OPETH — Pale Communion

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OPETH - Pale Communion cover
4.03 | 58 ratings | 10 reviews
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Album · 2014

Filed under Metal Related


1. Eternal Rains Will Come (6:46)
2. Cusp of Eternity (5:36)
3. Moon Above, Sun Below (10:52)
4. Elysian Woes (4:47)
5. Goblin (4:32)
6. River (7:30)
7. Voice of Treason (8:00)
8. Faith in Others (7:39)

Total Time: 55:42


- Mikael Åkerfeldt / Guitars, Vocals
- Fredrik Åkesson / Guitars
- Martín Méndez / Bass
- Joakim Svalberg / Piano, Keyboards
- Martin Axenrot / Drums

- Steven Wilson / Backing vocals

About this release

Released by Roadrunner Records, August 26th, 2014.

Deluxe Edition contains a bonus Blu-Ray disc with a 5.1 mix of the album and two bonus tracks, which were also offered as downloadable content.

1. Solitude (live) (Black Sabbath cover) (5:56)
2. Var kommer barnen in (live) (Hansson de Wolfe United cover) (5:52)

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition and Pekka for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

It isn't as though this wasn't expected. Opeth had been steadily drifting away from their death metal roots for a good long while by this point, with 2003's Damnation avoiding it entirely, so it's hardly an enormous surprise that Pale Communion finds the residual metal thoroughly flushed out of Opeth's sound. In its place stands a hard-rocking tribute to the heavy psych roots of progressive music, which I'm sure is a subject that the band and Steven Wilson collectively have a whole bunch of insight into - and indeed, their take on the style is an effective update of it.

On previous listens, this (and much of Opeth's earlier back catalogue) left me a little cold; it took listening to their discography from the start for me to really get my head around where they are coming from and what they're trying to do. Now that I've readjusted my expectations of what Opeth are about, I can find a lot to like here; it's essentially a development of the approach of Heritage (right down to the Steven Wilson mix), and I think if you liked that you will enjoy this. I even think Mikael Åkerfeldt's clean vocals, which I've always felt were a bit of a weakness of the band's sound, has improved here compared to Heritage. Don't expect the sort of innovative prog-death metal mashup they did in their lean, hungry years, but do expect a prog album with lots of retro touches but cutting-edge modern production.
Opeth had strayed from the path of their progressive metal back in 2003 when they released Damnation, a companion release to the much heavier Deliverance. By Ghost Reveries they were back to the heavier stuff on probably their most progressive release so far with the usual mixture of clean vocals and death metal growls. In 2011 they released Heritage, like Damnation sung with entirely clean vocals and also their mellowest album since that release. Pale Communion is the second consecutive album to ditch the growls and this time it looks like there’s no going back.

Pale Communion is the album that Heritage should have been. Not a weak album by any stretch but sounded a little fragmented at times, unsure where it wanted to go. Pale Communion is also heavier but more heavy rock than metal but also has a very retro 70’s prog style which is fine in my book. Where it really shines though is in the quality of the songwriting, the first three tracks in particular are truly breath taking with Mikael Akerfeldt’s strongest, most melodic and confident vocals yet. The arrangements and melodies of these songs in particular are so strong played with much light and shade and Moon Above, Sun Below has a particularly haunting vibe. The rest of the album barely drops the quality even if Goblin, a nod to the Italian prog band Goblin? is a little throwaway in comparison to the illustrious company its keeping here but fun nevertheless.

Most of Opeth’s albums have still been heavy enough to keep their early death metal era fans happy but with the last two I’m sure they’ll have lost a few as there’s no metal elements left at all as well as ditching the growl vocals. However, they’ll have no doubt gained many who found their more extreme elements hard to swallow. Personally I think they got the perfect balance on Watershed but Pale Communion is still one of their best albums and I’m happy to see them continue down this road in the future if that’s where they’re going.
The Angry Scotsman
A continuation of their last album.

By now we must assume this is a permanent direction for the band, (I was not smart enough to pick up on the hint dropped in their last album art)and given their age the change in direction is not surprising, not to mention the relief on Mikael's throat!

"Pale Communion" is indeed a continuation of their last album, "Heritage" which saw the abandonment of growled vocals and heavy music. The guitar work was more "crunchy" than heavy, the music was light, subdued and drenched in 70s prog style.

This continues on "Pale Communion" though this album packs a little more punch to it. "Heritage" was quite subdued and mellow, which I think was a turn off, (besides shock) to fans who maybe could accept lighter music as long as it had some impressive musicianship on it. There is plenty of that here, the guitar work is more prominent and impressive, as is the drumming of Axenrot, which did take a step forward on "Heritage", and the music just has a little "more" to it. While I enjoyed Heritage a lot, the more engaging music was quite appreciated here.

There's also a bit of a darker tone to "Pale Communion" though still quite warm and gentle, and has some more hard rocking, intense moments but is certainly no thrasher. Some standout songs are "Eternal Rains Will Come" "Cusp of Eternity" and "Voice of Treason"

So, this is the next chapter of 70s style prog rock Opeth, and a stronger effort than their last album. There is some more speed and musicianship mixed in with its subtle and textured songwriting, and packed with plenty of warm, gentle keyboard work, fun guitar and of course Mikael's beautiful vocals. There is good variety on the album and I think it's lighter nature may actually showcase the band's creativity even better, free of the brutally heavy/folky soft alternating style.

Very good album, recommended for any fan of prog rock, and most, though perhaps not all, fans of Opeth and prog metal should find it at least solid as well.

Four Stars
"Pale Communion" is the 11th full-length studio album by Swedish progressive rock/metal act Opeth. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in August 2014. There´s been a lineup change since "Heritage (2011)" as keyboard player Per Wiberg has been replaced by Joakim Svalberg.

With "Heritage (2011)", Opeth more or less took a left turn fully embracing a 70s influenced progressive hard rock sound and leaving their death metal past behind. They did a similar thing on "Damnation (2003)" but returned to their trademark progressive death metal sound on the next couple of albums. This time around they seem to mean business though and as "Pale Communion" is now their second album in a row which features a 70s influenced progressive hard rock sound, we can probably safely assume that the band´s death metal days are now behind them and that a new chapter in the band´s history began with "Heritage (2011)".

So the music on "Pale Communion" is a continuation of the progressive hard rock sound on "Heritage (2011)" and as such has little to do with metal although there are some hard rocking riffing on the album and references to artists like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and Atomic Rooster are valid enough (also because of the dominant use of organ). But there are references to a lot of 70s artists and musical styles on the album. Vocalist/guitarist/main composer Mikael Åkerfeldt are known for his broad tastes in music and you´ll hear elements from both hard rock, symphonic progressive rock (the sections with mellotron and the sections with orchestration are beautiful), folk rock, and even a whiff of jazz rock on "Pale Communion", which is ultimately a pretty varied album.

The description above can more or less also be applied to "Heritage (2011)", but "Pale Communion" is not a sequal clone of that album, as the band have opted for a more structured and melodic sound on this album compared to the more messy sounding "Heritage (2011)". "Heritage (2011)" often sounded like Mikael Åkerfeldt had 10.000 ideas and was hellbent to cram them all on the album. That ultimately made that album quite an adventurous ride but at the same time not the most memorable or well composed one. With "Pale Communion" it seems that Åkerfeldt has cut a bit more to the bone and focused on the actual compositions and the longivity of the melody lines. As a result "Pale Communion" is instantly memorable and quite a bit more accessible compared to it´s predecessor.

"Pale Communion" is produced by Mikael Åkerfeldt and mixed by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and not surprisingly the album is graced with a warm, detailed, and organic sounding production, which suits the music perfectly. The musicianship are as always of high class. The instrumental performances are organic and tight and Mikael Åkerfeldt´s vocals are distinct sounding and delivered with conviction. The use of choirs and backing- and harmony vocals on many tracks are great assets to the music too.

The album features an overall great flow and all tracks are memorable after only a few listens although complex enough to ensure longivity. It´s not easy to pick standout tracks on an album where all tracks are equally great, but I´d like to mention the closing trio of tracks, "River", "Voice of Treason", and "Faith in Others", as some of the highlights. The former because of the surprising shift in atmosphere (here is a track where several different sounding compositional ideas work well together) and the two latter (which seque into each other to form a sort of mini suite) for their intriguing emotional impact and use of orchestration. But then again I could have mentioned any track off "Pale Communion" and call it a highlight.

While "Pale Communion" certainly digs deep into the 70s progressive rock and hard rock scene for inspiration and does feature a retro sound, it doesn´t feel as forced as it´s predecessor did. It´s more fresh sounding, more musical, and overall just a better and more memorable release. I was beginning to wonder where Opeth were heading with "Heritage (2011)", but with "Pale Communion" I think they are back on the right track. A track that brings promises of even greater future output in this style. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.
There was too much 'talkabout' on Opeth's new album. I loved Heritage (2011) thought it was a fantastic new sound for the band. Now, all this talking about the band kind put me off a bit, especially after the horrific weak single released before the album ('Cusp Of Eternity') so I waited to listen to their new album, Pale Communion (2014).

Now, I'm giving it a spin on it through Spotify and what can I say, track one 'Eternal Rains Will Come' is simply outstanding, amazing track. Then off we go to 'Cusp Of Eternity' that's way too much SW for me, and Opeth is better than him, doesn't work really. Good that 'Moon Above, Sun Below' comes in to erase the previous track very well indeed. 'Elysian Woes' continues the high quality path, but acoustically.

While 'Goblin' indeed reminds the classic Italian band, 'River' is a folk ballad in the same path of Rush's 'Rivendell'. 'Voice Of Treason' and 'Faith In Others' continue the good path of the album.

Pale Communion (2014) is able to bring all the classic Prog Rock that I love with a fresh air to it, and that's why this is so interesting and one of the great releases of the year that so far was so week.

Pale Communion (2014) is the eleventh full-length album by Swedish former extreme progressive metal act Opeth. While Opeth certainly haven't been shy about producing the more progressive rock orientated releases in the past, Pale Communion is the first time that such a release from them has followed another one, in this case Heritage (2011). It's obvious in this case that Opeth have moved on and become a different band to that which made fan favourites like Still Life (1999), Blackwater Park (2001) and Ghost Reveries (2005). Obviously this is extremely bad news for fans of Opeth's special brand of extreme progressive metal and anyone who was hoping that the band would return to their usual (sorry, old) style following Heritage are going to have every reason to be upset given the direction taken on Pale Communion.

This isn't exactly Heritage Part II but neither is it a metal album in any shape or form. It reminds me a little more of Opeth's earlier progressive rock record Damnation (2003) than it does Heritage but it isn't exactly a carbon copy of that album either, though there are certainly more nods to both those albums than anything that featured death growls. The music has more of a rocky edge to it than Damnation but as far as something this progressive goes it somehow seems more one dimensional than Heritage did. The musicianship is of course highly competent and as always I really enjoy Mikael Åkerfeldt's clean singing, but there's also something about the album that causes my attention to wander after a few tracks and that wasn't a problem I had with either Heritage or Damnation.

While fans of progressive rock who always thought Opeth were wasting themselves on extreme metal are probably going to be lapping up the current more progressive yet not at all metal incarnation of the band, I have to consider that I ultimately write reviews for metal sites and while I did enjoy Heritage enough to give it a 4.5 star rating back in 2011 even considering the same point of view I just don't get the same spark from Pale Communion in order to recommend it too highly. It's a good progressive rock album but even when solely compared to Opeth's own Damnation and Heritage Pale Communion just falls short of the standards I expect from these guys and unless it suddenly grows on me years down the line I feel confident to say that right now, this is the weakest album they've ever done.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/opeth-pale-communion-t3739.html)
Opeth have had a very interesting past few years. With the release of their last album “Heritage”, the band have had mixed opinions due to their change in sound. One of the biggest problems is the loss of the death metal vocals. Now, I really don't mind if the death metal vocals are not their, in fact “Damnation” is probably one of my favorite Opeth album, but I will admit that the mix of the two styles in their earlier material is probably the reason I got into the band in the first place.

While many people will complain that Opeth aren't the same band anymore we have to take into consideration that these guys are getting older. Mikael really can't growl the way he did 10 years ago and I really respect their decision to loose the death growls. But while Mikael's vocals have gruffly diminished, he has been able to explore the diversity of his clean vocals.

Musically the album is pretty much a progressive rock album with the metal bits saturated. Now I know what your saying...”same as “Heritage” I bet. Well no. I remember seeing Opeth live during their tour for their last album and all I could think of was “this is like stoner psychedelic music”...which it was. This album is a lot more classic prog so I find it very much more enjoyable with more fluid arrangements with less improvisation and more sustenance.

Opener “Eternal Rains Will Come” is a great intro to the album. Starting off with blazing organs and clashing rhythms it then morphs into a more easier listening track with some pretty cool multi layered vocals.

“Cusp Of Eternity” is one of the heavier songs on the album. Reminding me of a more classic heavy metal style, the song has some pretty cool riffs and is a good little nod to an older metal sound.

“Moon Above, Sun Below” is the albums longest track and is probably one of the most diverse tracks on the album. Full of many different moving parts, the real highlight has to be the diversity of Mikael's vocals, showing off some clean gruffness which is a big departure from the evil growls on previous albums.

The ballad of the album “Elysian Woes” is an interesting and soothing moment on the album. I was pretty impressed by the instrumentation of this track, showing some pretty mature and experimental choices of arrangements for guitar and keyboards.

The albums instrumental “Goblin” is an interesting tribute to the 70s prog band Goblin. Full of proggy organs and some interesting prog instrumentation, the song is a prog lovers wet dream.

One of my favorite tracks on the album would have to be “River.” Starting off with a very almost joyous feel, this track is very different to what the band have ever done before, with a more lighter and nicer sound to the bands repertoire with very little bleakness or Gothic undertones. May be a new direction for the band.

In conclusion, this album surprised me. I went in expecting to hate it, but I was generally impressed by what I heard. These guys are never going to go back to their earlier styles, but at least it seems they are moving in a better direction than everyone thought they would. A great listen I would recommend to modern and older prog fans.


Genre: Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Hard Rock, Doom, Psychedelic Rock, Prog Folk, Folk Rock, Jazz Fusion, Heavy Metal

Country of origin: Sweden

Year of release: 2014
Checkmate, metalheads!

Even though the title of this review is intended as a joke, it's still true in a way - Opeth the metal band is no more. The fact of Opeth abandoning their extreme metal roots is of no importance to me, though. I was already disappointed back then in 2008 when Watershed was released, and it was a straight extreme prog metal album. Having recorded two retro albums since 2011, Opeth have become, more or less, a traditional prog band that, for the most part, follows in footsteps of King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant and the like. The problem is that even Damnation, the least metal of their albums, was still somehow compatible with the so-called "Opeth sound".

Pale Communion opens with "Eternal Rains Will Come" and let me tell you, it's the last song (except for 'River') that bears any conspicuous resemblance to the "pre-Watershed" Opeth. Don't get me wrong, there are no growls or heavy distortion riffs in the album and its heaviest moments sound more like hard rock on speed than any of their early 2000s stuff. There's flow and distinct focus on gripping harmonies in this song, though. Once you're done with it and the rest unveils before you, you feel like a kid that just found out most of the ice-cream fell to the sidewalk. Okay, that may be a little too harsh. Pale Communion is a solid melodic prog album with harder moments here and there. Apart from the two aforementioned tracks the record lacks in riveting ideas, flow and sophisticated harmonic passages known from their earlier stuff. As Heritage, it's a very well-produced and well-composed blend of Jethro Tull's folk rock and King Crimson's grandiose complexity. It is, however, less psychedelic than the previous album and instead marked by a more melodic/folksy character, so pleasantly reminiscent of Nick Drake. There's also a noticeable Steven Wilson influence, but as I always say, whatever Wilson does, Akerfeldt does it better.

Pale Communion is yet another semi-classic prog album - its influences, even though fairly diverse, are way too obvious. This perhaps wouldn't be much of a nuisance if the songs were conceived with a bigger dose of spontaneity that would in turn give more soul and emotional charge to the whole thing. Even though the latest Opeth release is not a pale imitation of classic prog(pun intended), it definitely pales (intended too) in comparison with Opeth's greatest moments. As such, Pale Communion, just as Watershed and Heritage, is a bit of a letdown.

Members reviews

The use of death vocals seems to be a thing of the past for Opeth. I always appreciated the clean vocals from Mikael Akerfeldt. It gives a better view of how he can be a good singer. The previous album Heritage wasn't convincing. Again the band is showing the soft side of their music The song "Eternal Rains will come" display some haunting harmonies progressions with some dark keyboards sound similar to VDGG. "Cups of Eternity" show a vocalization hook repeated almost like an incantation. There are some nice grooves here and a display of heavier guitars. With "Moon, Above, Sun Below" we recognize the same compositions structures of the band with intense and melancholic passages, the melody at the beginning is suddenly switching to a complete new mood so we get the feel that the song is like different parts melt down to build a 10 minutes song, but it works. The song "Goblin" is inspired by the band of the same name with a little touch of jazz. "River" is another different track with some classical rock influence. "Voice of Treason" is another track in which the listener is challenge with the impossibility to reach an accessible melody, like the band was playing with restraint. It illustrates the new direction the band is, by keeping the music outside the extreme metal. The last track "Faith of Others" is full of strings, classical arrangements and some acoustic progressive rock not too far from the band Landberk.

While this release could be perceive as homage to the old progressive rock bands, the retro sound of the organ and mellotron should appeal to old progressive rock fans, it keeps the band own style, less metal than the majority of their albums, but more in the line of Damnation and Heritage. For me, those two albums despite their progressive side were not the best of their discography, but I think the latest is more satisfying and if I had doubt about the direction the band was headed when they took a break from their metal prog, I am more confident for the future that it's the right direction to go now. And Mikael Akerfeldt looks like a musician that is in a mood to do more melodic music with clean vocals the rest of his career.
Opeth is surely one of the greatest and most interesting metal acts of the last twenty years. Many of their albums are awesome like Still Life, Blackwater Park or Ghost Reveries. From their 1996 opus Morningrise to the 2008 album Watershed, Opeth released only great albums. And then in 2011, they release Heritage who was not as good as the previous albums. So how is Pale Communion, their lastest release ? It's my third favorite album of Opeth. But for the fans of metal, and only metal, you will not like this album because it's more a progressive album than a metal album. It's soft compared to Morningrise or Blackwater Park. There's great tracks like River, Cups Of Eternity, Goblin or Voice Of Treason. It's very good and i recommand this album for progressive rock fans.

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