Classic Review: Opeth — Ghost Reveries
In the mid 00’s I had just moved back to Texas from Alaska. It was quite a change and I lost a few things on the way that I didn’t have room to take with me. Among these things were CDs from one of my favorite progressive bands, Opeth. Things still hadn’t gone completely digital yet. People still listened to CDs back then. Not that they don’t today, but with things like Spotify, iTunes, and my personal favorite, Bandcamp, people don’t really need to lug around a giant case of CDs or LPs. Not that I think that these mediums are without value, but they are a little less convenient than digital music.
Let’s get back to the story though, shall we? I had been watching Youtube videos of live performances of songs off of the albums Deliverance and Damnation. Even back then when I loved the more raw side of music I still preferred the quiet, thoughtful album, Damnation. One thing that I still have is a live DVD, Lamentations. It contained music from several Opeth albums. To get to the point I wanted to get to I really wanted to replace those lost albums. I got in a car and rode to Walmart to scour their CD racks. I found one album by Opeth, and it was a new album that I had never heard of, Ghost Reveries.
I paid for it with quarters. I was seriously broke back then and I was surprised I could afford it. It was a “digipack” version with 2 discs. A DVD and the album on CD. I had no clue what to expect and was initially very disappointed about not being able to reclaim Deliverance and Damnation. I popped in the CD and sat back to have a listen. I initially thought it was going to be another mellow album with the first few chords being light and clean. Then, BAM! deep growls and heavy riffs. Welcome to Ghosts of Perdition. I was pleasantly surprised. As the song progressed I got washed over, back and forth, with heavy elements, and smooth clean vocals that played one after another like a wave crashing over me on a beach.
I loved it. You’ll find that if I’m writing about something odds are I like it. I try to not bother with things that don’t interest me. The light vocals gave way once again. This was way more than just a guy screaming his face off with blast beats in the background. This song was everything I loved about the band and it made me smile to think they were still doing what they do best. Melodic progressive metal would be a major interest for me forever because of this album.
The thing about this album is that it came along at a tumultuous time in my life. I had just gotten a divorce and was torn up inside with what I had to do to get out of Alaska. I’m very fortunate that I made good friends there, and that they were able to help me when they did. But, I don’t want to make this review about me. Suffice to say that this album was of great comfort to me despite its more cacophonous sections it really helped me relax. In time I would come to appreciate Opeth not as a death metal band but as innovators. I know there’s probably someone out there that will disagree with me.
Let’s go over the tracks. They clock in at more than 10 minutes for some of them. I really liked the inclusion of the organ/synthesizer sections. These came along right out of the gate on “The Baying of the Hounds” One thing I’d like to add about the production of this album is that nearly every chord has been perfectly tuned by the producer. This provides, in my opinion, a richer and more clear presentation than I had been used to which, I was unsure of at the beginning but by the end of the album I no longer viewed Opeth as a death metal band. One thing about Mikael Åkerfeldt is that he really knows how to pace a song and really draw you into experience exactly what he wants you to. The drum work keeps the pace like a steady heartbeat even when the song is light it still carries the energy of a more raw song. This track has one of my favorite Mikael Åkerfeldt solos. He really stepped up his playing on Ghost Reveries and pushed himself to his technical limits.
One thing I’ll always love is what a great musician and writer Mikael Åkerfeldt is when it comes to acoustic outings. When Fredrik Åkesson joined the band later he would comment on how he had to improve his acoustic style playing to match that of Åkerfeldt’s. I could really go through and pick apart this album but that’s not the purpose of this story.
Let me close by saying my favorite track from the album is Reverie / Harlequin Forest. Thematically this is one of the more relaxed songs. It does get and stay pretty heavy, but it all flows so well layering over smoother vocals with the verse sections as well as the chorus. Later on, in the track, Mikael really brings out the growls. I don’t want to spoil it all for you. Let me quote my favorite lines from the track:
And weak in the light
Depending on a prayer
Pacing deserted roads to find
A seed of hope…
The acoustic section before this passage of the song is very, well, ghost-like. I also like harmonics and the section during that passage uses them exclusively. The song then goes back into building back up until the finale which has a time signature that I have a little trouble counting out in my head. If you really like to hear something different check out this one by Opeth.
I need to work on not sounding like an ad, I know. Hopefully, you’ve made it to the end of the review and you’re interested in prog-rock now. I have a lot of trouble putting everything into words. If you do check it out and you like it I highly recommend the “digipack” CD/DVD combo for behind the scenes footage and interviews. I’m currently busy amassing a digital library of Black Metal to write about, and I’ll get to it. I just need to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with school. Thank you for reading. You’ll find the Spotify link below.