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Morningrise

1 rating: 5.0
An album by Opeth

Reissue of Swedish melodic death metal act's second album, originally released in 1996. Includes one bonus track, 'Eternal Soul Torture' (prev. unreleased). 2000 release. Standard jewel case.--This text refers to an alternateAudio CDedition.

Tags: Music
1 review about Morningrise

Original, visual, romantic, poignant, beautiful...

  • Dec 23, 2001
Rating:
+5
Does Opeth introduce the extreme metal world to the glorified complexities of progressive rock? Or do they merge the dynamic, anti-song qualities of prog with an aesthetic of death metal? I guess it doesn't matter, but whatever they're doing, they're doing it brilliantly. Based on a blend of Swedish death metal, melodic progressive rock, and acoustic interludes, they can't be classified easily. In the end, though, classifications are irrelevant. To sum the band up quickly, Opeth presents a ceaseless onslaught of dynamics, where a grinding metal assault (with death growls) can be exchanged for a gorgeous acoustic lull (with soft "clean" vocals) in a heartbeat. However, though the change happens very often, it never becomes a cliché of itself. It's perfectly natural and fits well, never disrupting a song's flow. Apart from Opeth's musical brilliance, they have a knack for conveying real emotion and beauty in their music. This album also just about has the coolest title ever - Morningrise.

The album features only five songs. This is no EP, however. Impressively, the shortest song here is about 10 minutes ("Advent") and the longest track is an incredible 20 minutes ("Black Rose Immortal"). Or at least that's what the back of the CD case says. It's hard to believe it, though. After all, when listening to the music of Morningrise, time slips away and long epic songs end far too quickly. 10-minute songs seem to end in 4 minutes... the 20-minute opus feels no more than 10-minutes. When the album is over, the listener is not exhausted...one is compelled by Opeth's seducing power to play the album again and again.

It is not, however, an easy album to put together on the cerebral level, even considering their epic nature. Individual songs don't involve repeated themes...they just flow smoothly from one movement to another. While most bands will reuse themes and melodies to establish cohesion, Opeth just goes through movements with less regard for unity. A gale of heaviness will assault you at one moment, only to replaced by a beautiful acoustic passage the next. I like what AMG's William York wrote about the album. He said: "[The musical changes] happen much like scenes changes in a movie, as there is very little repetition within the songs...the tracks here could best be described as miniature audio movies." Because of this unusual writing style, the songs on Morningrise don't really "stick." The album is very melodic, but without repetition, it doesn't sink in too fast. Only through countless listens can Morningrise be pieced together and understood musically. This is no chore, however -- it is a musical experience rivaled by few albums I've heard. There is also the possibility that the album may be some sort of concept (lyrically, all the songs seem to be about lost love). The lyrics are very visual and poetic...nothing like the Satanic-orgy-murder-sacrifice krap one might expect from an album with death metal vocals. The lyrics, like the music, are fairly unbound in terms of structure, again making it difficult to assemble mentally. There are no verse-chorus-verse-chorus structures here...nothing that even resembles conventional song structure.

I expected one problem: the lyrics are pretty spaced out, and I thought the epic songs would need lots of superfluous instrumental padding. Normally this is a criticism I raise against the many bands who meander into "nowhere land" with tripped jamming. (Usually long songs require lots of lyrical sections to give them form and cohesion.) Remarkably, Opeth easily evades any such reproach. The instrumental sections are never boring. The band's instrumental interplay is nothing short of brilliant, each passage meticulously constructed melodically. This is not random jamming. The detail, precision, and distinctness of the instrumental sections is nothing short of stunning, and they never release the fettered listener from their vice-like grip.

Tracks 1 to 4 are all fairly similar (but not interchangeable), blending amazing heavy-but-melodic riffing with sumptuous acoustic sections. The track that really sticks out musically is the 11-minute ballad "To Bid You Farewell." For seven minutes it is beautiful acoustic melodies and clean vocals. There is a brief but powerful electric section near the finale, but the soft vocals persist...there is no growling in this song! It doesn't matter that I haven't heard every ballad ever written...this is still one of the best ever! (Listen to the interplay between the acoustic guitars and the bass, and how it builds to the heavy part...so cool.) Vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Mikael Akerfeldt seems to be a romantic at heart, and I admire that. His vocals have improved tremendously on later records (especially his growl, but also his clean singing and enunciation). Still, he sounds excellent here -- full of passion. He's a favorite.

Morningrise is absolutely one of the most unique albums I've ever heard. But being original doesn't automatically make you good. Without the melodic sense and the passion to back it up, originality doesn't mean that much. Opeth is one of the rare bands with everything. I'm sure some people would sell their souls to have this band's sophistication and ingeniousness.

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Morningrise
Details
Label: Century Media
Artist: Opeth
Release Date: June 24, 1997

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