Recently during the wee hours of the morning when I was having trouble sleeping I decided to check out my list on Tivo of shows that I randomly decided to record and check out later; one was another installment of the 2011 Sonisphere concert. I had seen the past installments with Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, and Megadeth but not some of the lesser known acts. For example, this particular artists featured this included Sum 41, Cavalera Conspiracy, Diamond Head, In Flames, and Opeth. To be fair, these are not household names around the halls of HiFi Central, but perhaps they are in your abode. Clearly they are “popular” to someone otherwise they would have never made the bill for Sonisphere in the first place.
Out of the fore-mentioned bands I found myself listening to the Sum 41 set, which was more nostalgic than eye opening, the guys are good and still popular perhaps, say in Indonesia these days. Sadly, Sum 41 is not involved in the main music scene in the US these days; an underground fanbase I would assume keeps them alive here. Sum 41 has not put out any radio worthy music in years; and in some ways reminded me of a goofy Green Day wanna be band on Sonisphere. I’m sure the shoppers at Zumiez or Hot Topic may think they still are incredible, but here at HiFi Central we use their poster as a dart board and cd’s as drink coasters.
Cavelera Conspiracy had my attention for about 25 seconds and then I quickly found them utterly boring, especially when the lead singer Max Cavelera opened his mouth. It wasn’t until I realized why I knew the name Cavelera and then zingo - Sepultura! I always liked Sepultura’s instrumentals but never liked the vocals, hmmm, guess what? Still don’t! After listening to the reincarnation with Cavelera Conspiracy, it was like trying liver again at 40 – I still think it sucks, sorry.
Diamond Head was merely a special reunion for a 1970′s metal band that some of todays bands merit (Megadeth and Metallica) with being highly influential. Ok I guess, personally for me it was a bunch of old geezers having a good time and if they played my town I would disregard them as a decent garage band, the music was nothing worth really noting and I pressed fast forward (thank the Lord for TIVO!!!)
After watching this chapter of Sonisphere 2010 the only bands that stood out for me were Swedish metal bands In Flames and Opeth. I was familiar with In Flames since they recently had a show locally and I am kicking myself for missing the show; they are REALLY good! Opeth was a complete mystery to me and I was amazed how good they were.
In Flames and Opeth are equally talented bands and exemplify some of the best Death / Progressive metal coming out of Sweden. I found myself entranced with both bands sound and vocals; these bands are accomplished masters of the metal sound and have discovered the ability to make quality music. In Flames, although very good, is somewhat one-dimensional when compared to talents of Opeth. Opeth is clearly more of a mix of conceptual progressive rock, death metal, and classic rock. To make it a bit more precise, it would be fair to say that Opeth is a culmination of Dream Theater, early Rush, and Lamb of God mixed all together to create a tasty goop of hard driving riffs, strong choral arrangments, constant time changes, acoustic breaks, and the occasional growling vocals added at the right times.
What I think appeals to me most about this band is the variety of music they have created over the past decade, albums range from mellow acoustic arrangments echoing with haunting vocals exemplified by the concept albums My Arms, Your Hearse (1998) and Still Life (1999). Both albums remind me of an early Rush concept album like Hemispheres, not in the vocals but the story line. In Still Life a character returns to his town after years of banishment due to his faith, a faith that contrasted with the majority and he comes back years later to find his true love. As the album moves forward it introduces those who originally banished him and the bad things that follow.
Concept albums can be fun; especially when artists use the songs exemplify the chapters and progression of the character and development of a story as a whole; I think Opeth does a good job in these two albums. As a sidenote, and clearly coincidental, the album My Arms, Your Hearse offers three instrumental songs, one is named “Madrigal” (as found on Rush’s Farewell to Kings (1977)) luckily it’s not a cover. Regardless, I still found this humorous; and “Rush-like” quality can be found on the first song off of Still Life called “The Moor”; very Cygnus-X1-like with a journey of soft haunting guitars setting the tone for a deep story full of twists and turns.
Opeth has been smart not to rely on the same recipe for their albums; they keep to a constant style, yet manipulate the arrangments very smartly. This constant shift from acoustic to metal can be reflected in more recent albums where a much more hard driving non-stop Death metal style of growling vocals and blistering guitars is introduced sparingly. I liken their albums to a “metal roller coaster ride”, albums may start off with a soft haunting vocal and guitar backdrop and then transition into fast paced dark anger and fury, then back to mellow. Much of this style can be highlighted on an album such as Blackwater Park (2001); at the same time you can find a mix of both acoustic melodies and metal offered Watershed (2008). So far I have found that Opeth put out very solid albums that keep the listener enthralled and not yearning to advance to the next song. It’s actually more anticipation to see what’s next and I like that.
As much as I want to continue writing an indepth analysis about the the body of Opeth’s work, there is simply too many albums and not enough time for me to fairly be overly critical (positive or negative); however, I can say with great conviction that from what I have heard so far, I am very impressed!
This band is clearly on to something and I can’t wait to see if they ever have a show in HiFi Central’s hometown of Albany, NY. If you are interested in learning more about Opeth see if you can snag their Still Life album as a starter; Still Life is one of my current favorites. If you have seen Opeth or like their music please drop us a comment, we’d love to hear what you think. If you have not heard them before and decided to check them out via this blog, please let us know if we made a good suggestion or whether we suck at making suggestions.