When I asked the good people at Ever Metal if I could return to the family as a reviewer, much to my relief, they welcomed me back with open arms. My first job was to look through the album list and pick an album that I wanted to review. One jumped out of the screen straight away!
I had never really given Opeth much thought in the past, only having a copy of “Blackwater Park”, which I had probably listened to three times (at most!) and nothing of the other stuff they had done. Progressive music didn’t really feature on my radar and the album sat at the bottom of the CD pile, gathering dust.
Now, twenty years later, my musical tastes having become a little more diverse, so I felt ready to give the album the attention it deserved and what better way than with the 20th Anniversary Edition?
But first, a little history!
Opeth were formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1989, originally, as a death metal band, and over the years have changed their sound to consistently include elements of progressive, folk, blues, classical and jazz as well as death metal and the death metal growls from the early years. Cleaner vocals have appeared on later albums to the point that their last album “In Cauda Venenum”, released in 2019, featured no growls at all.
The band has had several personnel changes over the years, including the replacement of every single original member and Mikael Akerfeldt, lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter has been the main driving force behind the band since the departure of original singer, David Isberg in 1992.
Speaking of the band’s changing sound Akerfeldt has been quoted as saying “I don’t see the point of playing in a band and going just one way when you can do everything. It would be impossible for us to play just death metal – that is our roots, but we are now a mishmash of everything, and not purists to any form of music. It’s impossible for us to do that, and quite frankly, I would think of it as boring to be in a band that plays just metal music. We’re not afraid to experiment, or to be caught with our pants down, so to speak. That’s what keeps us going.”
In 2001 the metal word was in a post-grunge state, but Opeth were forging a unique creative path and after four albums of imaginative and immersive heavy metal, the first being “Orchid” released in 1995, the band were ready for a career- defining statement and that came in the form of “Blackwater Park”.
Originally released on March 12th, 2001, “Blackwater Park” was the band’s fifth album, and soon become their magnum opus, their flagship album. It became known as the “thinking metal fan’s album” and was something to challenge the listener. It opened the band up to a much wider audience, including the metal underground and the progressive rock world inclusive! To quote the band’s own notes to the album, it “saw the Swedish metallers kick open prog’s ornate doors, fed death metal through the cosmic kaleidoscope and introduced a generation of music nerds to a world of limitless musical possibilities.”
The album was produced by Steve Wilson, a move that was to be the start of a lifelong friendship and Mikael Akerfeldt says that “Blackwater Park was the stepping stone in professionalism for us!”
The album can be summed up as a mix of melodic moments, spine-tingling atmospherics and crushing heaviness, or just simply musical perfection. With the bonus live version of ‘The Leper Affinity’ and several songs over ten minutes long, the album’s popularity has proved that music fans, and metalheads in particular, are more open-minded than they are given credit for, and that metal music can have depth, subtlety, sophistication, and imagination.
With thirteen studio albums under their belt, along with live albums and DVD’s, the band have proven they are now one of the most consistently extraordinary live bands on the planet, and one I need to see…soon!
01. The Leper Affinity
04. The Drapery Falls
05. Dirge For November
06. The Funeral Portrait
07. Patterns In The Ivy
08. Blackwater Park
09. The Leper Affinity (Live)
“BLACKWATER PARK” LINE-UP:
Mikael Åkerfeldt – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Peter Lindgren – Guitars
Martín Méndez – Bass
Martin Lopez – Drums
Steven Wilson – Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Mellotron, Guitars
Markus Lindberg – Percussion
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Originally posted on Ever Metal