well-known and critically acclaimed by metal music listeners all over the world with its incorporated progressive, folk, blues, classical, jazz and even 70’s pop and flamenco influences.
“Pale Communion” is the eleventh studio album by Opeth which was released on 25 August 2014 through Roadrunner Records. Producer of the album is Mikael Åkerfeldt himself and mixer is Steven Wilson who is known for his works in progressive rock genre and of course with Porcupine Tree. Cover art of the album is designed by Travis Smith who has designed several previous Opeth album covers.
Since I don’t want to review this album song by song, I will write about its musical aspects. First and most important of all, “Pale Communion” is not a conventional metal album. So if you are looking for lots of growl or death metal vocals, you will be disappointed almost instantly. Since Mikael Åkerfeldt previously said of the album, “I wanted to do something more melodic with this album, so there’s stronger vocal melodies and more melodies overall for this album.” it is as it is. I can safely assure you that you will be taken to a journey through the history of both progressive rock as a genre and Opeth’s most progressive albums throughout the album. As Mikael Åkerfeldt heads the band’s direction of musical style, you will surely hear influences from 1970’s progressive bands such as Camel, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and so on.
As you may guess from the word “Progressive” album’s musical structure is complex. Most of the songs were not developed within the span of a conventional three-minute popular music single. They are extended with a web of complex and interesting compositions. Although songs can be distinguished from one another unlike for example Opeth’s early albums “Morning Rise” or “My Arms, Your Hearse” and there is no distinct bridge between songs that makes the album more of a concept one musically, you will find that Opeth is pushing the limits of their sound one more time. For example, they are using oscilator sounds too now, probably as a Steven Wilson effect on them. 70’s influences on them are crystal clear with Rhodes partitions, unpredictable turns. They even used some soundtrack-like melodies for God’s sake. I actually wonder if they see any musical boundaries around them. Some of the songs are certainly not like Opeth’s. I think this is a good thing about the band actually. They are not repeating themselves so much. You will always have to wait for what kind of musical ideas they come up with. This creates a certain anticipation amongst the band’s fans. I can say songs are all over the album. They are individual songs which are extended with blurred musical forms one may expect from a progressive band. Otherwise you will absolutely say “Oh this is an Opeth album. Did you hear that? It is one of Opeth’s trademark tone modulation. And yeah, here comes a beautiful guitar solo. This acoustic part is exquisite.” as usual. But you will say “Wait, what?” for most of the songs too. Isn’t it great? Songs in this album are full of surprises. They are meticulously composed and some of you may think they are weird. Oh yeah, you will go “Ok this was weird. But this is weirder.” when you first listen to this album. Then you will listen to it over and over again and find more things in it. So be open minded while listening to it. It will take you somewhere else out of your comfort zone. Let it be and enjoy it.
“Pale Communion” is while continuing Opeth’s recent “Softer, more progressive, more melodic, less aggresive and less louder” musical trend, it certainly carves its way to a more innovative and experimental kind of musical style. This is no surprise for progressive listeners but some of the fans who are waiting more of a metal album probably won’t like it very much. But overall I find this album excellent. Surely it has some songs thay are similar somehow to the ones in band’s “Heritage”, “Damnation”, “Ghost Reveries” albums. But not in a way of repeatation. In fact I don’t agree with people who say “This is a bridge between this and that album”. No, it is not. You can’t actually compare progressive albums with each other properly. They are all different from each other in many ways. This is a music genre where everything is possible and acceptable. So this album is more of another waypoint into Opeth’s progressive music career. Certainly a must have album. I don’t want to give any more spoilers about songs. I really want you to experience it by yourself. Because this is one of the best if not the best album of 2014.
Reviewer’s rating : 9/10
1. Eternal Rains Will Come
2. Cusp of Eternity
3. Moon Above, Sun Below
4. Elysian Woes
5. Goblin (Instrumental)
7. Voice of Treason
8. Faith in Others
9. Solitude (Live) (Deluxe Edition Bonus Track, Black Sabbath cover)
10. Var Kommer Barnen In (Live) (Deluxe Edition Bonus Track, Hansson de Wolfe United cover)
Opeth is :
Mikael Åkerfeldt – Vocals, guitar, production, art direction
Fredrik Åkesson – Guitar
Joakim Svalberg – Piano, keyboards
Martín Méndez – Bass guitar
Martin Axenrot – Drums, percussion
Steven Wilson – Mixing
Travis Smith – Cover art
The cover artwork contains Latin text. On the left panel there is a quote of Axel Oxentierna who was a Swedish statesman. He is said to be considered as a brilliant pragmatist and an influential person in Swedish history. The quote is : “An nesci, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur?” meaning “Don’t you know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?” in English. It is said that this quote was in a letter to his son Jonah. The words are intended to encourage his son, a delegate to the negotiatons that would lead to the Peace of Westphalia which will end Thirty-Years War.
The middle panel quotes Terence (Publius Terentius Afer) who was a playwright of the Roman Republic. The quote is “Hoc tempore obsequium amicos, veritas odium parit” (from his play Andria, vv. 67-6) meaning “In these days friends are won through flattery, the truth gives birth to hate.” in English.
The right panel quotes Marcus Valerius Martialis who was a Roman poet from Hispania best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103. The quote is “Ille dolet vere qui sine teste dolet” (from Epigrams) meaning “He grieves truly who grieves without a witness.” in English.
**SPECIAL THANKS to my awesome musician friend G. Damgacı for writing this review. You must check out his brand new blog SENSE OF TUNE! **