OPETH — Damnation (review)

OPETH — Damnation album cover Album · 2003 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
2/5 ·
Sleeper
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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