OPETH — Watershed (review)

OPETH — Watershed album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
UMUR
Watershed is the 9th full-length studio album by progressive Swedish death metal act Opeth. The album was released in May 2008 by Roadrunner Records. There have been a couple of significant lineup changes since the release of Ghost Reveries (2005) as the two longtime members, drummer Martin Lopez and guitarist Peter Lindgren, left the band in 2006 and 2007 respectively. New drummer was Martin Axenrot and new guitarist was Fredrik Åkesson.

The music on Watershed is generally no surprise if you know how Opeth usually sound. The combination of progressive doomy death metal and 70s progressive rock is still delivered in the trademark Opeth fashion. Mikael Åkerfeldt´s vocal style varies from deep brutal growls to emotional clean singing. He performs both styles to perfection. Songs like Coil and Burden where Mikael Åkerfeldt solely sings clean vocal parts, really show how much he has grown. His clean vocal delivery is stronger than ever and the melodies are more intricate than on earlier releases. His growling is also in a class of its own. He is one of those rare death metal vocalists that are almost instantly recognisable. The above mentioned Coil features a guest female vocal performance by Nathalie Lorichs. That´s a new feature in Opeth´s sound and a nice surprise. Actually Coil is quite a surprising opening song, but what a beautiful song it is. The 7 track, 54:54 minutes long album not only features beautiful and emotional tracks like Coil and Burden though but also great progressive death metal tracks like Heir Apparent, The Lotus Eater and the epic Hessian Peel where the two styles are more integrated. The former features some of the most brutal riffing yet in an Opeth track. As always the songs are very intricate and quite challenging both structurally and when it comes to technical playing. Both Porcelain Heart and Hex Omega took me a while to warm up to and I still feel they are a bit sub par to the rest of the material. We´re still talking high quality compositions though.

The Japanese version of the album has the track Derelict Herds as a bonus. The special edition version of the album, which is the one I own, include a DVD where Derelict Herds and two other bonus tracks are also included. The other two bonus tracks are Bridge of Sighs which is a bluesy Robin Trower cover and Den Ständiga Resan which is a pop/ folky type Marie Fredriksson cover. The latter features Swedish language singing by Mikael Åkerfeldt. Derelict Herds is a progressive death metal track which could well have fit on the original album ( those lucky bastard Japanese). The DVD also contains DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes of the entire Watershed album plus a making of Watershed documentary with interviews and video footage from rehearsals. A pretty good bonus in addition to the original album IMO.

The two new members fit perfectly to the lineup, which means that their addition don´t have consequences for the core sound of the band´s music. New drummer Martin Axenrot is a bit more hard hitting and less subtle than Martin Lopez, but he does a great job and Fredrik Åkesson adds a slighty faster solo style to the album than the solo style we´re used to from Peter Lindgren. We´re talking small details here though. The rest of the band are well playing as always. I remember I was afraid of what a keyboard player would do to Opeth´s sound but with his performance on Ghost Reveries, Per Wiberg convinced me that his addition to the lineup was only a new and exciting feature in Opeth´s sound. Fortunately he continues his tasteful approach to playing on Watershed and his choice of retro sounding keyboards really gives the music the right mystical and at times epic atmosphere. more modern sounding synths would have ruined Opeth´s sound IMO. One of the center elements on Watershed are the many acoustic guitar sections and those sections are still as amazing than on any of the preceeding albums. Just beautiful.

The production is warm and detailed. Maybe the most professional and well sounding production yet on an Opeth album. I think it´s the first time I´ve been completely satisfied with the drum sound on an Opeth album.

So all in all after having listened to Watershed now for a couple of years, I´m very satisfied with the album and while there are some tracks that don´t do as much for me as others, the quality of the material is extremely high. As such there are few new features on the album compared to the preceeding albums but when the outcome is a great as it is on Watershed I´m pretty much content. Opeth produce extraordinaire albums and have been doing that for years now. If any band deserve the masterpiece stamp for several of their albums it´s definitely Opeth. Watershed is another extraordinaire album in a now long line of extraordinaire albums by the band and fully deserves a 5 star rating.
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