Opeth – Pale Communion

Few progressive bands have been able to match the accomplishments nor boast a back catalog as impressive as Opeth’s. Their long-spanned career has garnered them legions of loyal and dedicated fans. In fact, very rarely will you ever find a prog rock or prog metal fan that doesn’t like at least a few albums by Opeth. These swedish titans, under the musical direction of Michael Akerfeldt, have an extremely diverse and rich musical style that has recently been expanding. The release of Heritage in 2011 found the band drifting away from the metallic edge of their music, and in some respects, created some distance and uncertainty with their fans for perhaps the first time in their career.

Ever since Heritage, we’ve seen Akerfeldt dip into his pool influences, which are mainly UK progressive rock groups like Genesis and Marillion incorporating those elements in Opeth’s music. The result, is a much lighter sound to what listener’s fell in love with on Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries. Nonetheless, a majority of the fans stuck with the band, accepting the experimentation and wishful fora return of the heavier element of the band’s music. With the release of Pale Communion, there is still an extension of the lighter, more “prog-rock” style to the sound as opposed to the “prog-metal” sound that used to define the band. As a result, it seems as though some of the fans are a little weary of the Akerfeldt’s musical directions.

To be honest, I think all of the negative publicity following the release of this new album is very unjustified. Michael Akerfeldt has always marched to his own drum and wrote the music he has wanted to play and that is one of the defining characteristics of Opeth’s early music that allowed the fans to really gravitate towards the group in the first place. So why all the hate? Just because it’s not as heavy means it can’t be as good. The compositional prowess of Akerfeldt still has yet to diminish in my mind and I find the songs on Pale Communion refreshingly brilliant. Tracks like “Cusp of Eternity”, “Moon Above, Sun Below” and “Voice of Treason” are all labyrinths of sound and texture that leave the listener requiring multiple listens in order to absorb everything. Other tracks like “Eternal Rains will Come” and “Elysian Woes” still, in my mind, stand as testament to why this band have reached the pinnacles of success that they have, despite the fact they may not be as heavy as they were previously.

Every band or artist needs to experience trial periods of experimentation in order grow and learn as a musician or as a band in this case. I’m very confident the harrowing growls of Michael Akerfeldt are not completely out of question for the future and I honestly think the next record will be a perfect blend of the old and the new aspects of what this band have been creating.

Luke Helker

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