OPETH — Watershed (review)

OPETH — Watershed album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Nightfly
Although Opeth have released a number of excellent albums in the past, with Watershed they have hit a new peak with an album combining all their past elements and produced their most diverse release to date. There are less Death Metal vocals than in the past (with the exception of largely acoustic Damnation of course) and Mikael Akerfeldt's seventies Prog influences show more than ever with some of their most beautiful quieter moments. As if almost in apology to their older fans for this they also hit us harder than ever with some of the most brutal riffs they have ever produced.

Coil is a lovely way to open up Watershed: a beautiful melodic acoustic piece with a fine vocal performance from Akerfeldt and also featuring guest vocals from Nathalie Lorichs, who's lovely voice adds greatly to the feel of the track. The sublime nature of Coil makes following track Heir Apparent even more hard hitting. Opening with a powerful slow paced intro giving way to melancholic piano for a few bars, after a repetition of the intro the song bursts into life with Opeth at their most brutal underpinned by excellent new drummer Martin Axenrot. Like many Opeth fans, I was worried at the loss of former drummer Martin Lopez. However Axenrot proves to be a worthy replacement, not as subtle as Lopez but a fine dynamic technically skilled player nevertheless. The track goes through many changes throughout its nine minutes, for the most part retaining heavy riffing but still leaving space for acoustic interludes. Excellent stuff and one of the best Opeth tracks ever.

The Lotus Eater keeps up the momentum with some of the bands fastest playing to date in places with some death metal style blast beats from Axenrot. Again much diversity is present including a lovely mellow keyboard dominated lull from Per Wilberg: his addition to the band being one of the best moves Opeth made.

Perhaps Opeths most beautiful piece ever follows. Burden features one of Akerfeldts best vocal performances and the tracks notable for a superb Hammond (?) solo from Wilberg. The track reminds me a bit of Uriah Heep in their quieter moments.

Porcelain Heart opens with a grandiose sounding powerful riff before giving way to an acoustic guitar dominated verse. When the riff returns it's notable for Axenrots excellent drumming, playing across the riff rather than with it with some excellent fills. Another strong piece.

Hessian Peel, the longest track on the album opens with a bluesy sounding acoustic guitar before changing to more classical styling underpinned by a nice shuffley drum patern from from Axenrot. Opeth have the ability to combine the most beautiful sublime music yet bludgeon you senseless (in a good way) in the same track. Much use of light and shade is present once again here and although the track is over eleven minutes such is the quality and diverse nature of the piece, it appears to be over far too quickly. It's about time I mentioned new boy helping Akerfeldt out in the guitar department, Fredrik Akesson. As with Axenrot he proves to be a more than worthy replacement for his predecessor and holds his own against his boss. Martin Mendez on bass, although as usual low in the mix holds together the rhythm section with Axenrot admirably.

Hex Omega takes us out in fine style. After opening with full force it turns out to be a moody atmospheric piece. Although it has its heavier sections it's largely understated and melancholic before closing with a powerful repetitive riff.

So there we have it, with not a weak track present easily worthy of five stars.
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