review by Octavio Ramos Jr
When we last heard from Opeth, the band had unleashed the yin of Deliverance and the yang of Damnation, thus effectively separating the two principal components of its signature sound. With Ghost Reveries, yin and yang come together; creating a heavy release that will challenge listeners of progressive rock/ metal and death metal. Indeed, Ghost Reveries will alienate purists of both camps. However, those who can walk the razor's edge will find this CD has much to offer.
Walking the same path as Anathema, Opeth nevertheless crafts its own sound, pushing the boundaries of doomdeath and gothic metal well into the progressive realm. New keyboard player Per Wiberg extends the band's progressive predilections, his work on the mellotron, organ, and piano solidifying the band's influence by none other than the mighty King Crimson. Ghost Reveries opens with the ten-minute opus Ghost Of Perdition, which begins with thunderous aplomb, with the drums blasting the guitar churning out a menacing riff. But this opening quickly segues into a more progressive bent, as the bass steps to the forefront (courtesy of Martin Mendez) and keyboards wash through the background. Mikael Akerfeldt combines his harsh growls with soft, lilting croons, his guitars following suit. Acoustic flourishes abound, thus providing this track with its sense of melancholy.
The Baying Of The Hounds, which also clocks in at over ten minutes, brings with it the heaviness inherent with the best of doomdeath. The percussion here is restrained but effective and the guitar riffs clip along at a frenetic pace. Akerfeldt's voice soars during the choruses and the keyboards work in unison with the guitar hooks. There's rock 'n' roll flair at work during this track that hearkens to the approach taken by Entombed. The divergence lies in the progressive streaks, particularly during the keyboard driven interludes (the mellotron sounds close to death) and acoustic pieces, both of which weave a haunted tapestry of painful sorrow. These interludes, when coupled with the death 'n' roll, make for a compelling and satisfying track.
Middle-eastern music comes to life on Beneath The Mire. Djinns grant wishes behind veils of saffron saturated mist and ghuls dance upon desecrated graves as drummer Martin Lopez lets loose on some double-kicks and guitarist Peter Lindgren exchanges rhythms and leads with Akerfeldt. The song reeks with experimentation, at one point breaking down to a singular pulse that is reconstituted through some jazzy percussion and a simple guitar riff. Atonement is the band's riff off Pink Floyd, mixing the eclectic nature of Interstellar Overdrive and the atmospherics of Echoes.
At almost 12 minutes, Reverie/ Harlequin Forest begins as a straightforward rocker, the death 'n' roll structures subsequently overcome by light touches of death metal - Akerfeldt's guitar and vocals become harsher and harsher - and then the acoustic flourishes kick in, taking the song in yet another direction - enter the keyboards, and it's eclectic progressive again. These time and genre switches sometimes require an airbag, but hold on, as the overall scheme of the music is rewarding (Meshuggah fans will have no problem with such shifts).
The acoustics come to the forefront on Hours Of Wealth, which features a hauntingly beautiful opening and hearkens to the John Wetton days of King Crimson (think Larks' Tongues In Aspic). The Grand Conjuration turns its attention to doomdeath. The overall pace is frenetic, save for the guitars, and Akerfeldt growls through most of the lyrics. Of the tracks on this CD, this one is the harshest and heaviest. The closer, Isolation Years, brings back the sound refined on Damnation. The bittersweet tone is classic Opeth.
Ghost Reveries is the most experimental and exuberant CD released by Opeth to date. That said, it also serves as a challenge to many listeners, many of who still consider Blackwater Park the band's masterpiece. Perhaps not as challenging as some other progressive fair for purists and not as doomdeath as some fans would like, Ghost Reveries nevertheless presents the yin/ yang that is Opeth. I have no doubt that this CD will serve as a springboard for a wealth of new material that will continue to erode the fringes of experimentation and further mesh the harsh with the soft.