OPETH – Pale Communion
If I were allowed to do so, I’d keep this album review to just two words. “Farking awesome!!!”. Opeth has had quite a few detractors over the last few years, owing to their last album Heritage and the ensuing tour. People were largely dissatisfied with the mellowed down vocals and guitars and were screaming for the “heavy stuff” at every gig. Opeth didn’t seem to care and rightly so. As Mikael Åkerfeldt said lately,
“I’m sort of lost about metal, especially since I’ve done some interviews where I’ve just said what I thought, and people get upset, because they have different opinions on what metal really is. And, for me, I think I might be too old, to be honest, to understand what the younger generation thinks that metal really is these days.”
Pale Communion is heavy, make no mistake. Pale Communion is the album prog metal bands dream of releasing. Whilst Heritage dwelt in prog rock and was confusing to fans of the death prog that Opeth was churning out, Pale Communion is marvellously heavy and intense. And when songs from this album are played live, they sound massive and are tremendously heavy.
Eternal Rains Will Come kicks the album off and what a way to do so. One immediately feels the direction this album is set out in and is almost immediately certain that one is in for a ride. The use of the organs in distortion and the jazzy feel overall is exceptional. Åkerfeldt’s vocals fit in perfectly and one cannot complain. Cusp Of Eternity is classic Opeth. The riffs are heavy, groovy and the drumming is splendid. There have been complaints about the use of the rhythm guitar in a very “modern” (a.k.a djent) overdrive mode, which one should just ignore as it is complete hogwash. Moon Above, Sun Below could be mistaken to have been taken from Ghost Reveries and has to be the most complete track on the album. Describing the song would not do justice to it. Elysian Woes is very Damnation-esque, and unfortunately the acoustic guitars on the track are not impressive.
Goblin is the album’s instrumental track and is very funky, with a nice mix of guitars and keys. This song seems like a tribute to the 70’s prog act of the same name and given Åkerfeldt’s love of everything that was 70’s prog, it probably is. River could very well be a classic rock song disguised as an Opeth song. The song is sophisticated, for lack of a better term. Definitely something that a 70’s rock band (again!!) might have put out. Åkerfeldt delivers a very strong vocal performance, especially at the end.
Voice Of Treason has a Middle Eastern vibe and also incorporates the sitar and intricate guitar playing whilst maintaining a progressive feel to the whole song. Faith In Others is the final track and it is mellow and warm and yet, is haunting. The song sounds delicate and is a soft fitting end to this album.
Yes, this album is heavily influenced by the 70’s prog-rock scene, the forefathers of the prog metal scene. Most songs are styled upon different bands from that era, be it Rush, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull or Goblin and yet, each of them is an Opeth creation. A big big plus on this album is that the drums have returned in a massive way, after being largely subdued in Heritage. Personally, there were moments in the album where I thought “Damn, an Åkerfeldt growl would’ve been so amazing here”, however the whole album just gels into one masterpiece, even without the “signature” growls. Honestly, this album is much better without the “signature” growls everyone keeps talking about. Pale Communion has it’s downs, but those are shadowed by the sheer brilliance of the ups. Opeth has always been about experimenting with its musical style and this experiment is not just a winner, it’s a champion.
“…I think metal, to me, has become a bit of an attitude as well — a question of attitude — and I think we have still that attitude intact. Like, we’re a bit, for lack of a better word, rebellious.” – Mikael Åkerfeldt
P.S – all Mikael Åkerfeldt quotes have been taken from his interview with Full Metal Jackie.