OPETH — Blackwater Park

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OPETH - Blackwater Park cover
4.30 | 163 ratings | 17 reviews
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Album · 2001

Filed under Progressive Metal


1. The Leper Affinity (10:23)
2. Bleak (9:15)
3. Harvest (6:01)
4. The Drapery Falls (10:53)
5. Dirge for November (7:53)
6. The Funeral Portrait (8:44)
7. Patterns in the Ivy (1:52)
8. Blackwater Park (12:08)

Total Time: 67:13

2002 bonus disc:
1. Still Day Beneath the Sun (4:34)
2. Patterns in the Ivy II (4:11)
3. Harvest (multimedia track)

Total Time: 8:46


- Mikael Åkerfeldt / guitar, vocals
- Peter Lindgren / guitars
- Martin Lopez / drums
- Martin Mendez / bass
- Steven Wilson / voice, guitar, piano
- Markus Lindberg / 3 eggs

About this release

Full-length, Music For Nations
March 12th, 2001

A limited edition version with a bonus disc released in 2002.

"Legacy Edition" CD+DVD package released in 2010, it contained a live version of The Leper Affinity on the CD, and a 5.0 surround mix of the entire album and a making of Blackwater Park documentary on the DVD, as well as reworked cover art and new liner notes.

Thanks to UMUR, Pekka, adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

As a long-time fan of progressive metal, Opeth was a band name that kept popping up. I knew the day would come that I'd have to give them a shot, so where better to start than what seems to be one of their more highly-praised albums; 'Blackwater Park'.

Now, the whole doom and gloom death metal shouting has never really been my cup of tea. I can tolerate it in small doses, and when used in certain contexts it can be very effective, but too much of it is, well, too much! And Opeth have a lot of it!

But if I need to, I can look past that. And in this case, I can (just about) tolerate it, because Opeth have some incredible guitar acrobatics going on! The guitar riffs are so complex and intricate, there's a lot of things going on but at no point does any of it become overbearing. It sounds dark and gritty, but there's some really intelligent riffs going on here.

There are times when vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt sings cleans, and these are some of the more stand-out moments for me. And with some pretty amazing musicianship displayed in pieces like 'Bleak', 'The Funeral Portrait' and 'Harvest', there are some songs worth coming back to. Even if the singing is nothing more than unintelligible gibberish.

Opeth will never be my favourite band, and 'Blackwater Park' won't be an album I intend to go back to very often. But for what it is, it hasn't deterred me from sticking with the Swedish band for a while longer.
“Opeth are one of those bands who are great for starting arguments simply because they exist and for what they do.”

This quote comes from a Pitchfork review of the re-release of “Blackwater Park” and it struck me as hitting the mark right on. In preparation for my own review of this monumental album, I read a number of reviews on other web sites and I found no shortage of haters. In fact, there seem to be three types of reviewers who’ve expressed their opinions of this album. The Gusher has nary a bad thing to say about it. It’s the best metal album ever. Everything from the vocals to the heavy guitars to the drumming to the acoustic parts to Steven Wilson’s hairstyle at the time are excruciatingly perfect. The Take Two Steps Back review treats this album as a roughly decent package albeit with a number of shortcomings. “Don’t get me wrong,” the reviewers say, stating that it’s good enough but a little overrated. The Panner tells us that this album is boring and pointless. Why so many long, meandering mid-tempo guitar riffs? Why does this track suddenly go acoustic for four bars and then goes right back to metal as if nothing happened? And what’s with this progressive, atmospheric, clean-vocal, moody tripe? Not even one decent blast beat! Rubbish!

Some people even go on to mock Opeth fans as if loving the band’s music says that their development in metal appreciation is stunted or retarded. Well, I have been frequently told that my taste in music is weird or whatever, so I don’t hold anything against what other people deem deeply satisfying even if they are Beliebers or Kanye West fans. It’s music and if you love it and colours your life then go on and dig it.

As for “Blackwater Park”, let’s take a look at some figures. Checking over eleven lists ranking Opeth albums (I do this kind of thing because it helps me explore a band’s catalogue more deeply – cough, cough, anal me, cough), “Blackwater Park” has an average rank of 1.9, which is the highest average of all 12 studio albums. So yes, fans of the band, fanatics or not, generally agree that this is a great piece of work. (Metal fans tend to rate it higher than prog fans). Furthermore, MetalSucks polled a wide range of people in the music industry, from musicians to producers to writers, etc. to ask them to name the top 21 metal albums of the 21st century, and “Blackwater Park” came in at #3 (“Ghost Reveries” was #10). So in spite of the fact that this album is boring with long meandering riffs and pointless acoustic interludes, it seems to stand pretty tall. Hey, I can see it’s not for everyone.

One reason I can see why this album gets so much love is that it combines the heaviness of “My Arms, Your Hearse” and the more complex song structure and riffage of “Still Life”. This is the pinnacle of that leg of the Opeth journey. With Steven Wilson producing, the sound is also richer and broader than the more compacted bombast of MAYH or the slightly dried out sound of “Still Life” in some parts (I feel it’s like checking up on your delicious soup and finding a skin has formed). The album is loud and the aggressive, heavy parts are really in your face if not sledge hammering your buttocks. Parts of the album really lay on that aggression, too. “The Leper Affinity”, much of the title track, parts of “Bleak” and my personal favourite “Funeral Portrait” are really massive; the riff that comes in at 1:16 in “Funeral Portrait” is so kick ass - my favourite Opeth riff of all! Yet Opeth would not be who they claim to be without acoustic breaks which are always a part of the song-writing formula. Track three, “Harvest”, is an all-strummed acoustic number and it will remind you that the third track on “Still Life”, “Benighted”, was also an acoustic track. “The Drapery Falls” begins acoustic but then soon turns toward the heavy guitars again, while “Patterns in the Ivy” is a rather pretty though sombre acoustic guitar/piano instrumental.

With all these acoustic parts and clean vocals, not to mention Steven Wilson’s vocal contribution in “Bleak”, plus the fact that there are no really speedy, thrashy parts despite the heaviness, and that the songs tend to be mostly between 7 and 12 minutes, I can understand why some death metal fans would call this a wankers’ album. I could also mention the frequent use of sustained guitar notes to create atmosphere and lots of long, open-chord riffs that are iterated not four times but six (just to stretch out the song length claim the detractors) and the turn-off factor for those who prefer short, blasting death metal becomes that much more apparent. The only thing everyone seems to agree upon is that Mikael Akerfeldt has awesome death vocals.

As for my own opinion, I liked this album when I first got it, but it has only been recently that Opeth’s entire catalogue has finally clicked with me and I can now really sink into every album. That said, there’s one track on here that I consider the runt of the litter and that’s “Dirge for November”. It’s not Mikael’s frail vocal bit at the beginning that deflates this song for me, nor is it the beautiful acoustic and clean electric part that follows. And when the melodic distorted guitars come in, it’s all just part of another Opeth song. But the death growl part seems to dwell on the same repeated open-chord riff over and over before a slight change promises something different and rewarding only to circle back to repeating that riff. If it weren’t for the vocals and the lyrics it would sound pretty redundant. Then the song wraps up with a bit of clean guitar that runs through a passage of repeated chords and notes and gives the impression of concluding and thus making me think, “Oh, well, not the most exciting track but, ehh, it’s okay,” and then it repeats one more time! I suppose it’s not so bad at times but given that this album so frequently opens a full can of whoop-ass, “Dirge for November” can’t help but sounding a less than spectacular. That’s alright because “Funeral Portrait” comes right up next. Yeah!!!

The best metal album ever? I wouldn’t go that far. It’s not even my favourite Opeth album. But “Blackwater Park” is without question an essential album in the band’s catalogue.
siLLy puPPy
I know i'm in the minority when I say that BLACKWATER PARK does for me like every other OPETH album i've heard. Basically I can sit through the first half of the album and then I tolerate the rest but never totally getting into it. This like many of theirs is a sprawling hour plus album that seems to be extremely popular. I can only guess why I am the odd dog out with this group. I don't mind their sound at all. It's just that 70 minutes of the same tempos, overused riffs and endlessly long acoustic passes just doesn't float my boat. I have come to a conclusion that OPETH is a kind of death metal lite. An extreme metal sound that is really a psychedelic rock band at heart. The tempos and much of the music has a monotonous groove to it. It is not as technically demanding to listen to like other extreme death metal bands like Gorguts, Cynic or even less progressive brutal bands like Behemoth or even Deicide for that matter.

BLACKWATER PARK is an interesting listen just to hear Steven Wilson on board contributing to playing music and producing. Can't say i'm a huge fan of the finished product and I much prefer the Porcupine Tree releases that this collaboration would influence. I have had many a friend or acquaintance rave about OPETH and I always ask them what they find so appealing. No one really knows for sure but they tend not to love extreme metal and even find that OPETH opened up the gates for them to walk into the wonderful world of extreme metal. So all I can say is kudos to OPETH for putting out records that are recruiting stations for metalheads. Even if i'm not the biggest fan of their music, I certainly am a fan of their influence. And I have to say that I do like a few songs when the album starts. I just wish that it would develop into something more interesting.
Steven Wilson and Opeth got together on Blackwater Park, with Wilson both performing on some tracks and producing the album. His influence can be particularly heard in the quieter passages of the album, which at points remind me of the indie rock-prog rock mashups Porcupine Tree produced on albums such as Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun.

For a while Blackwater Park - like much of Opeth's output - had left me a bit cold, coming across as a technically flashy but emotionally distant death metal and approximations of Porcupine Tree. Now, however, I'm in the process of reappraising Opeth and I think I understand the album much better than I used to. I'd previously noted Still Life as the point when the balance in Opeth's music swung from "death metal with prog elements" to "progressive metal with death metal elements", and whilst I'd say Blackwater Park is still just about in the latter camp, I actually think the death metal side of their sound expresses itself a touch more forcefully than on Still Life.

That's slightly counter-intuitive, since you'd expect Wilson's presence at the production desk would nudge the band into leaning into their prog side still further, but perhaps it worked out differently: because they had the confidence that their prog aspects would still shine forth, they could wave their death metal flag a little more without the album coming across as a regression to an earlier phase of their career - which it absolutely is not.

The end result to this is that Opeth manage to weave their death metal aspects into their prog aspects even more seamlessly than ever before, with the result that just as you think the album has left death metal territory entirely, the grunts and harder riffs swoop back in to plunge things into chaos once more, and just as you think they've reverted back to full death metal, suddenly a radically different musical passage emerges from the depths, and it all happens so seamlessly and smoothly that it's never jarring or awkward.

In short, Blackwater Park is every bit the masterpiece that Still Life was, a further refinement of the approach of that album enabled in part by the comparative stability of the lineup. (At the time this was the longest Opeth had gone without any lineup changes, and indeed this configuration of the band was pretty much the most stable one they'd have until the lineup that existed from Pale Communion to In Cauda Venenum.) As well as being a landmark release for Opeth fans, the album will likely also be of interest to Porcupine Tree fans interested in what transpired between Lightbulb Sun and In Absentia to prompt the band's radical musical change during that time period.

After epic STILL LIFE Opeth began a long collaboration with Steven Wilson. His presence is quite perceptible on "Blackwater Park" since his style and influence are well-known to every neo-prog fan.

The album sounds softer than previous releases, every tone is clear: drums, guitars and vocals use whole wide spectrum of frequencies which results in nice and fruity sound. Mikael Akerfeldt' growls are powerful as always, but the mellow parts sound different than before. Honestly, I preferred his singing style from STILL LIFE as it was a bit more mellow and stylized in a kind of atmospheric way. Here Mikael decided to sing more naturally.

If it was ending on Drapery Falls it would be 5 stars EP. But there are another 4 songs which are, in my opinion, weaker than brilliant first half. After aforementioned track Mike just runs out of ideas, the songs become less interesting and not as well composed as their predecessors. Really, first four songs are incredible - original, emotion provoking, absolutely epic!

It's an excellent album by an excellent band, but I cannot rate it with 5 star rating since there are some tracks I found weaker than average Opeth' songs.
This was my first introduction to Opeth and it completely blew me away. It still does so 8 years later. This is Opeth, this is what they do and how they do it. If you want one Opeth album, take this one. If you want one modern metal album, take this one. Well this may even be the best chunk of rock 'n' roll ever!

Blackwater Park is the perfect merge between the stylistic subtleness of Still Life and the intensity of My Arms Your Hearse. It is the culmination of an incredibly strong string of Opeth albums and while you won't find many tricks here that they didn't do before, it's better, more coherent, it’s richer in sound and it's performed with clenched fists. The hand of Steven Wilson is clearly felt on this album. Wilson didn’t interfere with the song writing but he thought Opeth everything they needed to fully realize their talent: vocal harmonies, textured sounds, vocal recording advice and most importantly, guiding Mike’s riff wizardry into compositional perfection. Even a lesser song like Dirge For November is perfect when considered on its own, it just pales in comparison to the stunning music of Leper Affinity, Bleak, Drapery Falls and the ominous title track Blackwater Park

The finishing touch is the artwork. Just like the Morningrise artwork, it sets the tone perfectly and completely integrates with the music. Possibly the best Travis Smith cover ever. And it should be, because, as I've just explained, this is the best album of all time and it deserves an album cover of the same exceptional standard.
I am no fan of death metal growling vocals and when they infiltrate the songs on this I am completely turned off. The final title track closer is simply brutal growling and it just goes on and on, though I know many Opeth death heads will adore this. However there are true moments that capture my attention on this. Leper Affinity is death growling layered over unintelligible lyrics, and repetitive metal riffing. The riffs get better as the song progresses. The drums are double kick speed precision percussion. The lead solos are excellent on this. There is a breakneck choppy rhythm that locks in at 3:30 and brutal death vocals accompany. Subtle it aint! The acoustic flourishes eventually chime in and very nice gentle vocals with a dreamy quality. Not for long as the aggressive vocals that make it sound like Akerfeldt has been gargling gravel return. Man, these sections are dark. The lead guitar is sustained and ascends and descends as the growls continue. The lead breaks are wonderful and a true highlight for me. It ends with peaceful piano that brings the mood down, though it is still bleak and sombre, perhaps melancholy.

The Funeral Portrait begins with acoustic guitar patterns. There is the threat that it may explode and eventually distorted guitars crash in slicing up the tranquillity. Very intense death metal vocals follow. This is as heavy as the band gets on this album. There are some brilliant riffs on this and the lead breaks are fantastic. I always admire the guitar work on these lengthy Opeth tracks. It really takes off in the section at 6:33, perhaps some of the best death metal I have ever heard; absolutely spine chilling metal, with an incredible wall of sound. The time sig is frenetic, the drums crash down, and the harmonies are excellent. Lead guitars soar over a very complex sporadic riff, the fret work is incredible; this is a definitive highlight on the album.

Harvest is as peaceful and well sung as anything from "Damnation" and one of my favourites for that reason. The acoustic work is excellent, and it keeps a steady tempo, and has a pleasant melody. The film clip showing band members recording in the studio is worth digging out too. This is the softer side of Opeth, and really the thing that appeals to me most.

Bleak has quite a brutal vocal and some bizarre riffs but the melody is infectious. Even as the vocals change to a clearer sound, the lyrics become more grim, "Devious movements in your eyes, Moved me from relief, Breath comes out white clouds with your lies, And filters through me, You're close to the final word, You're staring right past me in dismay, A liquid seeps from your chest And drains me away, Mist ripples round your thin white neck, And draws me a line, Cold fingers mark this dying wreck, This moment is mine? Night fall again, Taking what's left of me, Slight twist, shivering corpse?" Certainly the content is centred around death, as is expected with Opeth, but the darkness does not appeal to me, though I can see that it would to others.

I really like the intro melody on guitars to A Drapery Falls. There are some really ethereal passages of guitars here and Steven Wilson style vocals chime over. The vocals are incredible and the lead breaks are killer metal. It builds gradually into some full on riffs and then death vocals return as expected. The lyrics are interesting "This test I can't persist, Kept back by the enigma, No criterias demanded here, Deadly patterns made my wreath, prosperous in your ways, Pale ghost in the corner Pouring a caress on your shoulder Puzzled by shrewd innocence, Runs a thick tide beneath, Ushered into inner graves, Nails bleeding from the struggle, It is the end for the weak at heart, Always the same A lullaby for the ones who've lost all Reeling inside, My gleaming eye in your necklace reflects Stare of primal regrets." The tension and release between light and dark are inspirational. A Drapery Falls reminds me of Riverside sometimes, and has beautiful passages of acoustic and swells of melodic guitar with very emotive vocals. The band play this many times live. The style heard on Damnation are always welcome to my ears. Many times Akerfeldt's vocals are actually layered over each other. It is quite a sound he generates with those death metal vocal chords; very deep, nasty, spiteful vocals that always turn the room dark. The lead guitars are chaotic at times, with off kilter drumming and crashes of rhythm guitar distortion. Eventually, the song settles down again and the clear vocals return, a very good tone that resonates or even competes with the aggressive drumming and guitar smashing. The cookie monster vocals cease suddenly and then acoustics and gentle vocals return. The riff to end locks in the head with it's transfixing melody. This track is a definitive highlight of the album.

In general the majority of the album is too brutal and over the top for me, but this will appeal to death prog metal freaks, and there's a lot out there! So I can suggest that this is an album only for those who like their prog metal dark and brutal with death metal vocals as they are prevalent throughout. It is a good album but I have heard better from Opeth.
After establishing a new sound on My Arms, Your Hearse and learning to write with it on Still Life, Opeth were in a stable position. A solid line-up was in place, they had a great album behind them, and a new producer in Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. And so once again unrehearsed and unprepared, the band entered the studio to record a new album.

Since Still Life not much had changed, the style is essentially the same blend of death metal with acoustic passages and epic everchanging structures, but with Blackwater Park the band squeezed that last little bit of creativity out of them to make their first undisputed masterpiece. The arrangements have an extra dose of liveliness and colour, the sound is fuller and the tracks, well, a tad more interesting and enjoyable. Martin Mendez had made his recording debut on Still Life, but while his bass was a bit buried in the mix on that album, on Blackwater Park he gets through with brilliant lines a plenty. For example the midsection of Bleak owes much of its greatness to his bass work. Martin Lopez's drumming is getting livelier by every album, here it's pure enjoyment trying to airdrum along to the tracks and find him doing something unpredictable every time you think you got a hold of the beat. But as Mikael Åkerfeldt was taking a bigger and bigger hold of the writing for the band, it's difficult to say which parts come from which visionary head.

Years ago The Drapery Falls was the first song to make an impression on me, and still today I think it's the Opeth track best capturing their combination of atmosphere, great riffs, the distorted guitar orchestra, versatile vocals, beauty, and the sometimes drastic but always fitting contrasts between the ugly and the beautiful. The change from the brutal landslide to the gorgeous acoustic section around 7:50 and the ensuing transitions between them might be my favourite Opeth moment ever. Harvest takes the Opeth ballad to the best results yet following Credence from Hearse and Benighted from Still Life, Bleak has many of my all-time favourite Opeth moments and The Funeral Portrait some absolutely head crushing riffs and transitions. And while the rest of the tracks reach the same standards, I find no room for complaining.

One of my favourite metal albums and the first peak of Opeth.
Listening to Opeth's music can't be done while driving or in a happy mood, you have to focus and dedicate a specific amount of time to digest every aspect they offered here, but if you're able to enter the atmosphere created by the band, the experience is rewarding. "Blackwater Park" had received extremely-mixed receptions, from an elegant masterpiece status to rubbishy-bored album. After multiple listens, my opinion felt in between, above the borderline of mediocre, to be precise.

The strong point of this album is it has an excellent production, a perfect musical delivery by the band especially how Åkerfeldt alternated his vocal style from growl to clean, and most of the songs are great. However, couple of tracks are quite dull such as "The Leper Affinity" which just circled around and moves forward with no clear destination or the title track, probably the worst here, a lengthy track with an absolute boring arrangement.

The greatest tracks they made here are definitely "Bleak" and "The Funeral Portrait", no doubt about that. Take a look at how Opeth combined the acoustic and electric guitar forming a thrilling riffage on "Bleak", the smart switch of vocal, the melodic insertion, and even the jazzy short solo passage. On the other hand, "The Funeral Portrait" swayed on a progressive metal texture with an uptempo rhythm, dynamic riffs, and a lot of screaming vocals. I also like the slowtempo balladic experiment in "Harvest" and the bluesy solo is nicely done. The single, "The Drapery Falls", influenced by Pink Floyd with a gloomy background nuance and quite good but tends to be boring and flat when the growly part came in. My last fave track on this album is "Dirge For November", a dominating bass sound at the start before exploding to a heavier part with a beautiful melody lines.

The problem with this album is the repetitive pattern of acoustical/piano intro followed by an explosive rhythm, growl/clean vocal, sudden stop before fading out, everything is too predictable. And like I said at the start, this one is a mood-dependence album, usually it's very hard to listen to this album entirely at the same time, but you have to do that to grab the whole idea of "Blackwater Park". An acceptable 3.5 stars album, not more than that I guess.
Conor Fynes
'Blackwater Park' - Opeth (8/10)

Throughout my time as a relatively 'hardcore' Opeth fan, I have been always trying to appreciate this album more. It's been called the 'greatest album of all time' but I still have never truly been able to appreciate it as being more than 'pretty good.' There are some very good songs on here, like the quintessential Opeth classic 'The Drapery Falls' but there are also some songs that are nothing more than mediocre, such as the rather boring 'Dirge For November.'

Up until quite recently, I never even liked the epynomous title track 'Blackwater Park.' I thought it was far too repetitive, and didn't really go anywhere. Nowadays, I think it builds up rather well, but it's still not fantastic. The only two songs that would be found on an archetypal Opeth 'masterpiece' are 'The Leper Affinity' and 'The Drapery Falls.' Besides that, there isn't any fantastic material here that would warrant calling it the majestic work of innovation that it's been called by so many others.

The fact that Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree fame) produces this album is an obvious plus. The sound quality is great, and a sharp improvement from their earlier works. Still, there doesn't feel like theres a real magical evocation on this album. It's great, yes. But it's not something I would ever compare to true masterpieces, like 'Still Life' or even 'Ghost Reveries' (which got me into Opeth in the first place.)

If I'm missing something about this album that makes it a masterpiece, that so many other people have recognized, please message me and tell me what I'm not recognizing. Otherwise, this album remains a great, but not superb Opeth album. Four stars.

Members reviews

The greatest thing about Metal Music Archive and other sites in the MAC network is that it allows us access to music we might not normally hear. I live in the city of Pekin, Illinois, an even more conservative neighbor of the relatively conservative city of Peoria. Therefore, the radio choices are limited. Tool is probably the only non-commercial metal band that you would hear on a regular basis. The point is that sister site Prog Archives is probably the only way that I would have found Opeth's music. In fact, I think I owe a debt to the moderators of PA and MMA. I've found a lot of really great music here, and so I have listened to several of Opeth's releases.

I like a lot of death or black metal-influenced bands, although I wouldn't call myself a hardcore fan of those subgenres. I love Enslaved, My Dying Bride, and Leprous, for instance. Considering the generally high opinion of Opeth expressed on Prog Archives, I wish I liked them more. I'm just not entirely convinced by their take on black metal and progressive rock. I did pick the Blackwater Park album because it's considered by many to be the band's crowning achievement. For my money, the best tracks on Blackwater Park are "Bleak", "Harvest", "The Leper Affinity", and the title track.

The rest of the album is fine, but it doesn't really stick with me. One of the tests of a band for me is whether their songs stick with me when I'm not actually listening to them. The issue is certainly not musicianship; everyone in Opeth knows what they're doing. Most of the songs just overstay their welcome a bit. I do enjoy Blackwater Park more than some of Opeth's other albums, and I understand why many people consider them innovative. Musical taste, however, is ultimately a very subjective thing. Taking into account all the good things on Blackwater Park and its value for most folks on this site, I'm giving the album 3 1/2 stars rounded up.
Powerful is the principal adjective that comes to mind when I hear this album. Each track has an air of authority to it that gives the album a truly commendable level of focus and drive from start to finish. Musically cohesive, varied, and balanced, yet undeniably bombastic, it really packs a significant punch!

Every section of every song presents a melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic motive that is not only aggressive, but pleasantly tuneful and memorable. One of the the things I most appreciate about Opeth is their ability to take metal textures and moods and turn them into pleasantly singable motives. I love the amount of diligence that goes into the crafting of each thematic idea and the formal organization. To me, one of Mikael Akerfeldt's biggest strengths as a songwriter/composer is his deftness at measuring just how long each passage is supposed to go on for to get the point across and make it truly memorable without having it overstay its welcome. There is clear deliberation behind each section, and as dense as each one is, there are many opportunities for further discoveries on future listens, ensuring high replay value and bolstering my opinion of the listening experience as a whole.

Granted, in my opinion, not every moment is absolutely flawless, as some parts seem to dip a little from what are in my books the clear peaks of the album. But these dips are highly subjective, as they seem to be sections that other reviewers laud quite frequently. For example, I'm not entirely sold on Harvest, and Dirge for November isn't a 5-star song to me, but I can understand and appreciate where other reviewers are coming from in praising these songs as such, and I think that's one of the aspects of this album that does make it a true progressive landmark: the ability to connect with an audience in a wide variety of unique ways, yet still communicating a universal message of musical mastery and emotional depth.

As stated, some moments might not be perfect in my book, but the album as a whole does more than just balance them out when factoring the highlights because of its solid sense of cohesion, balance, emotion, and musicality. This is a terrific album with some truly phenomenal tracks, particularly The Leper Affinity, The Drapery Falls, and Blackwater Park, which is in my top 10 songs of all time. If you still haven't heard any of Opeth's material and are unsure if the praise is deserved, I implore you to strip away your negative judgments and preconceived notions. There's pure, unadulterated artistry to be found within this forceful package, and it yields truly phenomenal rewards upon first hearing and innumerable returns with each subsequent listen.
Blackwater Park; Opeth's Blandest Effort.

Maybe it was Steve Wilson's hand in the creation of this album coupled with Akerfeldt's eagerness to have him onboard. I wouldn't know, as I haven't yet become familiar with the music of Porcupine Tree, for which Akerfeldt professes so much love, but to me, this is Opeth's least impressive and most commercial metallic release. The opener, "The Leper Affinity" starts things off well and is easily the best track of the album. Standard Opeth awesomeness up to that time, in perhaps a more succinct, but more acutely atmospheric package.

But I'm bothered by the following track. In 'Bleak' I could swear I hear the strains of... Metalcore. At first I thought 'Maybe it's coincidence', or at worst, 'Maybe they've muddied, mellowed and simplified their various influences down to a mush on this one.' but no. This is just so simplistic and 'catchy'. Remove the leaden guitars and death vocals, crop the ending and this could easily receive airplay on any 'college/alterna-rock/whatever' station. It isn't god-awful, in some places it projects that beautiful, meloncholic atmosphere informed by the shadow of prog rock classicism that is Opeth's main appeal, but it certainly doesn't blow me away in any sense at all, and it's remained a low moment in Opeth's history for me. So basic, bland, and so disappointing.

The next track, "Harvest", is actually very beautiful and mellow. Even quite romantic. It basically distills Opeth's ability to create these amazing atmospheres and melodies into a simple little ballad, and would foreshadow the material on the album 'Damnation'. I seem to think of this song as the 'heart' of the album 'Blackwater Park', and an indicator that Akerfeldt & co really weren't in as much of a mindspace to create the heavy, complex and diverse music of past or (thankfully) future albums. That would make sense, given the much more relaxed, atmospheric and simple approach of this album. But it's in "Harvest" where Opeth's capacity for creating these incredibly eerie, beautiful and poignant, darkly emotive atmospheres and moods is really showcased in a very direct, basic form, and it works. It isn't metal, but it works, and along with the overall more simplistic and frankly, less enthusiastic nature of "Blackwater Park", it foretells of their need for creating an album like "Damnation" and getting the mellow prog/folk/rock out of their system.

I seem to sense a searching in Blackwater Park, to strike some kind of balance or even compromise between the various aspects of Opeth's sound, and it seems to be the heaviness and complexity that often get compromised. Many of the heavy moments are less heavy here, and often much simpler. There are fewer of them, and most of them, aside from the opener, "Leper Affinity" are either very mournful, as in the doomy "The Drapery Falls", (another highlight), and "Dirge for November", (probably the band's single darkest musical expression), or more of a grooving, classic hard rock influenced riffing workout as in "The Funeral Portrait". The eerie and enigmatic beauty, and haunted, arcane maelstrom of lethality takes a back seat most of the way through this release, in favor of a more generally mournful, somehow almost darkly romantic mystique. It's often extremely evocative, even poignant. I have a feeling many female fans favor this album.

It seems there's a divergence of Opeth's various facets as well, almost as if they were examining the various elements of the Opeth sonic landscape. "The Leper Affinity" is a recapitulation of the overall Opeth sound up to that point, "Harvest" Is wholly mellow and acoustic, "The Drapery Falls" and "Dirge for November" are both slow, depressive and doomy, "The Funeral Portrait" has a grooving classic hard rock/metal feel in it's riffing, and the closing title track (another low point of the album for me) "Blackwater Park" seems to include all the previously covered elements (including more metalcore), as though over the course of the album, Opeth had dismantled themselves and examined all aspects, then reassembled themselves in some new configuration. Albeit losing a lot of the initial appeal of their previous work in the process. Thankfully the evident metalcore undertones would never resurface again. (so far)

The consolation I take from this release is that it seems to be an examination of the uncanny moods and atmospheres Opeth are able to create with their music, as if in some sense they were trying to get to the center of what makes Opeth's sonic and emotional alchemy so unique and darkly beautiful. It makes for what may be Opeth's most introspective album, apart from "Damnation", of course. "Blackwater Park" has that going for it. The emphasis here is largely on songwriting and atmosphere, rather than riffing, and strangely this time around, most of the songs which do emphasize riffing come off a lot less successfully than the mellower moments. I still tend to feel Steve Wilson may have had to do with the way this music turned out. I have to admit I was glad when he departed.

In any event, I consider this album the beginning of a transitional period for Opeth, which was continued with the dual "Damnation/Deliverance" releases and led to their current sound begun on "Ghost Reveries". It's unfortunate that "Blackwater Park" was so well recieved and broke Opeth to the mainstream, but it's also easy to see how that would happen, given the material. This and to a lesser extent "Deliverance" are probably the two albums which have done the most to earn Opeth their reputation as a "boring" band among metal fans.

The Sound?

Well, with Steve Wilson on board as producer, obviously it's the best sounding Opeth album up to this point, with a warm, wide and balanced sound that seems geared toward expressing an atmosphere and mood. It could probably use a little more bite, and a little more attention paid to the guitar tone, which sounds slightly muddied in a way that I can't really decide is good or bad, but I don't think anything about the production serves as any real detriment to the album, or that anything could be improved enough to drastically increase the appeal of the material.

Frankly, Lopez's drumming sounds slightly labored in places here. I do think he's a great, expressive drummer when he's firing on all 8 cylinders, but this is the album that first begins to evidence his struggling with the pressures that led him to eventually quit the band. He holds his own well enough and certainly doesn't detract from the album, but he's also done better work. He sounds a little overworked in the studio. It's too bad the band could never find the time to rehearse properly during this era. Thankfully it doesn't really show up on the album, save only slightly in Lopez's taut, cautious drumming, (and possibly the seemingly underdeveloped nature of the musical ideas on this and "Deliverance").


"The Leper Affinity" (The heaviest and most complex thing here) "Harvest" (Beautiful. Fits in with "Damnation") "The Drapery Falls" (Mournful, swirling, simple but beautiful) "Dirge for November" (Simple, but extremely dark) Some people will also enjoy "The Funeral Portrait" simply because it rocks out. Solid, but unremarkable compared to a lot of Opeth's other work. ..Actually, that sort of sums up this whole album.

If you're a fan of Opeth at all, you'll enjoy this to some extent or other and it's worth having, but in case you're new to the band, DON'T start here unless Opeth is much heavier music than you're used to, or you've heard "Damnation" first and are looking for the best place to start getting into their metallic work from there. It's their most "accessible" metallic album.
I purchased Blackwater Park after hearing lots and lots of astonishingly good things about the band, and about this album in particular. Now writing this review, I'm having a hard time deciding on a rating. The musicians are all very skilled on their instruments and the clean vocals are very good, much better than the average prog metal band. I don't mind the death metal growls either, as I have listened to a lot of straight death/black metal and am used to it.

While the album is technically very competent, it fails to move me for some reason, and the emotion I feel most strongly when I listen to it is boredom. I think that on the whole, the songs are far longer than their content merits. So, while the band has many good ideas, they are played too many times and become repetitious. One of the first rules of showmanship is "leave them wanting more." Opeth might have accomplished this is they had chopped off five minutes from each of their songs.

Another problem I have with the record is a problem many technically excellent prog metal bands face. The riffs seem too metronomically perfect, too well rehearsed, too cold and lacking in human inspiration and spontaneity. I don't know about you, but when I listen to heavy metal, I like it to get me fired up, to get my adrenaline pumping and my heart pounding. This type of music does not accomplish that.

I think the band's strongest point is actually their acoustic work. The way they layer acoustic guitars on top of each other creates some beautiful textures, and it is here that the album really succeeds. Bleak is an excellent track, as is The Drapery Falls and the Funeral Portrait, but again, they go on long past the point where I lose interest.

I think three stars is a fair rating, for a technically brilliant album that is too long and lacks some of the human warmth that I prefer in my music.

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