OPETH — Damnation

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OPETH - Damnation cover
3.94 | 127 ratings | 12 reviews
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Album · 2003

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1. Windowpane (7:43)
2. In My Time of Need (5:49)
3. Death Whispered a Lullaby (5:49)
4. Closure (5:15)
5. Hope Leaves (4:29)
6. To Rid the Disease (6:20)
7. Ending Credits (3:38)
8. Weakness (4:07)

Total Time: 43:13


- Mikael Åkerfeldt / Guitar, vocals
- Peter Lindgren / Guitars
- Martin Lopez / Drums, percussion
- Martin Mendez / Bass

Guest musician:
- Steven Wilson / Grand piano, Mellotron, Fender Rhoades, backing vocals

About this release

Full-length, Music For Nations
April 22nd, 2003

Thanks to UMUR, andyman1125, J-Man, adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

The progressive rock-oriented metal-renouncing counterpart to Deliverance, Damnation finds the collaboration between Opeth and Steven Wilson tighter than ever before. Wilson provides a decent production and the overall sound of the album resembles Opeth taking on the sound of Porcupine Tree circa Stupid Dream or Lightbulb Sun. The melancholy rainy-day atmosphere of the album sets it apart from much of the sunnier material produced by melodic prog bands of the era. If you liked the quiet sections of Blackwater Park, the good news is that this is an entire album of them.

That said, I think the best thing the album does is actually providing a showse for Mikael Åkerfeldt's clean vocals: I've never been 100% sold on them previously, but either he's improved significantly here or Wilson's production hit on the way to tease the best out of them. It still feels like it would have been better for this to be a double album with Damnation, so the quiet and loud parts of Opeth's sound could have balanced each other out, but either of the two separate albums represents a strong addition to Opeth's back catalogue, though both bear the scars of being torn away from their other half. Just as Deliverance's all-loud-(almost)-all-the-time approach became wearing over its span, so too does this not quite hold the attention as well as more balanced releases from the band.
My first Opeth purchase was “Heritage” and I loved it. I still do. Though back in the day when I got that album, I still wasn’t keen on death vocals. I read about “Damnation” and got the impression it was a great Opeth album and a telltale work presaging things to come after 2010. Firing up the album, “Window Pane” instantly caught my ear and I was ready to soak up the sounds. But after that first track my attention could not hold on enough and the album played through with me hardly noticing anything.

I played it all again and wondered why it was such a mellow and unexciting album. At least with "Heritage" there was this dark and sometimes heavier side of Opeth. There was tension, subtlety, dynamic. This album seemed to be steeped in languid melancholy.

By the third listen I was starting to notice when I heard the Porcupine Tree influences. It wasn’t until I began pulling individual songs off and putting them on mixed playlists that I began to enjoy the songs more. Hearing these laid back tunes in between Opeth’s more energetic work made the music stand out more. Most of the tracks soon became noteworthy because they are each unique from one another and sound individually crafted. “In My Time of Need” features flooding Mellotron, “Death Whispered a Lullaby” is a strong retro piece with some Porcupine Tree-like guitar solos, and “Closure” has some creative percussion near the end as well as some almost creepy and foreboding clean guitar riffs. Moving on, “Hope Leaves” is so mellow and soft but nevertheless still may infect the musical minds of listeners. “To Rid the Disease” again includes Mellotron and perhaps even some real strings, plus some simple and pretty piano. After several listens, my opinion of this album has gone from too slow and boring to a rather decent effort. Only the last two tracks slip by with my mind lost and not focused on the music at all. “Ending Credits” is a simple instrumental with a lead guitar solo, which is good but not a highlight for me, and “Weakness” is so sparse in instrumentation that it’s austere.

It has taken me some time and a several good listens to appreciate “Damnation” at last. I can now also hear how Porcupine Tree influenced Opeth just as Opeth influenced Steven Wilson to add heavy guitar riffs to his band’s songs from “In Absentia” onward. Given my lack of warmth toward “Deliverance”, I wonder now if it wasn’t better to make one album with only the best material from “Damnation” and “Deliverance” instead of two separate albums. With both sides of the band featured on one disc, it’s possible the resulting album would better represent what Opeth have established for themselves. One reason why I love albums like “Still Life”, and “Blackwater Park” and “Ghost Reveries” is because there’s such a natural flow in the mixing up of the music. A D&D album might have been more in line with what fans love about the band, though I can’t fault the band for trying something different. Perhaps it was an idea that sounded better in theory.

“Damnation” takes a bit of sinking into but it is a rewarding album eventually. That is if you don’t just love it form the start anyway. Some people really praise this effort. I feel the parts are mostly more enjoyable than the whole.
Immersion can be such a wonderful thing in literature and music. It’s great in movies and other visual mediums as well, but when you eliminate the visuals entirely and force the audience to let themselves envision the world the artist has created, individual interpretation has a magic of its own. I’ve often seen myself gravitating toward the atmosphere of an album because of this, as well as the fact that it creates a tangible environment to explore (so to speak) with the ears. With Morning View by Incubus, I imagine myself resting on a beach watching the waves go by. Homogenic by Bjork gives off the feeling of walking along an icy tundra because of its sweeping strings and the overall tone. Well, with Opeth’s Damnation, two themes always come through without a doubt: contemplation, and pure unadulterated melancholy.

After an impressive string of well-crafted progressive death metal albums, frontman Mikael Akerfeldt thought it would be interesting to create two polar opposites musically. Deliverance would focus on the band’s heavier side, going on to be one of their harshest and darkest recordings, while Damnation would be entirely devoid of death growls or any form of metal. I can only imagine how much this split the band’s fans at the time of its release, as Damnation’s tonal and dynamic shift was easily their biggest stylistic departure up to that time. Now we have Heritage and Pale Communion nodding to the band’s 70s progressive rock roots and stirring up the fanbase even more, but Damnation points to a palatable blend of classic progressive rock, folk rock, soft rock, and some symphonic elements here and there. It still remains Opeth’s most subdued recording to date, and the melancholic vibe is strong in this one that its presence seeps into every song in some way and enhances the emotional resonance beyond just the songcraft. In fact, the black and white album cover, depicting a doll and a wooden desk, is a perfect companion piece to the music within.

Steven Wilson is, once again, at the helm of production (as well as various instruments such as the keyboard and mellotron), and his work is immaculate here. The instruments blend together phenomenally, especially heightening the chemistry between the guitar and bass work throughout the record. For instance, songs such as “Windowpane” and “Ending Credits” are able to layer keyboards, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and bass work on top of each other without muddling the sound in the slightest. Despite this, the band still capture a sort of contemplative and sparse atmosphere that captures both a sense of bleakness and resignation. “Weakness,” which is an incredibly minimalist duet between Wilson and Akerfeldt, captures the vibe perfectly because of how the keyboard and guitar tones mix. Of course, we can’t forget Mikael’s strong vocal performances, either. His voice sounds dreary and calm, but never in a way that it sounds as though he’s lazy or careless. It’s simply subdued, and melds well with the soft dynamics of each piece; in fact, the harmonies on this album are just gorgeous! There’s one section in “Hope Leaves” that always strikes me as particularly beautiful, in which about 4 or 5-part vocal harmony actually fades into the next instrumental section after the chorus. Little subtleties like that go a long way on this record.

The other members are great as well; Peter Lindgren, Martin Mendez, and Martin Lopez (on guitar, bass, and drums respectively) display both restraint and a decent amount of technicality at the same time, which is a tough balance to effectively pull off. Mendez, in particular, gives a strong bass performance that’s in the foreground much more frequently than in most other Opeth albums; his work on “Windowpane,” “Closure,” and “Death Whispered a Lullaby” is especially strong. As for the lyrics, they’re a bit stripped down this time around in comparison to albums like Blackwater Park or Still Life, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They might be simplistic and lack some of the incredibly detailed imagery of the past, but the more personal and intimate writings heard here seem very fitting for a softer and more somber piece of work. Even Steven Wilson’s lyrical contribution, “Death Whispered a Lullaby,” is pretty decent; if more Porcupine Tree songs had excerpts such as “Into the dark, there are eyelids closing/buried alive in the shifting sands,” instead of crap like “Xbox is a god to me/a finger on the switch, my mother is a bitch/my father gave up ever trying to talk to me,” I’d certainly enjoy that.

Unfortunately Damnation does get a bit repetitive and homogeneous after a while. The band do their best to try and shake things up, but songs such as “To Rid the Disease” and especially “Ending Credits” just don’t do much for me. The latter seems completely unnecessary, totally hampered by needlessly dull songwriting and highly uneventful passages. Not only that, but it seems bizarre that a song named “Ending Credits,” which sounds like the musical version of a curtain call (especially as an instrumental with a fade-in and gradual fade-out), is the penultimate song here. That’s not taking anything away from “Weakness”, however, which is a great closer. As for “To Rid the Disease,” it’s actually a decent song, but the second half is quite a drag compared to the first. The piano playing by Steven Wilson is a nice touch in the background, but the instrumental flourishes aren’t very interesting and become increasingly dull. “Closure” also has a long outro, but the drumming has become much more lively and the instrumental work is actually quite technically challenging in this section. With the exception of “Hope Leaves,” I prefer the first half of Damnation by a pretty wide margin.

Either way, I can’t deny that this album has grown on me over time. It’s flawed, certainly, but the atmosphere is beautiful in its somberness and the songwriting is top-notch in most of the songs. The reason I consider Damnation a better record than other classic prog Opeth albums like Heritage and Pale Communion is because it seems like less of a blatant throwback and more of a 70s prog-influenced piece with its own identity. Basically, it’s the same old Opeth meeting the old prog legends with a passionate love letter… it might pay tribute to the classics, but it’s still distinctly Opeth. If you enjoy classic 70s progressive rock or want to hear a softer version of Opeth’s typical sound, I suggest giving this a try. It might be a jarring shift in style for the band, but make no mistake: this is the same band, just adorning a different, refreshing coat of paint.
The conjuration of a wisp of beauty

Opeth are one of the most revered progressive death metal bands in the entire progressive world. Since the mid-90s, the band has gotten progressively more.. well' progressive in their approach to the genre. With the groundbreaking Still Life, they amazed the community with their truly innovative style and willingness to bend the rules of metal. With each consecutive release, the band developed their sound into one of the most mature death metal acts out there. When they released their 2002 album Deliverance, Mikael Akerfeldt had the idea of doubling the metal-laden album with a near metal-less album the following year (without the consent of his band mates). The result was the sublime Damnation in 2003. The album, full of incredible mellow melodies and jazz inspired and appropriate rhythmic qualities, was a stark departure from their normal style, yet it seemed appropriate for the direction they were headed. Overall, the album is a beautiful representation of this band's potential.

From a band so well known for their inventive metallic output, it's often difficult to believe such a mellow, melodic album came from the same band. The songs, consisting of clean guitar riffs, jazzy rhythmic backings, and a strong bass line accented by various keyboard textures contributed by none other than the revered Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame. The whole atmosphere of the music is truly incredible ' Akerfeldt composes melodies to compliment dark lyrics and themes, with the jazz inspired rhythmic work of Martin Lopez carrying the gentle guitar work along paths of melodic grace, traversing into the airwaves with the conjuration of a simple wisp of musical beauty. This music is truly special. Wilson's accurate use of the mellotron, Rhodes, and other keyboard textures adds to this almost dissonant ambience, filling in the gaps between the band's playing, the vocal melodies, and the harmonic dissonance. This ingenious and minimalistic keyboard work really adds to the music beautifully.

In the end, I must profess my love for this album. It's essentially perfect. It may not be a 'masterpiece' in MMA terms, but this album is still damn good. Full of infectious yet highly progressive melodies, inventive playing, composing, and drumming, the whole album is brimming with a sense of vigor and life, yet is easily the band's gloomier and doomier album. Naming this album's genre would be difficult, for it's almost composed entirely of 70s progressive influences, contains no real metal, yet still has that melodeath twinge of Opethian fame and a slightly doom metal edge going on. However, the album is still a spectacular display of this band's might. It's really incredible that this four piece (five including Wilson) has crafted such a magnificent work of art. Overall, this album is truly spectacular. 4- stars. (adjusted for its lack of metal)
Phonebook Eater
Opeth with “Damnation” prove once more how eclectic and surprising they are. This is most definitely their most haunting and delicate record, the one album of the band’s whole discography that does not present one single growl or even one metal riff. Some people loved, some die hard fans got bored by it, not being under any point of view a metal album. Personally, I think that, even though Opeth has done a better job with this type of music in different moments from different albums (obviously!), this is a great, very well done LP, extremely chilling and melancholic.

Let me start with saying that this band has one of the most gifted metal singers of all time, Mikael Akerfeldt, both when he sings clean vocals or when he growls. I was very happy to see that he was able to use all his clean singing capacities in here, and in such a stunning way too. But Mikael has also a band behind him, each one of them might just be as gifted as the leader. So, generally, the musicianship of this album is intense and at times phenomenal, very precise playing, but without being too rigid or dull. What better element of an album can go better with excellent musicianship? Amazing production, of course. And “Damnation” has this as well. The mixing is perfect as well, no instrument tries to be louder than the rest, but all instruments are perfectly balanced and equalized.

As far as the music is concerned, I think I made clear how different it is from all the other Opeth albums; no metal pieces, tracks guitars, riffs, but just soft, melancholic prog rock, influenced by the greats such as King Crimson (especially in the use of mellotron), Pink Floyd, and a little bit from a band very well known in the modern prog scene, Porcupine Tree (no surprises finding that Akerfeldt produced it with the leader of the band and friend Steven Wilson). While they are some electric guitars here and there, put to enrich the sound or perhaps to have a solo, the acoustic ones are the main instrument, accompanied with beautiful retro sounding keyboards, especially mellotron, and Mikael’s gentle but very emotional voice. The rhythmic section though does not stay passive, and in almost every track there is excellent drumming by Martin Lopez, and precise bass by Martin Mendez.

The mood and atmosphere of this album is never quite relaxed and mellow, but the songs always have a sort of tension and sadness to them, a sadness that will most definitely affect you somehow. At times the songs can flow very easily, like something that slowly but without being disturbed passes by, in a passive way. Other times though you can’t not stop for a second and listen carefully to the warm and pleasant sounds that come out of this record.

“Windowpane” is a great, haunting but very gloomy song, that perfectly represents the feeling of the whole album; a catchy rhythm, but with very deep and sorrowful melodies. “In My Time Of Need” has one of the most stirring mellotron riffs I’ve ever heard towards the end of it, “Death Whispered A Lullaby” a beautiful but again dreadful song, co-written with Steven Wilson. “Weakness” a bleak, electric piano driven song, presenting no drums, and barely no other instruments. Sure, they are some moments that didn’t move or convince me as much as these mentioned ones, but it’ still a really enjoyable listen from start to finish.

“Damnation”, even though progressive rock in 2003 isn’t exactly your “thing”, is a wonderful experience, something that I recommend strongly to anyone.
I used to consider this album a masterpiece. It is, without a doubt, absolutely beautiful, mellow art rock, one of its kind. With this release Opeth proved that without growling and distorted guitars their music is still compelling and captivating. Damnation, along with Deliverance make up a complete portrait of the band, band which creates music full of contradictions, both emotional and musical, but always beautiful.

The album is like a dream about lonely house on the old forgotten, cobbled street. The house's walls are ravaged by passing time, its windows and shutters are closed. Apart from one, with a blank face in the windowpane. This view doesn't cause fear though. It just makes you feel melancholy. And calmness.

This record is completely devoid of any kind of aggression or brutality. It flows like a well told, yet at times a little bit disturbing, story. Jazzy sounding electric guitars and acoustic guitars are used to play understated, captivating melodies. Naturally sounding voice of Mikael Akerfeldt harmonizes with Steven Wilson's backing vocals. Highly atmospheric keyboards completes the task: enchanting, naturally sounding art/prog rock album makes my ears happy.

This album is not a 100% masterpiece though. Most of the songs deserve strong 4 stars. Still, there are two pieces which are masterpieces on their own rights: Closure and To Rid the Disease. The first one is the heaviest and most intriguing song in the album. It is fresh, complex and disturbing piece with oriental sounding end. The other one is the most beautiful song here, very dark and with fantastic parts of piano.

Well, I really love DAMNATION. It's great and even if it is not a masterpiece, I would recommend it to everyone.
Damnation is an absolute masterpiece written by frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt. Although not your standard Opeth record (if there is even something lik a standard opeth record, which i higly doubt). A song like Hope Leaves just gives me the chills every time i listen to it, Åkerfeldt has an absolutely amazing clean voice. Ending Credits is a good example of how much you can achieve with not to many chords and melody lines, and without being to repetetive. Also, this record being produced by Åkerfeldt and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, IEM) guarantees a rock solid production. This might be the best non-metal album by a metal band i have heard in a while.

4 stars
Released in 2003, Damnation is the soft and melodic follow-up to what many claim to be Opeth’s heaviest release up to date, Deliverance. Yes, soft and melodic. Damnation features no growls and is mainly driven by clean and acoustic instrumentation. This is what makes the album a much more attractive effort than Opeth’s other albums to those who dislike the ferocious growls or crushing riffs.

Damnation opens with the memorable riff of “Windowpane”, one of Opeth’s best known songs and righteously, as it is a fantastic track. The beautiful melodic vocals of Mikael Akerfeldt together with the subtle instrumentation creates a hauntingly melancholic setting, which is very common for the album. Another song that does quite reach the greatness of the opener is “Death Whispered A Lullaby”, another melancholic piece that features some dissonant yet calm lead guitar. The album is far from a masterpiece though. My main issue with it is that it’s not very diverse and therefore somwhat dull at times. Most of the songs are somewhat similair to each other in sound, often being driven by clean guitar riffs with a mellotron to create a more rich and haunting feel. 6 out of 8 songs open with a clean or acoustic guitar riff before the drums and bass come in. This is just to give you an idea of what I mean when I say most songs have a similair sound. Composition-wise, some songs are far inferior to songs like “Windowpane”. “Hope Leaves” and “Weakness” for example sound much less memorable than some others and have an overall dull feel.

Damnation is, though being a nice album, far from a masterpiece and lacks consistency to keep me interested for the whole 43 minutes it lasts. Nevertheless, I completely agree with the people who state this is the album to start with when having trouble getting into Opeth, because of it’s soft nature. Though it’s always interesting to hear a metal band make such a soft and melodic album, Damnation certainly doesn’t rank among Opeth’s best.
Damnation is a beautifully crafted melancholy Gothic work that has some of the best of the mellower side of Opeth. The influence from Porcupine Tree is evident as there is a lot of tracks that are a similar style due to Wilson's input. The excellent Windowpane starts the album on a positive note, merging very quiet vocals and virtuoso guitar riffing.

In My Time Of Need is my favourite track on the album that features a melody that really captivates the listener.

Death Whispered A Lullaby is another excellent track that is brooding and full of emotive lyrics.

Other highlights include To Rid The Disease and Weakness.

Overall this is the best Opeth I have heard so far and without the death metal vocalisations and chugging metal riffs, it is a pleasant surprise, and well sung and played. A brave move for a death metal band to record this, but it so masterfully produced, it is captivating from beginning to end.
Conor Fynes
'Damnation' - Opeth (8/10)

The greatest thing about this prog-rock release from death metal masters Opeth is it's sheer personal approach. This is an album that is a shattering contrast to the band's usually heavy material. For those unfamiliar with the group's work, it might come as a suprise that there is actually no trace of metal, save extreme metal in any of the songs. Instead of longer, more technical compositions, Mikael Akerfeldt conveys his meaning through more conventional outlets, concentrating more on sheer emotion as opposed to 'brutality' or progressiveness, although the progressive elements are certainly evident.

The personality and intimacy comes through in the stripped down feeling of the album. That's not to say that there aren't complex parts in the music (there certainly are) but for a good part of the album, there is more of a focus on bare songwriting as opposed to musical virtuosity. This gives more room for the feeling to shine through, and the resulting effect is breathtaking.

Another evident strength this album has to offer is the sincerity of the music. There are songs here that obviously have great personal meaning to Akerfeldt (for example; the song 'Hope Leaves' is about his grandmother dying) and that's what really makes this album such a gem; a pure uncompromised sense of feeling that is hard to find in progressive music nowadays.

Where the album faults might have even been inevitable. Keeping the music mellow means that alot of the album ends up being more one-tracked then an Opeth album usually is. While alot of the songwriting is top-notch, a few songs ('Death Whispered A Lullaby') could have been tweaked somewhat more to get the best possible outcome.

This is an album where Mikael Akerfeldt really put his heart out on the line. For making such a courageous move, and combining that with songwriting brilliance, and beautiful performances from all members of the band, 'Damnation' deserves no less than to be called 'fantastic.' If it wasn't for it's few small faults, I would have no issue calling it a masterpiece. Beautiful, deep, introspective, and moving beyond words.

Members reviews

An unusual album this, for the type of band, and very much unique in Opeth's discography. Its not uncommon for Death and Black Metal bands to take a one time only step away from their standard fair and create an acoustic, or at least none-metal, album. For many of the Scandinavian bands they usual way of going about this is to make an album of folk songs reflecting their regions musical heritage. In Opeths case, Akerfeldt decided that following some of the bands main influences in Progressive Rock would make for a far more interesting take on the non-metal-album-by-a-metal-band concept. And so it is that as the albums opening track, Windowpane, comes to a close you can tangibly feel the influence of Camel and Pink Floyd here in the music, whilst it still tries to maintain a distinctly Opeth like mood to the album. To a point, its also been successful at this, keeping a constantly melancholic, even maudlin, atmosphere to the music reminiscent of the excellent Blackwater Park, though created in a very different way. Different is certainly the operative word here as this is most certainly NOT a metal album. There are no heavy riffs, no crunching guitar work, no frantic double-bass drumming, no speedy bass licks and, shock horror, no growling either. Its that last point that probably will have the most meaning here to anyone that isn't familiar with Opeth because the growls have been a signature part of the bands sound right from the start, but then this was always going to be a more than standard album.

So, how good is the album then? Well, its only a partial success to be honest. Yes, it successfully manages to separate itself from anything the band has done before or since, but you cant help but think why? Opeth are an amazing band because of the sheer contrast between heavy and soft, smooth and sharp, light and dark, and that's missing here. Because of the lack of contrast the constantly maudlin mood never gets let-up on, nor is it ever allowed to make much use of dynamic, all the music is at the same tempo, the same volume and as a result becomes all too bland all too quick. In fact, that's not entirely true, the closing track, Weakness, is particularly slow but that's the only diversion from the norm. Mercifully the songs have been kept short here, with Windowpane the only one to reach past 7 minutes, and this helps keep the album to clock in at only 45 minutes but it still feels like its dragging on too long. The only real problem I have with any one particular song is the closing to Closure, its far too sudden with no stop before Hope Leaves starts, which has a very different tune to it. Its disconcerting, but in a bad way because I cant help but feel that its a bit wrong.

In the end, the music on here isn't bad in small doses, but all together it drags on and feels too samey to give it any lasting effect on me, with Windowpain being the only track on here that I could conceivebly listen to more than once a month and like it. Still, its much better than the very disappointing Deliverance.

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