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Opeth - Watershed (CD)

by Yiannis Mitsakos at 28 June 2008, 6:20 AM

Through years of listening to this wonderful genre of music we've all come to love all those different bands which eventually either evolve or stay true to their roots and only change minor details to keep things interesting. Evolution can be a bad or a good thing and there are examples from both sides. There's the METALLICA kind of evolution, which is the worst possible scenario; a band submits to what the media demands and goes for the easy buck. There's the ANATHEMA example, a band that evolved into something totally different from their roots but into something great whatsoever; it's a rare thing for a band to unite successfully metalheads and non-metalheads under the same roof. And then there's OPETH, the definition of the Golden Mean. The band that managed to evolve, shift and change and instead of losing even a single fan, their base grows bigger and stronger.

How do they accomplish that? The answer lies in this little shiny round medium that holds their latest masterpiece. There are not many bands' new releases I actually look forward to. I'm usually skeptical, especially when it comes to the ones we classify as classics. But OPETH is one of the few exceptions; I was eager for Watershed and I couldn't be more right.

Their ninth album was produced by Mikael  Akerfeldt and Jens Borgren and it's their first one since Martin Lopez and Peter Lindgren were replaced by Martin Axenrot and Fredrik Akesson respectively. New members bring appetite for experimentation and this is obvious throughout each song.

Coil is the opener; a duet between Mikael and Axenrot's girlfriend Nathalie Lorichs who has appeared as a guest vocalist for DEEP PURPLE's Jon Lord - keep this as a remainder for later use. A seemingly simple (for OPETH's standards) slow song relying on acoustic guitars that becomes more and more beautiful and addictive each time you listen to it. Its follow-up, Heir Apparent treads on familiar paths; In-your-face intro with their trademark guitars under Akerfeldt's magnificent grunts, with short acoustic breaks followed by insane drumming and a wonderful ending - a cure for the soul indeed.  The Lotus Eater is next, an equally strong track and yet another OPETH classic with a wonderful DEEP PURPLE-esque interlude (second remainder) followed by a progressive part then back to their own style. What more can anyone ask from a single song?

Burden deserves a special reference. The two first bands that got me into this music were DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW so apparently their music and their common members and play style hold a special place in my heart. This song captured me from the first note. I know that Mikael is a DEEP PURPLE fan and their references are obvious in the album so far (hence the remainders), especially when it comes to Per Wilberg's parts; if I didn't know better I would swear that Jon Lord is on the keyboards and Ritchie Blackmore gives a life of its own to his Stratocaster, but in reality it's this brilliant Swedish band that delivers a song that would be an instant classic if it was written 3 decades ago, right there with Child In Time and Soldier Of Fortune. I can't even count how many times I've listened to this one.

Porcelain Heart was the first song that was released publicly and leaked on Youtube almost immediately so it's probably the most recognizable song of this album since there's also a (cut down) video clip that's enjoying lots of airtime in the U.S. edition of Headbanger's Ball. In the fashion of Heir Apparent and The Lotus Eater, it's pure OPETH material in every note, every single different part, riff, vocal; nothing short of brilliant.

Hessian Peel is the most experimental song of this album but it still keeps the band's identity for most of its 12 minute duration. Simply every style that they have demonstrated so far appears here and then some. It will grow in you more and more each time you listen to it, just like the last song, Hex Omega which has far less experimentations but its quality lies within the set standards.

The special edition, has 3 additional tracks (2 of which are covers), a bonus making of DVD and a 5.1 mix of the album; that alone makes me want to upgrade my audio system.

There are certain albums were words fail to do justice and you just have to listen to properly understand what a reviewer is struggling to give with the use of mere letters. Watershed is one of them; I will be glad if I managed to give even a slight preview of what's inside. If you're an OPETH fan, I'm sure you have this already. If you're not one, for whatever reason, you're missing out an amazing work of art from a band that truly honors the metal scene with its existence. Open your mind and enjoy.

4 Star Rating

Heir Apparent
The Lotus Eater
Porcelain Heart
Hessian Peel
Hex Omega
Mikael Akerfeldt - Lead Vocals, Lead and Rhythm Guitars
Fredrik Akesson - Lead and Rhythm Guitars
Martin Mendez - Bass Guitar
Martin Axe Axenrot - Drums, Percussion
Per Wiberg - Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Roadrunner Records


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