The style of music in “Blackwater Park” is best described as progressive metal with strong influences from 70's progressive rock mixed with death metal vocals. On paper, this sounds pretty ambitious and sounds like an idea that can be executed well. Unfortunately, the execution of this album is quite lousy, which I'll get to in the topic below.
On a sidenote, people need to stop calling Opeth “progressive death metal” because despite the presence of death metal growls on the music, there aren't many (if any) death metal riffs in their catalog.
LACK OF COHESION
I say there's a lack of cohesion on this album because with all of the different musical ideas Opeth has on here, there's almost no cohesion among them to have the songs flow smoothly. Because of this lack of cohesion, listening to it becomes quite a chore. While listening to the songs, you try to get yourself set up into a certain emotional state according to what you hear, but then the song transitions into something totally different and does so abruptly. This wouldn't be bad if the band's goal was to create something feeling chaotic (such as Behold the Arctopus, their instrumental compositions are chaotic in all the right ways), but because Opeth tries to be “beautiful and poetic” much of the time, these transitions from something “brutal” into something more “classy” feel really uneven and after a while, you just disconnect yourself from the music and get bored with it.
Mikael Akerfeldt's vocals are a bit of a mixed bag here. His death metal growls are okay, but they don't even begin to compare to what Martin Van Drunen, Karl Willetts, Alex Camargo, Matt Karki, Ross Dolan, and Jeff Walker can dish out. His clean vocals seem pretty bland, since I couldn't remember much of any of the clean singing parts that stuck out at me.
Mikael's guitar work isn't bad, but like with the music in general, lacks cohesion and focus. He's capable of making compelling metal riffs when he feels like it, and the solos in many of the songs sound nice, but the disjointed styles in many of the songs make them pretty forgettable.
Peter Lindgren handled the guitar as well on this album, and like Akerfeldt, has tasteful skills with his instrument, but other than a few riffs from the more “aggressive” songs and solos, most of his contributions lack memorability.
Martin Mendez's bass guitar, honestly, wasn't all that noticeable in most of the album. There were some parts of some songs where there's some noticeable basslines, and they sounded nice, but that's all I can say about that.
Martin Lopez's drum work, like Mendez's bass, didn't stick out to me all that much, either. I guess his drum work isn't bad, but given the overall forgettable nature of the music, it's hard for me to draw any specific examples addressing the drums.
I know that Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame (I'm not a fan of PT, either) helped produce and provide extra clean vocals on some songs. The vocals Steve provides on this album were pretty bad. I think he provided extra vocals in the song “Bleak,” and they made the song sound even more of a chore to listen to.
Remembering specifics for the songs on this album proved to be as difficult as mastering advanced calculus, so forgive me if there's a lack of detail in describing the songs on here.
I think for an album that only has eight songs on here, it's too long for its own good (considering it's eight songs in a 67 minute album). Now I'm not against long songs, as there's bands like Symphony X, Dream Theater, Burzum, Pan.Thy.Monium, and Phantasmagory that have crafted long songs that go past the 10 minute mark that remain compelling to listen to from beginning to end. Even Opeth created a superb song called “Black Rose Immortal” (off the album “Morningrise) that's 20 minutes long, and isn't at all boring. However, on here, many of the longer songs seem really disjointed for me to stay engaged in.
If I had to choose any songs that I'd consider decent, I'd say “Blackwater Park” and “The Leper Affinity” come close to that. Despite being two of the longer songs on this album, the “metal” parts on these songs come closest to what I want to hear in any type of metal album, and with the title track, has probably the best guitar solo in the whole album around the middle of the song. However, the potential greatness in these two songs is greatly hindered by the “soft” segments of the songs that don't really fit in with the aggressive parts.
“Harvest” is basically a six minute acoustic piece with clean singing. The solo in the song sounds pleasing, and the overall feeling of the song is inoffensive, but the song is pretty forgettable at the end of the day. “Patterns in the Ivy” is merely a two minute acoustic interlude that functions no more than as filler.
I couldn't stand the song “Bleak.” Mainly for Steve Wilson's guest vocals mentioned earlier, but while songs like “Blackwater Park” had better “metal” segments in the song, the metal parts in “Bleak” felt pretty lukewarm, so this was a really boring song to listen to. The other songs like “The Drapery Falls” and “Dirge for November” were good examples of the songs that are long and felt like they were going on forever.
The production on this album is very clean, though I think it's more fitting for a progressive rock album than for a progressive metal album. Then again, Steve Wilson produced the album, so he obvious wanted this to feel more like the former than the latter.
The instruments and vocals all come in pretty clearly, except for the bass. I personally wish the bass was more noticeable than it really was.
“Blackwater Park” commits one of the worst crimes a metal album can commit, which is being boring. Most of the time, I was staring at my wristwatch waiting for the album to end.
It took me nearly four hours to write this review because the music contained in “Blackwater Park” is too forgettable to quickly gather my thoughts and write them out in detail.
Many people will tell you that this album is a masterpiece in progressive metal or worse, will tell you that this is “progressive death metal.” Avoid this and check these albums out instead.
Nocturnus: The Key
Atheist: Unquestionable Presence
Coroner: Punishment for Decadence
Phantasmagory: Odd Sounds
Death: Individual Thought Patterns
Gordian Knot: S/T
Behold the Arctopus: Skullgrid
Gorguts: The Erosion of Sanity
Why people go ga-ga over this is beyond me.
What did you think of this review?