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Opeth

Blackwater Park

Koch/Music For Nations

Brilliant. Seriously, folks, what else were y'all expecting? For the better half of the '90s, Opeth have gladly played the role of critics' darlings by cross-pollinating '70s prog-rock with various modern metal idioms (namely, death and black), all with an unbridled n' unrivalled ambition scarcely seen since '87-era Celtic Frost (that’s the groundbreaking Into The Pandemonium, youngsters). Blackwater Park, the four-piece's fifth full-length thus far (and named after an obscure '70s prog-rock band, no less – of course!), finds Mikael Akerfeldt and company elaborating on – or, more accurately, just plain sticking to – the tenets of the preceding Still Life: basically, "the Opeth sound" (windswept melodies, labyrinthine song structures, patience-defying dynamics, and busy-busy-bee time signatures) with increased – and, more specifically, more improved – emphasis on acoustic passages lead by Akerfeldt's occasional and similarly improved clean tenor. Although it may be a gross understatement to say that Opeth are NOT a "singles band" by any stretch of the imagination, that matters not here, both in the respect of the band and Blackwater Park, for the two are to be taken as a whole, absorbed free of distraction, and preferably with headphones; after all, few bands – metal or otherwise – know the importance and impact of crafting an album, let alone a whole blindingly brilliant canon of them. Sure, Opeth have some great songs (arguably, the womb-like warmth/paralysis of Morningrise's "Black Rose Immortal" being the best of their bunch) in this canon, but altogether, these songs (most exceeding eight minutes and reaching a maximum of 21) comprise remarkable albums, which thusly comprise said remarkable canon, which thusly could comprise one long and mighty "song" that would be the epitome of "remarkable" – to put it simply, that is, which Opeth's music is everything but. And granted, some lesser pundits (this writer, initially) might argue that Opeth have finally and forlornly painted themselves into a corner of predictability with Blackwater Park, that they're being multi-dimensional so often has somehow now become one-dimensional, but you can’t really fault a band with such a cosmic, interstellar directive, one which consistently creates a unique sound and exotic flavor neither challenged nor attempted by none. Again, "brilliant" can only be the most accurate description here – accept no substitutes. (Note to readers unaccustomed with Opeth: The convoluted and sidewinding style of this review approximates the musical language of these four Swedes…kinda. Or something.)

Koch, 740 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; http://www.kochentertainment.com