Still Life
OPETH

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4.41 | 171 ratings | 16 reviews
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Album · 1999

Filed under Progressive Metal

Tracklist

1. The Moor (11:26)
2. Godhead's Lament (9:47)
3. Benighted (5:00)
4. Moonlapse Vertigo (9:00)
5. Face of Melinda (7:58)
6. Serenity Painted Death (9:13)
7. White Cluster (10:02)

Total Time: 62:29

Line-up/Musicians

- Mikael Åkerfeldt / Vocals, Guitars
- Peter Lindgren / Guitars
- Martin Lopez / Drums
- Martin Mendez / Bass

About this release

Full-length, Peaceville Records
October 18th, 1999

Remastered and re-released in 2008 by Candlelight as a CD+DVD edition, with a 5.1 surround mix of the album and a live video of Face of Melinda on the DVD, reworked cover art and extensive liner notes.

Thanks to UMUR, Pekka, Unitron, adg211288 for the updates

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OPETH STILL LIFE reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Vim Fuego
Really and truly, what is the deal with this band and this album?

Opeth’s “Still Life” is fawned over almost universally, inspiring gushing reviews where critics fall over themselves in pursuit of the most lyrical platitudes. And for what? A dark concept album following a tale of unrequited love? A reinvigorating breath of fresh new life for a stale metal scene? A melodic progressive death metal masterpiece? The answer is none of the above.

What does progressive even really mean? It conjures up thoughts of widdly, boring songs which fill the entire side of an old vinyl LP, pretentious, self-indulgent musical masturbation which milks every last drop of tepid hope from a terminally bored audience. By that definition, “Still Life” is most definitely a progressive metal album.

There is the odd growl, but it’s hardly backed by death metal. Most of the time it’s hardly even metal. This album is littered with acoustic interludes and ooo-woo vocals. It doesn’t really offer much of a contrast from the metallic parts, because both are flat and grey. Even at full volume, this is still background music, inoffensive pap which slides in one ear and straight out the other. The band is castrated by it’s misguided attempt to transcend metal.

There might be song titles, but they don’t really matter, because there are no highlights. There are no bottomless depths of depraved mediocrity either. “Still Life” is just that- a flat-lined corpse.

The whole thing is just ditch water dull. And no, not a cool flooded ditch, sweeping along tree stumps and unlucky sheep with dirty, roiling depths raging down it’s course while threatening to burst it’s banks. No. This is stagnant, stinky green ditch water, so putrid even mosquitoes won’t lay eggs in it, instead looking for somewhere less torpid.
The Crow
For me this is the first Opeth's masterpiece, and of course it’s also one of their best albums

Dan Swäno's production is very proffesional, and the guitar's sound is killer! The riffs of Serenity Painted Death and White Cluster are amazing, for example. And here we can hear a clear improvement in the acoustic parts too, which sound in a more melodic and classic way, not as dark as in Orchid or My Arms Your Hearse, much more in the vein of the 70’s influenced Morningrise.

For that reason, I think this album is the true follow-up of the excellent Morningrise but much better and mature. I consider that in My Arms, Your Hearse they lost the right direction a bit, despite being a very good album. Face of Melinda, for example, it’s almost a sequel of the song To Bid You Farewell from Morningrise.

Conclusion: the best album for Opeth's beginners, and one of the best metal albums of all time. The band reached their next level with this record, taking all that they learned in the three previous efforts and achieving an incredible mastery in songwriting.

To be experienced many, many times. An immortal classic!

Best Tracks: Every song in Still Life is marvelous, and I can't really decide which are the best. Maybe The Moor, Godhead's Lament and Face Of Melinda are a little over the rest, but all the others are great too.

My rating: *****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives, and rewritten to be included here.
voila_la_scorie
Opeth’s fourth album, “Still Life” is for many where the band finally established their classic sound in all its glory. “My Arms, Your Hearse” brought in two new musicians and a serious alteration in the band’s music writing style: heavier, more brutal, and with a more natural inclusion of lighter parts into their now heavier songs. But Mikael Akerfeldt was deeply influenced by progressive music by this point and claims that “Still Life” was their most progressive album up to that time.

What is interesting to note on this album is how the heavier guitar chords are very well balanced with higher tone riffs, allowing for complex riffing to coexist with the more thunderous side of the band’s heavy sound. As if intentionally in complement, Mikael’s death vocals also show two sides: a deep guttural bellow and a wet, back-of-the-throat, blasting roar. These two vocal styles are best heard in the chorus to “Serenity Painted Death”, where the first part is sung (or vocalized?) in the deeper voice and the second part in the higher, shredding voice. In fact, it is this song that finally made me appreciate the skill and talent behind death vocals. Previously I had likened this style of vocalizing to a demon with severe stomach troubles the night after an ungodly pasta binge and heavy drinking. Perhaps somewhat unfortunately now, all death vocalists I hear will be compared to Mikael Akerfeldt.

I’ll admit that in the beginning this album was a slow grower for me when I brought it home four years ago. At first, only “Serenity Painted Death” and “White Cluster” stood out as memorable. But over the recent weeks I’ve had this album on frequently and my brain has become alerted to its overall charm. Mikael’s clean vocals are stronger than they were on the previous three albums and can now create an atmosphere. The acoustic part in “Godhead’s Lament” makes me think of Jethro Tull a bit, and the use of acoustic and clean electric guitar passages in the heavier songs has really become a natural development within the song frameworks. Daring to go further than before, Opeth give us “Benighted”, an all-acoustic track plus some clean electric guitar with a smooth jazzy feel and all clean vocals. “Face of Melinda” also spends the first four minutes delivering an easy-swaying acoustic number with light jazz-influenced percussion. The inclusion of these tracks shows that the band is not driven towards an album of brutal auditory assault like many or most of their death metal contemporaries but is instead striving for texture, mood, and melody alongside the expected aggressive music.

Looking at 11 lists ranking Opeth’s albums, “Still Life” has an average rank of 3.1, second only to “Blackwater Park” with a 1.9 average rank. On MMA, however, “Still Life” can be found in the top 10 metal albums of all time and from time to time it can be seen lurking in the top 5. In my opinion, this is one of the three essential Opeth albums from the classic period, along with “Blackwater Park” and “Ghost Reveries”. And “Serenity Painted Death” is one of my top 3 favourite classic Opeth period songs!
bartosso
Story of love and revenge

Still Life is definitely a beauty and one of numerous fantastic albums in Opeth's discography. Not as transitional as My Arms Your Hearse and not as successful as Blackwater Park, it still is Opeth at their finest. The songwriting is so solid and atmosphere so sophisticated, that I can even pass over the so-so production and less adventurous character of the whole compared to their previous album.

Opeth's music is based on extreme musical dualism. By going from soft smooth jazz vocals to diabolic growls, Mikael Akerfeldt sets the mood and takes the listener on a dark, almost gothic ride with powerful parts of distortion turning into acoustic guitar passages. And he does that with such intuition and talent that during these over 10-minutes long tracks, there's not a single moment of disarray. Pure soft beauty in turns with excruciating rage is the essence of this record. But this isn't only about feelings but also about musical eclecticism. In STILL LIFE one can find vintage progressive rock song structures, full of extended passages of symphonic guitar harmonies and jazzy rhythm patterns.

It's the only Opeth album I'd recommend to a die-hard progressive rock fan. Vintage feel and absolutely brilliant songwriting combined with extreme metal brutality may turn even the most stubborn fan of Jethro Tull and Yes into a headbanging metalhead. A classic of eclectic metal.
Warthur
Opeth's Still Life opens with one of the band's best tracks - the progressive death metal epic The Moor - but it soon loses its way as the band find themselves unable to focus their musical experiments into a cohesive and rich sound. Whilst Mikael Åkerfeldt is indeed mighty, his clean vocals are much less interesting, and the clean backing vocals that turn up at points verge on the cheesy. The flow of the album is disrupted horribly by the overlong and overproduced acoustic ballad Benighted - which might have been a decent enough interlude if its running time had been trimmed back and the simple acoustic guitar of it first stages hadn't been drowned under studio effects.

After that, the album's momentum is lost, and to be honest a lot of the death metal segments in its second half seem rather average for the genre. It's an OK listen, but I feel it's rather overrated.
Negoba
Melodic Progressive Death Metal Concept Album ? Yes!!!

After immersing myself in Opeth over almost 3 years ago, I'd taken a break for awhile. Recently, however, I've been dabbling in harder death and extreme metal, and felt a need to return to some of my old favorites and see what my impression was now. I was completely and totally blown away. Opeth is more harmonically complex, melodically sophisticated, and emotionally expressive than any other metal band of its kind and perhaps ever. STILL LIFE represents the band just reaching full maturity and taking a risk by making a cohesive story / concept album. Though previous albums had consistent themes, STILL LIFE is a death metal tragedy about an exiled man returning home to retrieve his love with typical terrible Greek styled consequences.

In a genre that loves altered minor keys and dissonance, Opeth bandleader Mikael Akerfeldt utilizes harsh harmony like no other. One of Opeth's trademarks is riffing on complex chord shapes rather than power chords and from the brilliant opener "The Moor" on through to the closer "White Cluster" the thick texture of this style puts Opeth's stamp all over the music. Of course the other signature element is the transition from the crushing prog death metal to an acoustic prog with Akerfeldt's ethereal vocals. On this album, the Mikael is really just starting to ramp up the latter part of the Opeth sound. This freshness gives the ballad-y "Benighted" and "Faces of Melinda" a legitimacy that some of the later purely clean Opeth songs lack. In fact, from a songwriting point of view, I don't think any Opeth album is as strong top to bottom as STILL LIFE. I do a lot of mix and match of Opeth tracks on every other album. Not this one.

Of all the labels attached to Opeth, there will arguments against almost all of them except one. This band is clearly prog. Where many Death metal bands use time changes jarringly, few (especially before Opeth's rise in popularity) used seamless changes into complex time with such musical purpose. Opeth also employs epics to great effect, moving the listener through multiple stages of development with completely new musical ideas often appearing seven or eight minutes into a song, as in "Godhead's Lament," "Serenity Painted Death," and most strikingly in "the Moor."

The only criticism I have for this album is that the record is still young. The production has some issues (vocal echoes, etc.) and in fact I like the live version of "Faces of Melinda" a little better. Even more striking is how much Mikael's vocals have improved in the 10 years since this record was released. The Ghost Reveries version of the band would have made the record nearly perfect. Still, this is a minor quibble.

Like it or not, if you want to listen to the cutting edge in metal these days, you have to get used to some harsh vocals. Mikael's are among the best so Opeth is an easy entry point. I still can't say I enjoy them, but after seeing Opeth live, there is no denying their power. Neil Young and Bob Dylan's vocals aren't exactly pleasant either but also have an emotive power once one gets used to them. (Mikael will never be the poet either of these men are, but neither man has produced music 1/10th as complex as Opeth either).

So if you can imagine beautiful death metal alternating multiple time signatures, riffs both crushing and grooving, complex harmony, and medieval balladry all combined into a story- album, you get an idea of the prog-feast that is STILL LIFE. Within metal, this is the definition of 5/5 star album.

bonnek
Even though Opeth didn't change their song writing approach much compared to the previous album, Still Life is quite a departure from My Arms, Your Hearse. It's lighter, melodic and more melancholic compared to the oppressive blackness of My Arms, Your Hearse. Also, the influences of Camel and early King Crimson became more noticeable.

Many Opeth enthusiasts will point to Still Life as Opeth's crowning achievement. While it is sure one of their best albums, there are a number of flaws that made me rate it below Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries. The rating must be seen in that context. This album is a 4.5 star creation but I knocked it down to create some perspective within the entire Opeth discography. In other words, add one star to all my Opeth ratings and you get an idea of how I rate them in comparison to other bands!

Now, instead of citing words of praise at every possible marvel here I thought it would be more fun to just criticize the flaws on this album.

The first one is about balance. There is no other Opeth album that is so crammed with ideas, melodies, riffs, changes and layers of guitars and vocals as this one. All of it gives ample proof of the high creative flow that raced through Akerfeldt while writing music. But on the other hand it also shows that he needed a tutor to help him weed out the chaff and guide his creative profusion into a more focused and superior result. Steven Wilson would prove to be that person on the ensuing Blackwater Park. Still Life has the most ideas on any Opeth album but not the best.

A second point might seem more trivial but nevertheless it's important. Akerfeldt has never denied being hugely influenced by Camel, but literally stealing melodies from them without openly admitting it goes a bridge too far. The opening bars from Benighted are entirely nicked from the opening bars of Never Let Go from Camel's debut. It's just the opening bars but still, the idolization might have been less obvious.

The third criticism concerns the vocals. The clean vocals are very prominent here and prove that they were the way forward for Opeth but some of vocals lack the harmonic wealth of later works. Especially during the metal sections, the clean vocals don't have the depth nor the range or dynamism of later albums. For an album that relies so heavily on the clean singing that is a real flaw. The 2008 re-issue of Still Life indicates that Akerfeldt must have similar quibbles as he stripped some background vocals from the remix. Especially the harmonies on Serenity Painted Death have been revised drastically. Not really to good effect either. The clean vocals during the more laid-back passages are very strong however, by consequence songs like Benighted, Face of Melinda and White Cluster are the most accomplished compositions here. They also have a better balance and suffer less from the musical over-abundance that decreases the effectiveness of most other songs. Akerfeldt's clean voice still needed some exercise.

Still Life is a very good album but it's one that seems to please progressive rock fans especially. However, speaking about heavy albums I find it much less accomplished then MAYH, while as a progressive album it doesn't compare to the more mature and well-balanced BWP and Ghost Reveries.
progshine
Well, Opeth, always divided me!

I mean, I like their progressive side, really like it, but I don't like the gutural vocals, even known that is part of their sound, their 'personality', it's always bothers me a little.

The album, is their best till that specific moment (1999) and here we have a variety of sounds, lot of acoustic guitars, some keyboards, and background vocals here, there and everywhere, which makes a nice contrast with the gutural vocals and the heaviness of the band.

I guess it's the favorite of a lot of people because of this, variety in sounds, combining two very diferent worlds: the heavy and the melodic!
The Angry Scotsman
My favorite Opeth album, (I really enjoy all their stuff). This is a work of pure brilliance. Now, this is Opeth so if you are not a fan of heavy guitar and especially growls....you may want to turn away. I would personally say go for it, because the music is superb and isn't prog about experimenting? But just be warned, there will be growls here, alot of it so yeah...

The Moor. Begins with a haunting yet calming keyboard launched into, a dual acoustic guitar melody. With a surprise though, the heavy kicks in. As does the growling. On a side note, while the vocals are understandable...musically, Opeth does not bear too much with death metal. It is rare, and short, to hear tremolo picking or really fast riffing. The heavy parts are really slower and more crushing. As Allmusic described the riffs, "jagged". Anyway, the ending is beautiful.

Godhead's Lament. Kick's off strong. Has that classic dual guitar harmony and quickly gives way to a cool and unusual sounding lead guitar. The Opeth wall of sound continues on, though the pace slows somewhat. Also, take notice of Martin Lopez's drumming. One of my all time favorites and I think a very underrated metal drummer. Perhaps tough to hear in the wall of sound, listen for it in the clean sections of the song. Great stuff. The middle part of the song is great, and the second half is more "metal" but the complex work is bar none. Lots of great solos in this song, courtesy of one of Mr. Åkerfeldt's influences, Allan Holdsworth.

Benighted. Need a break? You're in luck. An entirely acoustic song, just sit back and let the melodies, and Mikael's vocals take you away. I mentioned Holdsworth for a reason, just listen to this song and enjoy!

Moonlapse Vertigo. The opening guitar work is amazing. Akerfeldt and Lindgren are terrific players, and can lay down some wonderful harmonies. The acoustic melodies come in and oscillates with growling for a while. In the second half is a great solo and more dual guitar work. Martin's drumming in the outro I really enjoy.

Face of Melinda. Starts off beautifully. Continues for a nice long time. Though heaviness does come in over the second half clean vocals continue, over heavy chords being played. Such a great heavy atmosphere. Lots of Opeth's twisted guitar work as well.

Serenity Painted Death. Perhaps the most intense song on the album. Real heavy. The intro riff is amazing though. LOTS of growling on this song, and some of it is intense! Even for me. A nice short acoustic hold is ended by a great crunching and Opeth-esque riff. The next part, where Mikael says "Serenity Painted Death" a few times has some excellent guitar and drum work, and his vocals are almost terrifying. Great solo follows.

White Cluster. Amazingly composed song. Some of the best guitar work on the album. Complex and again, well structured. Lopez's drumming also is some of the most intense with a lot of fairly blistering double bass. Classic Opeth song, and really strong way to end the album.

An amazing piece of music, this is Opeth at it's finest. Death Metal, Prog Rock, throw in some Latin Jazz. Some compelx, dual guitar work, technical breaks, beautiful acoustic melodies, and of course Mikael's seemingly inhuman shifting between bellowing, death growls and chilling clean singing. One of the best progressive metal albums made. Masterpiece

Five Stars
AtomicCrimsonRush
Opeth twist Death Metal into new shapes, resulting in a triumphant album.

Opeth are a band I have steered clear of as I am not into death metal, having a distaste for death vocals growling like someone possessed; it was the type of puerile juvenile nonsense I used to listen to as a young metal head, I used to enjoy thrashing to Slayer, Believer and Mortification, but I have no time for it now. However, Opeth are an exception to the rule. I adored their "Damnation" album, the vocals by Åkerfeldt are stunning, warm and lovely to listen to, yes even uplifting despite the dark lyrics that are centred on death and spirits wandering about haunting the living. But I loved that album so much I listened to "Deliverance". Unfortunately it was all death metal growelling and nauseating metal at that. I gave up. But the reviews of "Still Life" are glowing and respected prog reviewers here are giving it the masterpeice status, so here we are, reviewing an album from a genre I am just not into.

What I discovered was the influences of Porcupine Tree meets Morbid Angel. What a combination. You get blasts of death metal at its most brutal mixed with passages of melancholy ambience. It works! Just when I think I cannot stand another second of those growls, the music takes over and really so well executed that it is impossible not to like. The guitars scream and soar, the bass pounds. The double kick drum embellishments and triplets are incredible. They are not kidding around.

The album begins with 'The Moor' with a beautiful acoustic guitar, a storm brewing, a brief moment before the distorted riffs blast in without remorse. Åkerfeldt's growls are brutal and soul chilling and unwelcome as far as I am concerned. I put up with it. I had no idea what the lyrics were and did not bother to check. There is a clean vocal chorus and it is so refreshing. I longed for more of this. The growling reminded me of the black metal I used to listen to with the likes of Bathory or Morbid Angel. At 6 minutes in the riffing stops and we have an acoustic interlude, a moment of respite. The "Damnation" style clean vocals chime in and they are so good, like a different band. I was drawn into the music at this point. Suddenly the caustic roars return scaring the hell out of me. Perhaps I am too timid to take this type of music. Let's move on.

'Godhead's Lament' has a fantastic riff but the brutal Napalm Death vocals infect the track again. The vocals are deep and angry reminiscent of Napalm Death's 'Suffer The Children', or Bolt Thrower's 'Cenotaph'. I told you I used to be a death metal addict. Now into prog I have discarded this type of metal so I am biased, I have no appreciation for this death stuff anymore. But if you do, Opeth are for you. The clean vocals return after 3 and a half minutes. It settles into a gentler mood, and lunches into a wonderful lead guitar solo with acoustic guitars. There are more warm vocals and I love this part of the album. The growls of course return but it is not as overbearing with all the softer sections. This would have to be among the best tracks of Opeth, a definitive highlight of the album.

'Benighted' is my favourite song on this as there are no growls and it has a beautiful melody; it is like "Damnation" again. The acoustic and jazz fusion electric guitars are fantastic. I love the lyrics; "Come into this night, Here we'll be gone, So far away, From our weak and crumbling lives, Come into this night, When days are done, Lost and astray In what's vanished from your eyes, What came and distorted your sight, Saw you benighted by your fright..." A great song that is as mellow as Opeth get. Atmospheric, melancholy and sinister.

'Moonlapse Vertigo' opens with a strange layered guitar riff. It is a moderate tempo and melodic chord structure. The lengthy intro is terrific, and it lapses to an acoustic treatment and clean vocals again. I began to really enjoy the album more at this stage. The growls are even more intense when they begin. They are deeper and evil sounding, ruining it for me. Then the clean vocals return again. This is weird. I half love, half loathe it. It's like an angel conversing with a demon. There are a myriad of time signature changes with soft and hard textures painted on the canvas. At 5:20 there is some delightful violining on the guitar, a crunching riff locks in and an emotive lead break. Moments of brilliance once again.

'Face of Melinda' is a lilting acoustic gentle ballad with some beautiful vocals from Åkerfeldt. He is so lovely to listen to, it is astounding how brutal he can sound when he is growling. I love this track, one of my favourite Opeth songs. The lyrics are quite disturbing though, "And conceded pain in crumbling mirth, A harlot of God upon the earth, Found where she sacrificed her ways, That hollow love in her face, Still I plotted to have her back, The contentment that would fill the crack, My soul released a fluttering sigh, This day fell, the darkness nigh..." The heavier sound returns towards the end but it is a nice break from all the serenity. The clean vocals remain and I was so pleased as I would rate this track highly.

'Serenity Painted Death' is an ultra heavy song with some respite of acoustic flourishes. The killer riff is incredible and yes, the vocals are grimly caustic. I could actually make out the lyrics, "Voices fell like marble, No longer by my side, Gone all that would linger..." It settles down again and a new time sig kicks in, a very good riff. The death metal vocals are so turgid in comparison to the sweet vocals or previous tracks it is a shock to the system. There are passages of dark and light, tension and release that make up for the brutal vocals. Opeth are musicians of virtuoso standard.

'White Cluster' is very powerful featuring an awesome intro and very fast double kick drumming. The intense riffing is angular with a plethora of time sig shifts and metrical patterns that are complicated and dark. It has a false ending and some structural guitar breaks. It is played effortlessly and with complex arrangements: Opeth on a grand scale. At 1:46 the track changes direction in another time shift with soft vocals and gentle guitar. At 4:13 there is another time shift, a half time feel. At 5:10 a minimalist guitar is plucked gently. It builds again and at 6:30 a cool riff and blistering lead solo take over. The lengthy instrumental break continues with a new time sig, and violining guitar and gentle vocals again with a strong melody. It fades at 9:10 then an acousotc guitar plays away quietly and it is all over.

In conclusion, one of the best Opeth albums that rang a chord with me apart from the death metal vocals. The music ranges from very melodic, symphonic sections counterbalanced by breakneck power chord progressions and soaring lead solos. The ominous atmosphere of pervading doom is punctuated by the broken drum patterns and shattered metrical shifts. The slower sections allow breathing space. The musical inventiveness is unsurpassed for the extreme tech metal genre. "Still Life" is not quite a masterpiece, but its growing on me with each listen. I love it, then I loathe it, but I can't ignore it's complex structure and innovative approach, reinventing extreme heavy metal.

Members reviews

Navajasso
Still Life is my favourite Opeth album. I found the first two or three listenings a little boring because sometimes they repeat over and over the same guitar riff, but when I listen carefully to the details, there comes the magic.

Most of the Opeth's works have a touch of melancholy and darkness, mixing grunts and screams with clean voice, and in the same way, distortion and speed with clean and slow sounds of the instruments. That's the reason I like Opeth's music, specially in this album. And maybe that's why some people who are mainly interested in the extreme metal genres may found this album a little boring, while the proggers found it very heavy.

Finally, despite Still Life is a great album, for me there are some other "neutral" Progressive Metal works that define the genre in a better way (not 'Death' or 'Black'). Opeth is for me more like Progressive Death Metal (Metal viewpoint) or Extreme Prog (Progressive Rock viewpoint); under these two tags they got 5 stars, no doubt.
Prog Geo
Ok,this is my favorite album!It's a masterpiece!The concept is splendid!That's a story about a banned love in middle ages.The music has beautiful and right changes((I mean that they exist in the appropriate moments),(It's melancholic,very aggressive,violent,jazzy e.t.c))!The vocals are perfect(as always)!

I don't have favourite tracks for this album because I like all the album.Of course I separate The moor,godhead's lament,moonlapse vertigo,serenity painted death(the best track of the album and generally my favorite track from Opeth)and white cluster.

The artwork is so fantastic!The mourning woman with the cross behind her and the red fondo fit perfectly!!

I challenge everyone to listen to this album.I believe that is a must-have for every music admirer and appreciator.Because it isn't death metal with splatter.It's progressive death metal with meaning.

My grade:10/10(it can be excessive but I love this album)

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