Genre: Melodic Death Metal, Progressive
Label: The End Records
This may come as a shock to some of you out there in The FuneralRaindom, but I’ve never fully cared either way about Opeth. I mean, I know that these guys are one of the more polarizing bands in all of metal (and one of the biggest reasons for this is today’s subject of review, Blackwater Park) but I’ve just never cared all that much. It’s not that their brand of melodic death metal/progressive metal was a turn-off or anything, it’s just that I never gave them a chance. I think the closest thing to that “chance” would of been when I took a few extra seconds to figure out what the clerk at the 7-11 was listening to one night. Turns out it was this album and I’m not going to lie, it sounded pretty tempting. I just have a shitty memory and forgot to look it up when I got home. Oh well, if it was really something that amazing, it’d find me later on down the road.
And it did. YEARS later, but it did. The fine folks at The End Records (for some fucking reason) sent me a box of CDs, including the re-releases of Blackwater Park, Deliverance and Damnation (watch for those reviews shortly). So thanks for that!
Anyway, on to the review!
The album itself comes in a glossy case with a fairly thick booklet of liner notes and lyrics! That’s some snazzy stuff right there! Also included on the audio disc is a live rendition of The Leper Affinity that fairs pretty well in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s skip over to Disc 2 (a DVD) for a second. You get the 5.0 Surround Sound version of the album album that, I’m sure sounds fucking amazing on a Bose sound system but not all that great coming through my stock speakers in my $200 Magnetbox. Next up, is the Making Of Blackwater Park documentary. Wow… you may as well of watched them record this album in real time because you learn just as much from the documentary. Very in-depth! The boys Opeth talk about how just about every riff was thought up, every lyric was dreamt of and you walk away learning how every moment was genius.
And with that a little too on the nose segue, let’s go back to the main attraction! Since I never got to listen to Blackwater Park beforehand, I can’t tell you if this version is superior to any of the earlier recordings. What I can tell you is that the sound quality is excellent, period. Starting the album up, I was pretty damned excited. I get to listen to an album that I’ve been unconsciously dodging for a couple of years now (it also helped that since it was for review, I had no choice)! About a quarter of the way into the first track, I knew I was in trouble. Aggressive, progressive, melodic death metal? I messed ‘em…
Lyrically, Mikael Akerfeldt’s words are hauntingly beautiful and terrifyingly surreal at times. They’ll take you all over the goddamned place and drag you through murky waters and barbed brier to get you there. But it’s done in such a way that you’ll ask to go again when all is said and done.
As for the overall musicianship… do I really have to say anything here? Most of you already know that this album owns in just about every aspect. Akerfeldt’s voice is simply perfect for the task at hand. Mellow and clean when needed and an oceanically deep growl for when the moments arise. Mikael and Peter Lindgren’s guitar work is also on par with that of some kind of actual guitar Wizard! It’s all so magical! Every riff (that on occasion are played ad naseum, I’ll admit) sounds like a happiness spell that was cast on my eager, prog loving ears. The acoustic stuff is especially pleasing since it’s not overused and punctuates the ends of the better tracks.
Skinman Martin Lopez dazzles on his set with spellbinding rhythms and manic foot work that pops up out of nowhere. I was incredibly happy to learn that the talent didn’t just reside in the vocals and guitars like everyone I knew tried to make me think. This album HAD TO have a competent drummer to be half as good as everyone says it is. I’m also glad to know that I was right, as I always do. And finally, we have bassist Martin Mendez and his speedy bass lines. Seriously, you don’t catch bass rumblin’s like that in progressive metal all too often (and that’s not often enough if you ask me). This guy might be my favorite progressive/melodic bassist next to Ed Vink.
As I mentioned before, some of the riffs are repeated to the point of me being able to point out that they can be a bit repetitive. But they’re great riffs and maybe they deserve to get pounded into your head! No, forget that. They can get to be kind of irritating. So there you naysayers go. I smudged this album a tiny bit. Ya happy?
Overall: I can honestly say that this album deserves all of the hype that’s been surrounding it for eleven years. It is everything you could possibly ask for in a progressive/melodic experience and more. Sure it’s a bit on the repetitive side, but I think that that is a pitfall that every progressive outfit falls into every once in a while. Aside from that, this re-release of Blackwater Park is a “Must Have” if you don’t already have it and if you do, then I beg you to consider this version if not only for the documentary.