OPETH — My Arms, Your Hearse

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OPETH - My Arms, Your Hearse cover
3.90 | 99 ratings | 12 reviews
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Album · 1998

Filed under Death Metal


1. Prologue (0:59)
2. April Ethereal (8:41)
3. When (9:14)
4. Madrigal (1:25)
5. The Amen Corner (8:43)
6. Demon of the Fall (6:15)
7. Credence (5:25)
8. Karma (7:52)
9. Epilogue (3:59)

Total Time: 52:37

2000 bonus tracks:
10. Circle of the Tyrants (Celtic Frost cover) (5:12)
11. Remember Tomorrow (Iron Maiden cover) (5:00)

Reissue Total Time 62:49


- Mikael Åkerfeldt / vocals, guitars, bass, piano (on Prologue)
- Peter Lindgren / guitars
- Martin Lopez / drums
- Fredrik Nordström / Hammond organ (on Epilogue)
- Johan De Farfalla / bass (on Circle of the Tyrants)
- Anders Nordin / drums (on Circle of the Tyrants)

About this release

Full-length, Candlelight Records
August 18th, 1998

Reissued by Candlelight in 2000 with two bonus tracks previously released on tribute albums "In Memory of... Celtic Frost" and "A Call to Irons: A Tribute to Iron Maiden".

Thanks to CCVP, UMUR, Pekka for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

The Crow
This is, in my humble opinion, the weakest Opeth's album of their first years.

The main problem I have with this record is that the songs are very similar between them: April Ethereal, When, Karma... The songs of this album have a composition and structure very similar between them, what makes this album some dull and boring sometimes. It's a bit repetitive for me, and talking of a band like Opeth that’s a sort of letdown.

In addition, the sound of the drums is bad, same with the bass. It's obvious that Mikael isn't an experimented bassist, because he plays the bass guitar in that record, and it sounds very low and with a lame sound. Same with the acoustic parts, too dark and sometimes strangely uninspired.

Nevertheless, I don't consider this a bad album at all, because although it's repetitiveness and lackluster production, songs like the great Demon Of The Fall and Creedence are pretty good, same with the Prologue and Epilogue. In addition, here we can see an anticipation of Still Life, in some guitar riffs and the fantastic choirs like the song When.

Conclusion: I think this is a transition album, and although that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this case the result was an album which is far from being a highlight in Opeth’s discography. They suffered the lack of a bassist and a weak production.

Nevertheless, the record has great moments and it’s an obligated stop for technical death metal lovers or Opeth’s fans.

Best Tracks: Demon of the Fall, When, Creedence.

My rating: ***

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com
The sky is dark and dismal, rain plummeting as if to cover every surrounding inch of earth. Soon, a lone piano enters to fully flesh out the mood. A few melancholic chords are played, and the scene is set. From the distance, a crescendo of cappella vocals gets stronger… stronger… stronger…

...and from this point forward, Opeth would rewrite the blueprints of progressive metal for the next decade.

My Arms, Your Hearse was a turning point for the Swedish metal act. It’s the very reason we were able to have masterpieces like Still Life and Ghost Reveries in the first place, as it’s the opus that cemented Opeth’s standing as one of extreme metal’s titans and foremost innovators. But beyond just its legacy, My Arms, Your Hearse still stands strong as its own powerful creation because of its near-seamless blend of death metal, black metal, progressive rock, folk, jazz, and blues into one cohesive offering. The twin guitar attack exhibited by Mikael Akerfeldt and Peter Lindgren got more fluid, and while Johan De Farfalla was sadly absent from this point onward, Akerfeldt himself filled in the cracks nicely on bass. On top of that, we also got a new longtime addition to the group with drummer Martin Lopez, whose musical chemistry with the rest of the band is staggering on this release (and most subsequent releases, I might add).

Whereas predecessors Morningrise and Orchid often seemed like a bunch of great ideas strung together in an arbitrary fashion, My Arms, Your Hearse builds upon much more conceptual and coherent groundwork. Because of this, the songwriting is often incredibly flowing and focused, with each idea progressing into the next in a logical way. This also makes for a lot of emotional peaks and valleys, especially when the band sways between death metal savagery and folk-like contemplations. Some of the quartet’s finest moments of melancholy and sheer melodic catharsis are on display here, such as the mindblowing finales of “When” and “Demon of the Fall.” But the reason these moments work so well is the balance of moods and dynamics on offer. For instance, the decision to have the reflective acoustic folk ballad “Credence” after “Demon of the Fall” provides a contrast that’s as beautiful as it is stark. The way it calmly rests as a lonesome trench between two of the album’s heaviest tracks provides a nice moment to sit back and rest before the brutality comes back. And even the brutality is multi-faceted in its own unique way, right from the jazzy a cappella chord that kicks off “April Ethereal” to the densely layered guitar chords in the doom metal portion of “The Amen Corner.”

Speaking of layering, the production values are spectacular. Frederik Nordstrom captured the essence of a raw extreme metal recording while letting each instrument move and breathe as if having a life of its own. The “clear-meets-murky” approach was a great choice, retaining just the right amount of melodicism and accessibility while still letting the sheer intensity of the heavy moments shine through. Case in point: during the chugging one-note riff in “April Ethereal,” check out how those lead guitars are playing at two separate octaves above the simple riff. The combination of the eerie leads and the crushing nature of the breakdown is exquisite, and the same goes for the complex riff patterns that cover a good chunk of “Demon of the Fall.” The harmonies are bleak and depressing, a good fit for the relentless guttural vocals and the aggressive rhythm guitar assault. There’s even some jazz influence in the guitar chords during its finale! Really, the only criticism I’d level at the record is that “Karma” and “Epilogue” weren’t quite the best pieces to end on. “Epilogue” feels like it could have been cut in half, and “Karma”’s death metal sections get a bit overlong and bland, particularly during its ending.

It’s fascinating to think we’d eventually (arguably) get an even more brilliant album with Still Life, but I like to consider My Arms, Your Hearse the album that made it possible in the first place. This was the true stepping stone, the record that brought Opeth to a new level in both their music and their acclaim as one of Sweden’s most promising metal acts at the time. My Arms, Your Hearse is a masterwork steeped in brutality and despair, and it hasn’t aged one bit with time.
After recording the first two albums with the same band line-up and the same producer in the same studio, Opeth underwent a big change in direction. To begin with, both drummer Anders Nordin and bassist Johan De Farfalla left the band and the drum stool was taken over by Martin Lopez. Though Martin Mendez was to take on the bass player role, he was not able to learn all the bass parts for the new album prior to the recording and so Mikael Akerfeldt played all the bass. This isn’t so much of a surprise as Mikael was originally hired for the band as the new bass player back in the early days. Frederik Nordstrom became the new producer and the album recorded over two months and in three studios in 1997 and released a year later on Candlelight Records.

With all these changes, the band’s sound was altered dramatically. I feel in a way we could compare the differences to Deep Purple’s “Shades of Deep Purple” and “The Book of Taliesyn” versus “In Rock”. The psychedelic/progressive/hard rock style of these first two, very similar albums gets replaced by thundering, loud heavy rock on “In Rock”. Likewise, I see “Orchid” and “Morningrise” as a nice pair with melodic riffs and long songs broken down with frequent acoustic interludes while “My Arms, Your Hearse” is so much heavier, has shorter songs, and incorporates acoustic and clean electric breaks into the structure of the song more fluidly.

Basically, Opeth have not only added a ton of extra weight to their guitar sound but also Mikael’s death vocals have gone from a shredding roar from the back of the throat to a deeper, guttural roar. The music just packs that much more sonic wallop.

In a way, this album set the blue print for the next few Opeth albums. A conceptual piece, the album flows naturally from song to song and includes some brief instrumental tracks as well as the melodic, organ-backed epilogue aptly titled “Epilogue”. The acoustic parts are well mixed with clean electric guitar breaks which don’t stand apart from the heavy music like on the first two albums but instead feel like a natural progression of the song. On the first two albums, the heavy music would just stop and a simple Medieval or folk acoustic melody would direct the next course of the song. On MAYH, the acoustic guitars often play along with the heavy electric guitars and it feels more natural when the more melodic and less raucous parts progress within the song. The songs have also become shorter with not a single track clearing 10 minutes.

Reading some reviews and the comments of critics, there are those who give this album much praise. At first it failed to captivate my interest because I couldn’t pick out any songs that really stood out, except of course the obvious short instrumental tracks like “Prelude” (simple piano piece) and “Madrigal” (short but very different clean guitar instrumental). Later, however, once I had all the Opeth albums and I started mixing up playlists and choosing songs, I discovered that I really liked “April Ethereal”, “When”, “The Amen Corner”, and “Karma”. “Demon of the Fall” is really heavy and with totally demonic sounding vocals in the first half but later turns into a Zeppelin-esque folk-like bit that then alternates between heavy and melodic metal with the strummed acoustic parts coming in and out. Mikael’s clean vocals here and on other songs are much better than previously because he is singing with more energy. His clean vocals on the first two albums lacked confidence and energy and sometimes sounded timid and barely adequate. On this album here we get the Mikael that we know from later releases.

In the end, even though this album doesn’t contain any of my ultimate fav Opeth tracks, I do very much enjoy letting this one play through from start to finish and as well, I can easily throw a track on a mixed playlist. Welcome to the birth of the classic sound of Opeth!
The lo-fi shot of a wintery forest gracing the cover of My Arms, Your Hearse might give the impression that this release has Opeth drifting in a black metal direction, and that isn't altogether inaccurate - whilst they don't go full on black metal, this is easily the heaviest release I've heard from them and their brand of death metal with progressive sensibilities has perhaps never been darker. At the same time, though, I still can't get into them; the same falseness, the sense that it's all carefully calculated and technically polished but emotionally insincere, and the tedious acoustic parts which turn me off other Opeth releases (Credence, in particular, is extremely jarring, robbing the album of all the momentum it had established to this point) are present here still.

A decent listen if you are fond of Still Life and are interested to hear how Opeth reached that point; for my part, though, I continue to find the high esteem in which the band is held truly baffling, though I concede they turn in a decent performance and if you like Opeth at all, you'll probably enjoy this one.
Phonebook Eater
Opeth’s third album is a huge step forward from the first two albums. With “My Arms, Your Hearse”, finally the band starts going towards the way that will lead them to glory, “Still Life” and “Blackwater Park”. But it’s obvious that they aren’t quite there yet. Despite being really good, it still shows how much the band still has to accomplish.

What I was most relieved about this is how the production didn’t sound so rough like in “Orchid” or “Morningrise” and I also noticed that they aren’t any more counterparts, but only strong power chords. Musically the album is very different; having a cleaner production, the experimentation increased; the use of strange guitar effects that accompany some acoustic passages, the increased complexity of the structure and the melodies of all the songs, the much better musicianship from each single member.

“My Arms, Your Hearse” is a concept album, like many Opeth albums, and there is also a storyline; a man passes away and becomes a ghosts, and he constantly watches the girl he has loved in life, fearing that her grief for his death would be weak. He then realizes that she finds it hard to keep on living. Maybe not genius storytelling, like the following album “Still Life”, but it’s still a concept that can easily be respected and liked.

Some songs here will be for me great Opeth classics: “April Ethereal” is a ver well constructed and done song, with many time changes and great, evocative, slower passages. Another one of my favorites is “The Amen Corner”, another excellent song. I was disappointed with some songs, like “When” which seems to be a great hit of the band. Also, “Demon of the Fall” didn’t grab my attention much. I do love both the prologue and epilogue, as well as the “Madrigal” in the middle of the album, that really enriched the idea of the concept. “Karma” is another good, with plenty awesome metal moments as well as nice arrangements.

In conclusion, a really solid album, with some weak points, but still very muh worth your time, or money.
My Opeth, Your Opeth

Opeth's third album was the first and most important turning point (or should I say "watershed") in the career of this amazing Swedish band. PERIOD. Redefinition of sound and song structures, more mature and consistent songwriting, less black and even more death metal feel to the music. There's no doubt that the features of My Arms, Your Hearse determined the band's sound for the next six releases.

My Arms, Your Hearse is often considered to be the heaviest Opeth effort and in that field may only be equaled by Deliverance. Still, there's no denying that it's one of the most atmospheric and emotionally charged records ever released. My Arms, Your Hearse isn't maybe as straightforwardly progressive as Blackwater Park or Still Life, but Mikael's fascination with progressive rock is already easy to notice. Harsh melodic death metal passages, tinged with neoclassical complexity and folk feel are the basis for an incredible diversity of themes, tempos and harmonies. All that makes up a maturely composed, well flowing concept album.

MAYH is a haunting record which transfix with fantastic combination of brutality and beauty. And... okay I'll say it. It may happen that you'll shed a tear of emotion listening to this album. I did.
My Arms, Your Hearse was a major turning point in Opeth's career - after the gigs supporting Morningrise half of the original recording line-up departed or were fired, and Mikael Åkerfeldt grew tired of their early sound and composition style, which resulted in a new band with a new approach.

When April Ethereal blasts out after the short Prologue, the change is apparent. While the early Opeth sound was based on clear, harmonizing guitar melodies and very high-in-the-mix double bass drumming, April Ethereal comes out with big murky minor chords and riffs, and a positively muddy and gloomy sound. The double bass drums are still there, but supporting the riffs underneath instead of being on the forefront. One small but absolutely crucial factor which makes drummer Martin Lopez a brilliant addition to the band, in addition to his versatile style and overall skill, is the fact that his hi-hat came with a pedal, allowing an open flowing sound, which his predecessor Anders Nordin never used.

Guitar melodies are still a big factor in the music, but instead of harmonizing with another melody underneath, the second guitar adds a big carpet of sound with distorted chords and riffs. The acoustic parts that were there already on Orchid are still present, but integrated more seamlessly, which makes the song structures feel less fragmented, which was a big problem for me on Orchid. But while I welcome all this new approach with open arms, the songwriting isn't quite there yet. April Ethereal and Demon of the Fall are great tracks, and there are good parts in other songs as well, but nothing is really killer. But the atmosphere is very strong throughout, making the album as a whole a very enjoyable one despite the lack of true class A material.

On Morningrise Opeth mastered their early style, on My Arms, Your Hearse they're still learning their new chops. Stylistically a step forward, quality-wise a slight step backwards.
Conor Fynes
'My Arms, Your Hearse' - Opeth (7/10)

Following their flawed masterpiece 'Morningrise,' Opeth decides to turn up the brutality and heaviness a notch with this album, as well as introduce the idea of 'concept albums' into the bands catalogue. As a running song cycle without breaks, this became the first album they ever released that let the whole compliment the parts, so to speak.

The first thing one might notice by listening is the great improvement in production quality. While certainly not up to par with the Wilson production era starting with 'Blackwater Park,' theres a very audible development. The traditional formula (heavy/soft passages) Opeth has become known for is still here, albeit in less balance than usual but if you have heard an Opeth album before, there isn't going to be anything here that sounds out of the ordinary.

'My Arms, Your Hearse' was the last Opeth album I bought before I completed my discography, and even though it's nowhere near their greatest, it somehow feels like their most consistent effort to date. 'Demon Of The Fall' seems a fair contender as the highlight track, but aside from that, everything balances out a rather uncompromised level of quality; a feat for any album on it's own.

The predecessor to Opeth's first perfect album 'Still Life,' 'My Arms Your Hearse' shows Opeth experimenting with a binding narrative that would later be improved on with the next. In terms of lyrics, Mikael Akerfeldt weaves together a story that fits the music very well, although it isn't quite as engrossing or effective as the story in 'Still Life,' it helps to tie the album together. More or less, the story revolves around the spirit of a man who died looking down on the woman he loves and being dismayed that she does not grieve for him. However, it is later revealed that her love has blinded her to the reality that he has in fact died, and is therefore in a state of denial. It's a very simple concept, but Akerfeldt works both his music and lyrics to maximize the dramatic effect.

'My Arms, Your Hearse' is probably the Opeth album I've listened to the least overall, and while it has it's share of faults and problems, this is an excellent album and things would only get better as time went on for this brilliant band. A great example of what a four star album should look like.

This is the album, where I find that Opeth had found that sound they were looking for. Yes, the riff were constructed better, there was more clean vocals, intresting acoustic passages and the songs were alot more rememerable.

Having said that, I feel, that only with their next album, would the sound that they had searched for alll along would have been suceeded and made even better.

With this new sound, the band were able to craft it really well, but I feel that they hadn't fully achieved what they were searching to achieve.

This album is also a concept album, very alike what the concept in Still Life. They both deal with obsession over a woman who they know they cannot have, but in this album, the man is a ghost who cannot reach his widower, and Still Life deals with a man who is considered an outcast, who would not be able to have the woman he seeks after.

1. Prologue - Piano and rain. Nice intro.

2. April Ethereal - Reminds me of Bathory and Enslaved. This song proves that they achieved their sought after sound. Very well crafted song. Even though it is not longer as their earlier material, it still matches it and even betters it.

3. When - A scary assault which led from the nice intro. Nice clean vocal harmony section.

4. Madrigal - A Rush reference I believe. Good ryhthmic interlude.

5. The Amen Corner - Very groove orientated riff. Intresting acoustic passages and great links that lead to heavier sections of the song.

6. Demon Of The Fall - Probabbly one of Opeth's most well known songs. It reminds me of a death metal version of Led Zeppelin. The song also has some eccentric jazz sections in it. There's also a nice clean section at the end.

7. Credence - This reminds me of one of the slower songs off of Ghost Reveries. It also has a Benighted vibe.

8. Karma - The song has a very dark undertone under it. The acoustic sections have great vocals. The ending riff is amazing.

9. Epilogue - Sounds like something off of The Wall, with mellotron and bluesy guitar work.

CONCLUSION - I feel that the sound that they were searching for could have been crafted better with catchier hooks and guitar parts. But, it was succeded on their next album, and believe me, it is their best.
My Arms Your Hearse marks the entry of new drummer Martin Mendez and melodic death metal top-producer Frederik Nordstöm who would both stay on board with Opeth for as long as Ghost Reveries and Deliverance respectively. Largely due to Mendez’ versatile drumming, the album marks the beginning of the progressive Opeth albums. While it doesn't have the finesse of Blackwater Park or the compositional mastery of Ghost Reveries, it simply rules in heaviness and merciless darkness. Olé!

The sound is a lot more aggressive and harsher than the chilly and frost-bitten atmospheres of Orchid and Morningrise. In fact this is Opeth's most surging attack. Later albums gradually became less intense and more polished. And no matter how much Mike announces each new album as “Our next album will be really brutal and awesome and evil”, don't believe his enthusiasm, Opeth never equalled the fierceness and awesomeness of this one and they never will.

That doesn’t mean this is their best album. I honestly wouldn’t know which Opeth album is “the best”. For one thing it depends on which album deflowered you and also on the amount of fury you can handle. If you compare My Arms Your Hearse to Ghost Reveries, then the composition and execution became accomplished, the production improved and Mike’s clean singing took leaps forward. But again, MAYH is darker and simply totally evil. Yes, as a reviewer you got to stick to the artist’s idiom. So there you go.

The clean singing is used only sparingly but that fits perfectly with the material. The heavily distorted chromatic riffs, the furious pace and intensity of the music simply demand for a full-blown cookie monster attack and - rumour goes it was due to a cold Mike had during the recording – his death vocals are in great shape here. The low register and powerful grunts turn this album into a scrumptious chunk of bleak metal. But the main secret for success is the restraint that they applied in the song writing. With only one track over 9 minutes and many short interludes, this is the album with Opeth’s most concise song writing. Each track has plenty of variation and short tracks like Demon of the Fall and the bluesy instrumental Epilogue are unique in their catalogue. There’s not one dip on the entire album and with April Ethereal, When and the opening minutes of The Amen Corner it has some of Opeth’s most gripping moments. Opeth would still grow in execution and this album's production could certainly have been better - making me long for a tasteful reissue like Still Life received - but it has such impeccable song writing and contains such raging intensity that it deserves no less then gold status for me.

Whichever of the Opeth masterpieces that I last hear, usually ends up being my favourite for a while. This one got stuck in the CD-player of my car for almost a year so you can imagine how long this has been a favourite. In my book this is the first in an exceptionally strong string of albums culminating with Blackwater Park.

Members reviews

My Arms, Your Hearse could be my favourite Opeth album if its quiality was better. Despite of that, the quality of arrangement and composition is great, with the melancholy proper of most Opeth's album. And probably in My Arms, Your Hearse, Mikael Akerfeldt's has the best grunts ever.

The whole album panorama is very similar to Still Life, so it could be said that Still Life is the natural consequence of My Arms, Your Hearse. Here we find the main characteristics of Opeth's music, combining heavy riffs and grunts with slow tempos and clean sounds, but a little heavier than Still Life.

I like the way every song is connected to stand out the idea of a concept album, with the exception in some songs, and I just love the album cover. A great album with a quality not so great... I wish Opeth reconsider to re-record it.

I don't like Opeth. No, I didn't just download one song and say "the vocals ...!" and forget about it. I owned two of their albums, this one and Blackwater Park and listened to both extensively before deciding that Opeth are simply outside of my musical taste. Of those two albums I had, this is one was by far better. It manages to pack more art into its nine tracks, most of which clock in at over 6 minutes, than most other "metal" bands do in their entire catalogue. Opeth are definitely one of the most talented - both instrumentally and compositionally - bands of recent times; their music will draw you in to paths you never knew existed. Dubbed by some as progressive, and others as death metal, there is much here to appeal to those who are into heavy-yet-intelligent music, and also those who are looking for an introduction to the darker side of metal. The two standout tracks here are April Ethereal and Demon of the Fall. If you're an Opeth fan, you have no excuse for not owning this. If you're looking for an introduction, Blackwater Park may be a better bet, as it is much more overtly commercial than this, which is one of the best metal albums of the 90s. I don't like it.

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