OPETH — Watershed (review)

OPETH — Watershed album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Melodeath mastery.

Opeth, after a string of fantastic albums, have continued a rather enjoyable trend of great progressive melodeath metal. The band, combining Akerfeldt's diverse influences from 70s rock like Camel and Yes to extreme acts such as Death and Atheist, are able to pull off a rather incredible feat, with some of the most dynamically acceptable death metal available. While the vocals can still be a bit harsh for the non-death metal lover, Akerfeldt's soft clean vocals still permeate the album like a calming perfume. Musically, as always, the band pulls off an amazing feat, synthesizing extreme metal and prog rock elements into a cohesive and dynamic release.

Coil starts the album off with a soft acoustic melodic piece of music. Akerfeldt's soothing acoustic guitar and equally soothing classically trained voice meshes quite nicely with Lorichs' vocals, which contrast Akerfeldt's in a musically beautiful way. Mellotron sounding keyboards back the guitar, adding a spectacular texture.

Heir Apparent fades in slowly and then crashes down with a deliberate power and thrust typical to Opethian epics. The song builds and recedes and builds until a final crescendo with the growling vocals. Some great Opethian riffing is heard, with some fantastic keyboard textures added. Fantastic jazzy breakdowns pepper the track, along with stupendous instrumental sections and psychedelic guitar solos, making this track another fantastic Opeth track, and the official start to this great album.

The Lotus Eater essentially picks up where Heir Apparent leaves off, using some of the same ideas to kick start the track. The advent of Akerfeldt's clean vocals on the metal section of the album is heard on this track, making this a go-to track for the more melody-loving metal heads. Some more psychedelic and 70s inspired instrumental sections are present on the track, with more Opethian riffs and rhythms. The major upside and most inventive part of this track is the funky keyboard solo with some great jazzy drumming, great funky guitar chords, and some great funky bass, too. That one feature is really what makes this track special and not falling into the monotony of Opethian riffs and solos.

Burden is a slower, more melodic ballad-like track with a much more melancholy outlook, with lots of modulated piano and great mellotron-strings textures. Great melodies are the main pro to this track, with some cool jazzy rhythms and solos. A great Hammond solo is another plus to the track, making this one of the more jazz inspired tracks on the album and a really great addition to this great album.

Porcelain Heart is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song has one of the best mixtures of melodic rock, especially with that infectious acoustic section, and some great melodeath metal. The song again features some of that great liberating jazz influenced rhythms, with some great instrumental sections fronting them.

Hessian Peel, the longest track on the album clocking in at over 11 minutes, and it packs in 11 minutes of very epic music. Another melodic metal fusion track, the track poses both fantastic musical value and a rather haunting lyrical value. The song opens with a rather lengthy melodic section with mostly acoustic and clean guitars with mellotron textures added. About halfway in, the song starts to build, and then erupts into a death metal frenzy. The frenzy may leave you out of breathe, but fret not, because a beautiful melodic breakdown awaits. An absolutely genius acoustic riff is a major plus of the album, spicing up an already hot melodic breakdown. The song speeds up again, the fades out with an eerie Hammond riff. Spooky!

Hex Omega is one of the more "traditional" Opethian groove metal songs. It starts out as a steady metal song, with great groove-based Opethian riffs, and then breaks down into a more melodically based track. The two feels frequently switch back and forth, making this one of the more dynamic, if not more uninteresting, tracks on the album. The track ends the album in a more average fashion, ending as most of the other tracks on the album end, with a slow fade out of a keyboard texture.

ALBUM OVERALL: Watershed is one of Opeth's better albums in a string of great albums. Starting with still life way back in 1999, Opeth hasn't failed to deliver since. The album contains all of the essential Opeth elements: melody, intensity, death(ity), extremeness, acoustic beauty, and great backing band qualities, from the fantastic Melotron textures to the jazzy freestyle drumming. Each track has a little spice to add to the album, making it one hell of an album. However, this particular style, with riff then solo then Opethian riff than solo can get a little stale when a more inventive solo like a jazzy Hammond or mellow acoustic solo isn't thrown in. That is truly the only reason this album is short of a masterpiece label. 4+ stars.
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