Record Review 

For those who love the raw qualities of spontaneity or possess a healthy suspicion of acoustic guitars, falling for Blackwater Park may require some suspension of resistance. Norway's Opeth bilge forth a hybrid of folk, prog-rock and disparate metal styles encompassing old-school power metal riffs and death/black attacks. But any raw ideas that gave birth to the truckload of musical concepts within have been scrubbed with heavy-duty cleaner until they glare with a speckless purity that might at first appeal only to technical fetishists and studio eggheads. Once drug deep into the labyrinth of songs, sub-songs and irresistible passages, though, the studio clarity of every minute detail reveals itself as part of a master plan rather than a crippling bout of anal retentiveness. With a good pair of speakers and a little patience, major crescendos billow forth like a glorious cracking of the heavens.

Opeth avoids coming off like some chest-beating schoolyard bully with a complex to hide. Instead of relentlessly screeching and pounding, the band injects ample doses of intrinsically human, acoustically driven clean vocals. So before some of the denser concepts bubble to the surface, a series of ebbs and flows charge forth with both orchestrated primal power and reflective, stirring emotion. The result is a uniquely effective picture of man as a beast of dualities.

Hearing the disc, it's impossible not to at least casually join the fervent pack of Opeth followers entertaining the idea that the group has a fighting chance of altering the current heavy metal landscape. They've done the unthinkable by making both progressive metal and extreme metal fully engaging.

Opeth play the Masquerade Wed., May 9.


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