A gift was given
Apparently, I am a fan of death metal now. Who would have known? Not me.
One sunny day my dear friend Johan came to me bringing a gift. It was the Opeth album “Ghost Reveries” on a glorious but ominous black vinyl. I was delighted by the gift, but also somewhat bewildered by the choice of music. Death metal? With all the death growls and the insane drums bpm? Clearly this was not my forte.
But when given a sincere gift by a friend, and this is my friend’s favourite band, of course I promised to give it a listen. I even joked that this gift could become very expensive for me given my collector’s OCD. If I would like it “too much” I might buy more records by the band I laughed. How little did I know, back then…
Many days after the gift was given, I sat down in my comfortable armchair and gave it a spin. The first thing I heard was the death growls which I didn’t like. But after a while some normal singing came out of the wall of sound and it was beautiful. The music flowed up and down, hard parts transitioning into soft beautiful passages. I felt drowsy and fell into a dream world of farm boys with swords of fire fighting trollocks and fades.
All of a sudden I woke up recognising something. A passage reminded me of early 70’s Genesis! The progressive rock soundscapes were there… I almost couldn’t believe it. Incredible. The record was so dynamic, so rich. And the guys in the band are really, really good musicians. I think this will be expensive!
“Ghost of perdition” about the boy killing his mother as she is possessed and consumed by the Devil is super heavy and sad and the second half is marvellous. “The baying of the hounds” is a dark story about a devoured girl in a black forest. The song is super-complex, everything between heavy drums and aggressive guitars to a small beautiful tune on the keyboards in the most mellow part. The track has some wonderful passages in the middle. I love the guitar solos and instrumental parts of “Beneath the mire”. The fourth song “Atonement”, about life after death, is my friend Johan’s favourite song on the album. It reminds me of the late George Harrison with the Indian influences and warped sound of the singing. I like it a lot. The beautiful piano in the end!
“Harlequin Forest” takes me back to fantasy land, the travels into the deadly forest. Again and again and again and again… It has some heavy hard rock elements and when the death growl rises, I love it! How strange… “Harlequin Forest” is my favourite song on the album. The second half is so damned great!
“Hours of wealth” could have been about the cleansing of the Taint. The road to sanity has begun. It is softer, warmer and a nice break in the middle of the album. The singing, the lonely blues guitar… This album keeps on giving surprises. I really, really like the song.
If you want, you may stop listening after three sides of the album. But if you follow through, it is sad to hear that the boy loses in the end. The Devil takes the boy who killed his mother. There is no happy end to this grim tale. Murder, death, suicide, the Devil won.
Opeth is more of a progressive metal band than a death metal band, especially nowadays. “Ghost reveries” came out around the time when they moved from metal to progressive. It was the second to last album, to date, that had any death growls.
I think the album was a very good choice as a first window into the world of Opeth. And now I can say that what Johan started has grown into a beast. It became very expensive indeed! I have bought most of their albums on vinyl, and in January me and Johan will go see Opeth play and dance for us at Cirkus in Stockholm.
My rating: 8,5/10
- Ghost of perdition
- The baying of the hounds
- Beneath the mire
- Reverie / Harlequin Forest
- Hours of wealth
- The grand conjuration
- Isolation years
Best songs: “Ghost of perdition”, “The baying of the hounds”, “Atonement” and “Harlequin Forest”
Produced by: Jens Bogren and Opeth
Released: August 30, 2005