Opeth - Pale CommunionBack in 2011 Opeth released a record entitled Heritage that demonstrated that people get really weird about music, and particularly about reviews of bands they love. The voluminous comment thread on my review of the record is a testament to the fact that Heritage was well-loved by some: and that group had OPINIONS. The discussion was remarkable for being quite ad hominem, irrational and genuinely lame. People who obviously never read the review looked at the score (a 2/5) and decided that I was a “butthurt” death metal guy who can’t handle change. The general foaming-at-the-mouth tone from fans of the band was astounding, but not surprising. Opeth has long inspired devotion in its fans, including myself, of course.

But nestled deep in this forest of self-righteous indignation at the perceived injustice I had perpetrated against the band by thinking Heritage wasn’t very good, there was a moment of clarity that I almost overlooked. Someone named “Gabi Trifu” summed up her/his [hens] opinion in a few, prescient sentences [Link]:

It’s a transitional album. Many bands have gone through this. Examples are endless. See Anathema, Amorphis, Ulver, and so on. It’s all about shifting into another form/genre while experimenting. Looking forward to the next album, while I sit this one out. We’ll just have to see if that brilliant songwriting is there anymore, or it’s just run out. 

Opeth - 2014

Twenty-fourteen brings us the answer to this question in the form of Pale Communion. The record is Opeth‘s follow-up to the (apparently) love-it-or-hate-it Heritage, and the second record in the style that is maybe best described as “post-Opeth.” While the band continues to be recognizable in tone and melody construction, they are not the band they were. They are not a death metal band with some prog elements—”death metal with feeling” as Peter Lindgren once said to me in a discussion about whether the band fit the genre “progressive death metal”—they’re just a progressive rock band. But Pale Communion demonstrates they haven’t lost the “feeling.”

More than anything else, feeling is what makes Pale Communion a triumphant recording. From the opening, jazzy tones of “Eternal Rains Will Come,” the band balances exploratory work with the progressive strains that have been featured in the work since the very beginning. When the song really hits its stride, Åkerfeldt and crew have telegrammed their intentions: melodic, beautiful, progressive — with a distinctively 1970s approach to the band’s signature sound.

Åkerfedlt“Signature sound?” some will ask, “There’s not a growl in sight!” That’s true. But like so many post-metal bands, you can take the dirty hippy out of metal, but you can’t take the metal out of the dirty hippy. “Cusp of Eternity,” features a classic Opeth groove riff with the return of the eBow, and the solo and transition before the final bridge belongs on Still Life—I could pick that style out from anywhere. The riffing in the closing minute of “Eternal Rains Will Come” could have been on Blackwater Park or My Arms, Your Hearse. “Moon Above, Moon Below” evokes Ghost Reveries, and even in the ostensibly-not-metal track of “River” the developments after the 5 minute mark reek of deathy Åkeriffs — with Axe’s double kick making an extremely effective appearance.

But Pale Communion isn’t just a hearkening back to the recognizable tone of Opeth—I would argue that tone never quite left. Instead, Pale Communion contrasts with Heritage and Watershed by being extremely well-written and cohesively composed album. It combines the best of the new elements—tracks like “River,” which develops the backwards glances at anthemic ’70s rock started with “Burden,” an underlying Camel and Tull worship, or “Goblin” an ode to a classic band of the same name—with what I have always felt is Åkerfedlt’s genius: effective synthesis. The emotional strains of “Moon Above, Sun Below” sit perfectly next to the thrumming groove the song is introduced with. The Arabic tones of “Voice of Treason” straddle a beautiful position between bluesy vocals, epic choruses and genuinely heavy passages. And when “Voice of Treason” melts into “Faith in Others” and ends the record on an emotional peak, I just need more.

Pale Communion feels like a meeting point between Damnation and Ghost Reveries and, honestly, is the record I hoped Heritage would be. But now, having eschewed the splintered approach to song construction favored since WatershedPale Communion flows, enchants and doesn’t let go. This consistency and depth are made even more obvious by how good the record sounds. The drums are full, dynamic, beautifully played and sit perfectly in the mix—particularly the kicks are perfect, which makes them even more effective when they come in. The bass rumbles along, not just audible1, but with gorgeous tone and the audible dynamics: snapping, rumbling, felt and heard.

Opeth 2014

Guitar work (and guitar tone) have never been a problem for Opeth, so Pale Communion continues the band’s tradition of having some of the best tone in the world. And it would be unfair to ignore the fact that Fredrik is a very good guitar player whose leads are under-appreciated. Åkesson’s stylistic breadth is excellent, while Åkerfeldt’s vocals demonstrate how well this record is produced. The combination of the dynamic writing and dynamic production allow more room for the vocals which feature an excellent mix of dry, intimate moments like in “Elysian Woes” or “Eternal Rains Will Come” while tracks like “River” or “Faith in Others,” build on an open landscape with a nod to the ’70s via wide, 3 or 4 part harmonies. There are a couple of moments where the intensity reaches a point where one longs for a growl, but just one or two…

When all is said and done, Pale Communion does everything I want from an Opeth record. It entrances me with interesting, exciting composition. It moves me with its Swedish melancholy and the effective use of dynamics and contrast, and the compositions incorporate keys and other instrumentation without using them as a transitional crutch2. Finally, Pale Communion works as a whole: from the first track to the last, functioning almost like movements. The fact that this is one of the best sounding records I’ve heard in years—an excellent master by Steven Wilson and extremely good engineering and production by Åkerfeldt and his accomplices—is just icing on the cake. Forty-seven plays later Pale Communion is the best record I’ve heard in a very long time and a vindication of Gabi Trifu’s intuitive understanding of artistic development.


Rating: 5.0/5.0
Format: Stream / 256k mp3 / Commercial CD | DR: 11
Label: Roadrunner Records
Websites: opeth.com | facebook.com/opeth
Release Dates: EU: 2014.08.22 | NA/UK: 08.25.2014 | World: 2014.08.26

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Which seems to be our standard for “good bass” these days.
  2. What I referred to as lazy composition on both Heritage and Watershed.
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  • It’s a fantastic album. One of the reasons it works for me is that you can hear plenty of the traditional Opeth composition and riffing in the music, albeit with the softer style. While I did like Heritage, it lacked this traditional Opeth character.

    • Huh, that’s my review in quite a few less than 1100 words.

      • Was an editor for ten years, I tend to brutally chop content. :)

  • Dean Hili

    while I enjoyed heritage myself, this album has already surpassed the number of spins heritage got since 2011. beautiful song writing, production, delivery.

  • tomasjacobi

    Best review I’ve read so far. I’ve enjoyed this album for a while now; first the leak and now the CD and vinyl version. The 2LP vinyl is great. The songs work extremely well in pairs. Each of the 4 sides offer a different mood and it sounds great even though the CD master is so good that you don’t actually need the vinyl for fidelity reasons this time.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    Well the 5/5 was almost unexpected. While I agree that the sound is *much* more coherent than Heritage, I do have my personal gripes with the album.
    Mikael’s voice sounds a bit strained at times, which is a bit awkward to hear. The keyboards are *way* up in the mix and the rhythm guitar sounds a bit flat, so it sounds a bit limp, to be honest. The leads sound amazing, though. It’s better than the tone on Heritage, but I was expecting something a bit thicker.

    But the album did surprise me. It feels darker again (especially with Moon Above, Sun Below) and while a bit disjointed at times, still sounds quality. The solos are so freaking brilliant – yes this is exactly what Opeth needed. They’ve always had jazzy tones to the leads, but Åkerfeldt and Åkesson have done a sterling job in this album. Axenrot , while not being the drum god that Lopez was, is just out of this world with the drumming. It sounds so good.

    I could blame my argument of tone due to my listening experiences being limited to streams instead of a CD or vinyl, but the results still show.

  • Stefano Kevin Prince Vitali

    I did not see an AMG 5/5 coming after a week of listening. Sure, the record is way better than Heritage, has some amazing tunes here and there, but it left me sort of unsatisfied. Which is good, by the way, because this is the marking of a grower. Long story short, I’ll give it a few more spins before entering the fray…

    • nunka

      Yeah, it’s a bit of a grower. My reaction after Listen Number One was, “…That’s it? Heritage 1.5? So this is what an Opeth album is now?”

      Upon my third listen, as I read the lyrics to each song in time with the music, my imagination translated the lines to signature Akerfeldt growls. Suddenly I was back on Watershed (fuck you, I love Watershed). Gone was the aimless, pretentious prog-noodling of Heritage. Opeth was truly Opeth again, and all was right in the world.

      Then I snapped out of my reverie and came to a horrifying realization: Mikael Akerfeldt may never growl again. Heritage was not a one-off breather like Damnation, but a sign that Opeth will never be the same. The songwriting and riffs and transitions are back, yes. But the Opeth I grew up listening to will never return, not fully. And I can’t accept that. I know it’s immature of me to forbid the musical evolution of one of my favorite bands, but I’m only human, and I want what I want.

      I do love tracks like “Elysian Woes,” for its straight-outta-Damnation-era calm, and “River,” for its fantastic about-face into classic Opeth riffs. And the lyrical work, particularly on the second half of the album, continues to impress me.

      Maybe in a few years I’ll come around. But for now I need to mourn the loss of the Opeth I hoped would live forever. :(

      • While I love the whole record, the B-Side (actually, I guess it’s the C and D-sides) really do a lot for me. Brilliant stuff.

    • Stefano Kevin Prince Vitali

      nunka, you still have 8 massive records of growly Opeth to cheer you up (sorta) =)

      A few more spins deeper into the record, I’m really starting to appreciate AMG’s review and the aforementioned record too. Steven Wilson’s behind-the-scenes work gives the music room to breathe, to lull you and hit when it counts, even without growling vocals. Obviously, it’s more of an atmospheric affair, and sometimes I miss the groovy riffs of old, but the music flows naturally, building and releasing tension masterfully. Not a perfect record, nor Opeth’s best (not even close), but a thoroughly enjoyable experience, way better than the jagged, broken piece that was Heritage.

  • Synthetase

    I enjoyed Heritage as well – there’s some good music in there, but the flow just wasn’t there like on Pale Communion. This album just wants to be played all the way through. For me it’s right up there with Riverside’s ADHD as one of those records that you just HAVE to listen to all the way once you start. You’re spot-on about the production as well, this sounds seriously good on a nice stereo.

    • Dammit. Now you mentioned ADHD and I have to listen to it from front to back. :P

      • Synthetase

        Yeah, well if you hadn’t got me into that record in the first place… :P

    • That is a great album. Though often my favourite Riverside to listen to is the Memories In My Head EP – wonderful Floyd like soundscapes.

    • Charles Anderson

      ADHD IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE ALBUMS EVER!!!!!

  • Kalsten

    I liked the record more than Heritage, but still, I miss the death metal albums that made them famous.

    However, I am now a bit more interested on this “70s progressive rock” thingy, and I would like to have some bands to investigate this kind of music a bit more. Any suggestions?

    • Lasse Momme

      King Crimson, Rush and Yes are all good bands to begin with. Jethro Tull is a bit more folk-ish but also very good. rush’s 2112 and yes’s Close To The Edge are amazing albums from that period and genre.

    • Sven Lindqvist

      http://youtu.be/t-YJyffWh3s

      Best song on the album, i think, is faith in others. Maybe because it reminds me of this beutiful song by King Crimson.

    • Also, check out Camel’s “The Snow Goose” which is just a brilliant record from the era.

      http://www.angrymetalguy.com/retro-spective-review-camel-music-inspired-by-the-snow-goose/

      • Weirwolfe

        Soft Machine – Third.

    • Kalsten

      But isn’t it like current bands that still play this kind of music? Most of your recommendations are classics, right?

      • BaboonKing

        Those are all classics, yes. There are plenty of bands that still play 70s style progressive rock: Transatlantic, Ayreon, Spock’s Beard, Haken…

  • Selim Baradan

    Opeth is one of my favorite bands and as a fan I’m very satisfied with this record. But I personally don’t think it’s a flawless record that deserves a 5/5 rating.
    Anyways, I just want to highlight one of the flaws of the record: the order of the songs could have been different. For example, “Eternal Rains Will Come” is a very poor choice for an opening song and was a turn-off for me with its abrupt start and not a great song to begin with. “Cusp of Eternity” is actually better suited to open the album. Actually an intro like in the “Watershed” record would have been great.

  • Jason Greenberg

    Your reviews are always spot on. I felt exactly the same way you did with the incredible Ghost Reveries, then disappointment with Watershed and Heritage. I have been cautiously optimistic about Pale Communion, but have refrained from listening to a single track until I have the physical copy in my hands… (still waiting in the mail). You have me very excited now!! Thanks for writing the best metal reviews out there! You are my most trusted source.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    *getting ready for September’s new AMG.com background*

    • Yeah, Godsmack will look awesome as a background!

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Still better than that Voivod background :P

        • Type O’s “Origin of the Feces” would have been a better background than the Voivod one.

          • Refined-Iron Cranium

            Are you implying that Peter Steele’s anus was better than the Voivod logo??

          • Anon a mouse

            I think everyone here can agree It would be.

  • Jm from nj

    Disappointment with “heritage” stemmed from lack of songwriting, rather than a change. I think the change it embodied was something anyone could see coming. It’s simply the lack of songwriting strength that led me to avoid it. This album is the complete opposite. The songs are brilliant, memorable, progressive, and probably what the last album wanted to be…but just wasn’t ready to be.

    Well-written above.

  • Joel Järvinen

    More 5’s! Maybe this year is slowly getting better for metal.

  • Merijn Kooijman

    It’s easy getting a 5/5 score at amg nowadays. Just use an eBow. :D

  • Charles Henderson

    Couldn’t have said it any better, brilliant review. I’m one of those who enjoyed Heritage despite its flaws, but I can understand why many people didn’t and definitely agree with the somewhat disjointed songwriting (though I still think tracks like Häxprocess or Folklore are perfect the way they are). That said, it was clear that it was new ground for Opeth, and Pale Communion is exactly the response needed after that.

    It takes everything that Heritage did well and refines it, corrects everything it did wrong, adds a more recognizable “Opeth sound” (like AMG says, I hear a lot of stuff that brings me back to Ghost Reveries or Still Life), and wraps everything up with what’s probably one of the best production jobs I’ve heard in a long time.
    And the best thing for me as a long time Opeth fan, is that this album shows they still have even more room to evolve, so I couldn’t be happier!

  • Chris Why?

    …seriously? That’s a tad high. A 4/5, to me, would be more accurate. It’s a much stronger and cohesive album than Heritage, but I’m still wrestling with some stuff on the album, which to me is a sign that it’s not in 5 territory. Their other stuff grabbed me (pretty much) instantly. It’s a damn fine record for sure, but no way is it a perfect one IMO. It’s AMG though, so obviously the review was well-written, even if it’s a bit inflated.

    • Maybe could’ve been a 4.5. But I’m not sure how the record not grabbing YOU instantly should affect MY score of it. ;)

      • Chris Why?

        Haha, fair point! I gotta do a better job of proof-reading my comments.

  • RilesBell

    Can Steven Wilson just mix everything out there from now on? I just LOVE his sound.

    • No shit, right? It sounds brilliant.

      • bucaneer

        Speaking of Steven Wilson (and your general advocacy of high fidelity sound), do you listen to/have an opinion on surround mixes of albums? SW happens to be one of quite few people who make them, and practically the only one who really gets it. Even on a far-from-audiophile-grade setup like mine, the extra spatial dimension can really add a lot to the sound. In some cases, a surround version of an album completely replaces the stereo version in regular rotation – for example, as far as I’m concerned, the 5.1 mix is the one and only true way to listen to The Raven That Refused to Sing.

        • I’ve never actually listened to a surround mix. There. I said it.

          • No big deal. I think most of the 5.1 stuff is crappy to begin with. Yeah, Wilson’s stuff maybe nice, but of the vast majority of stuff I’ve heard, the two channel version is the way to go.

          • The idea is appealing. If you could do it right and had good equipment, I bet it would be pretty fucking cool.

          • I heard one of the Led Zeppelin 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound albums (I forgot which one, it was a live album).

            It was indeed AMAZING.

          • sweetooth0

            The Nine Inch Nails surround stuff is killer. NIN has so many layers it suites a 5.1 channel environment perfectly.

            My Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon and Primus Sailing the Seas of Cheese were great also.

            Oh yeah, and the Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots release was pretty great too.

            But yeah, some surround stuff has been fairly blah. with Mastadon – Leviathan I could barely tell.

          • Trent Reznor never met an overdub he didn’t like.

          • AnnieK13

            Good speakers really make the difference – and I mean time aligned tweeters – it’s subtle but it’s the difference between that really sounds great and I feel like I’m in the room with the band.

            I much prefer 5.1 mixes where you have only ambient room noise from the back.

          • bucaneer

            Yeah, in terms of raw numbers, the gimmicky “hey, what should we put on this super special edition disc? oh, let’s duplicate the channels, set one pair at half volume and pretend this is surround” crap is probably the majority. Those usually sound worse than plain stereo mix played over surround speakers.

            However, SW has a sizeable list of consistently excellent surround mixes – all his solo stuff, Porcupine Tree, last two Opeth albums, Storm Corrosion, as well as a bunch of prog classic remasters – King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Yes, Gentle Giant, XTC, and counting.

            Pre-Heritage Opeth has surround mixes by Jens Bogren which are mostly good with the sad exception of Ghost Reveries which was his first attempt (AFAIK) and falls under the aforementioned crap category.

            I guess the lesson is – be careful, note producer names and check reviews. When a mix is crap it’s crap, but when it’s good it’s amazing.

          • Here’s the thing though: Do artists record with 5.1 in mind? No they do not, so the whole concept to me is dubious at best.

            The fact is most music is designed for two channel audio, not 5.1. Yeah, yeah, you can call me a two channel snob all you want, but I still stand by the comment that the overwhelming 5.1 mixes suck ass. Big time.

            What’s strange about all of this is for the first time (for reasons of happenstance), I’m about to leap into 5.1 channel audio anyway….sigh…

          • And let’s be honest: you never really mix for 5.1 because 5.1 is a weird way to mix. I can see mixing for 5.1 if you’re doing a live record, right? Throw your crowd in the rear speakers and then do two-channel up front. But the best sound for sitting in a room with Opeth is not in the middle of the instruments, but on the other side of the room. It’s kind of a weird concept, honestly. Makes sense for a string quartet or a jazz trio, but we actually listen to music in a very “two-channel” way when we’re an audience at a live show.

          • bucaneer

            Well, music is not (necessarily) mixed to replicate live sound. You don’t hear specific drumbeats as coming from left or right unless you’re the drummer, yet discrete mixing of drums in stereo is very common. Conversely, putting vocals or a guitar solo equally into both channels so that it comes off dead center “from inside your head” with headphones is not an effect you can hear live.

            Actually, listening to any reasonably discrete stereo mix with headphones is immersive in a way that is very much unlike live immersion – the focus is on the music in an abstract way, not on the sound of particular performance in a particular space. Surround mixes (the proper kind) improve on this abstract feel and help uncover hidden details in the music. It’s not about being in the middle of the instruments (though, you guessed it, that’s the way some records of classical music are mixed) but about providing each track it’s due place in the soundstage.

            Prog in particular is notorious for using complicated, multi-layered sounds and fancy mixing, so it’s no surprise that it was bands like Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull that released their albums in quad (4.0) way back when, and that it’s Steven Wilson who is taking surround seriously now. Given your prog-leaning taste, I’m sure you’d find plenty to like about surround if you gave it a try.

    • beurbs

      I wish he’d mix Devin Townsend’s albums

  • Diamond Rattler

    So which record is better? Pale Communion or Otta?!

    • Pale Communion wins out easily, imo. I’d’ve given Ótta a lower score.

      • Diamond Rattler

        Damn. Just shitting all over Madam X, eh? HAHA! Just kidding. Its just that here, people seem to think this should have gotten a lower score too. Would you have given Otta lower than a 4.5?

        • Yeah. I likely would have, but I haven’t given it a lot of time, so it’s just gut instinct. Took me a while to get into this one, too. Records that take time are often the most giving in the long run.

      • AndySynn

        Wrong. Wrong. Wrongwrongwrongwrongwrongwrong… Wrong.

        No more face paint for you Mr AMG. Not until you learn your lesson.

        Grumble.

        • Ótta isn’t getting you any black metal record, my friend.

  • RDGEEK

    You mentioned the sound of the drums, sure, but I’ve been really impressed by Axe’s actual playing this time. As Opeth has transitioned from their death metal style to whatever it is we’re hearing now, it’s no doubt been a transition in terms of musical ability for the band members, too. Axe’s drum parts on Pale Communion show that he’s really taken Åkerfeldt’s new musical goals to heart, and he’s stepped up his game in terms of technique. He’s not just a dumb death metal blast-beat drummer anymore (if he ever was), and it’s nice to hear him evolve alongside Åkerfeldt.

    • It’s taken him a while to get into it, but he definitely did.

  • SMOHLG

    Great review, great album!

  • Zadion

    “But like so many post-metal bands, you can take the dirty hippy out of
    metal, but you can’t take the metal out of the dirty hippy.”

    Nice reference to your Weather Systems review there.

    I am frankly shocked you gave it a 5 considering how conservative this site, and you in particular, have been with ratings the last year or so, but hey, no accounting for taste. Personally, I think it’s only marginally better than the extremely lackluster Heritage, and only because Faith in Others is one of the best songs Opeth has ever done. Your review has, however, motivated me to give it a few more listens. Maybe it’ll grow on me and I’ll see where you’re coming from with this.

    • Having heard this record a lot of times over a very long period, I was able to let it go and come back. It was when I came back and liked it EVEN MORE after a break that I decided that it was a 5.

      • jageorge72

        I’m still absorbing the album…. only about 3 or 4 listens in I don’t know if it is a 5 yet, but I’m pretty excited about it. I do love the fact that this website is very stingy with giving out high ratings. The very well written reviews, and conservative ratings are what make Angry Metal Guy the best, most trusted review site out there IMO.

  • This is a good review, AMG…and not just because I personally agree with it. I LOVE this album and I like the direction Opeth is taking.

    The production is not amazing; it’s good, competent, and as all productions should be…but sadly almost never are these days.

    • The production is a bit more than good Jay. C’mon now…what is your gripes with it exactly?

      • Maybe I’m not an English major but I believe if someone says a production is “good” and “competent” that’s an explicit statement meaning they should have no “exact gripes” with it. It wasn’t even inferred that I didn’t like the production.

    • I think it’s amazing. It’s true that it’s PARTIALLY because everything else sounds like shit, but I would actually point to this record as being the prime example of the fact that with modern studio technology and techniques we should be able to get stellar records. We’ve got enough rope to have fun, instead we’re hanging ourselves. This record shows that it doesn’t have to have been “better before.” It can be excellent now.

      • It is “amazing” when compared to most of the shit that comes out now…no disagreement.

        Much of the music I listen to is from the past though. A lot of eighties “hard rock” or whatever it’s being rebranded as now ;) So from that perspective I can only hear a production like this and say “that’s good and as it should be.” Doesn’t mean I’m not grateful that someone like Steven Wilson is, in the face of current engineering trends, actually doing a decent job with modern stuff.

        • I suppose when you put in that perspective Jay, I understand. Comparing it to like Pink Floyd production, then yeah, PC is fine. Agreed.

          But I think AMG is right in the sense that BECAUSE of its extremely cohesive production, it actually makes the album more enjoyable too. In any event, I do believe this is as “good” as it gets with respect to production when it comes to modern prog rock.

          What’s funny is I am not nearly as enthuastic about this record compared to AMG. To me this is more like what Jay is saying (at least musically or in spirit), “a good prog rock album.” Nothing more. Same goes for Heritage. Maybe it will grow on me.

          • Well, if it’s those All Original Death Vox! you’re missing rest assured there’s still hundreds of thousands of bands with same-sounding vocalists who are continuing that boring tradition. (I’m just teasing you, Alex.)

            …but in all seriousness: there’s nothing “metal” about this album really (not that I mind but I can understand if others do.)

          • I think it’s metal, it’s just not metal, see? It’s epic. It’s got really heavy moments. It feels metal, it’s just not got the production or the growls.

          • I did actually laugh at that dude!

            Bare in mind I LIKE Heritage. I LIKE PC. I am still at a loss on how my favorite face painted heathen doesn’t dig Heritage but loves PC. That was quite unexpected (and a pleasant surprise too, I was predicting another 2/5 review). I’m actually curious AMG if you go back to Heritage now will you still find it just as crappy?

            Getting back to Opeth: What I find most IRONIC is that for all of MA’s talk of challenging himself as an artist (see Steel For Brains’ awesome interview), I find this to be everything but.

            Every time I listen to this record, I have this unbelievable urge to tap MA on the back and go, “Hey dude, I get it, you like 70s prog rock. Can we move on now?”

            What made Opeth special to me (and I think MOST fans frankly) was their juxtaposition of prog rock and death, with a little jazziness thrown in between. And now that he has removed all of the death elements with surgical precision, to me, the net result sounds a bit underwhelming compared to say BWP or Ghost Reveries.

            PC is certainly metal in spirit, but I can’t say it is in execution. Like at all. I would be more likely to recommend PC to a Rush fan than a Opeth one! Weird.

  • T.J. Barber

    I just can’t get past how we are talking about a band that used to sound like absolutely nothing else out there, but is now defined by how much they now sound like so many other things. No other band could have put out Blackwater Park or Still Life, but 100s of bands could have put out Pale Communion. Is it good? objectively yes. I’ve known for a long time separating what I like from understanding the quality of art is an important distinction one needs to make. But at the end of the day I still feel like we are rewarding a retrogressive approach. We call it Progression, but it doesn’t break new ground, it revisits old styles, things that have been done, instead of branching into something that hasn’t. We act like it’s daring, when really it’s much safer.

    Let’s look at a few other examples: Look at Cynic for what I’m talking about here. Nothing else sounds like Traced In Air, but the current incarnation of the band sounds like a second rate Muse. Did I want them to keep releasing the same album over and over? Definitely not. But I didn’t want them to release something that sounds like someone else’s b-sides. Is adding more popular or mainstream elements into metal really that bold? If that was true, baby-metal would be considered groundbreaking, but we all look at it as the joke it is. How is this really that different?

    • I think that’s a fair complaint, but I actually don’t think that Opeth is completely derivative these days. That’s what I was getting at with pointing out that their tone and style are still very much present here.

    • Colonel Birchman

      I disagree, no other band writes stuff like you find on Heritage and Pale Communion. Sure the sonic quality is very much 70s/early 80s, but the riffs and melodies are Opeth Opeth Opeth, only in a new format. No other band I know would write songs like Famine, Eternal Rains or Moon Above, Sun Below.

      Apart from the sounds/production, they really aren’t that much closer to 70s prog than they used to.

      You say “We call it Progression, but it doesn’t break new ground, it revisits old styles” That’s exactly what Opeth used to do, make new with old. Opeth used to be death metal + elements of prog rock. Now it’s basically prog rock + metal elements. They’re definitely not less progressive than they used to be.

      • T.J. Barber

        Your first paragraph is overly detail orientated and your last one is overly vague. If we want to go with the argument that the melodies chosen and the literal notes of the song give bands their truly unique sound, then the argument defeats itself, because then every single band, good or bad, is absolutely unique in that way. You haven’t gained any ground taking that position.

        “Opeth used to be death metal + elements of prog rock. Now it’s basically prog rock + metal elements.” you completely contradict the point of your first paragraph, as you’ve now lumped all styles together in such a way that no musician is making music that’s truly their own sound.

        The melancholy, tone, atmosphere and balance between the soft and the hard was completely unheard of when Opeth first started doing it. They were going on tour with everything from Katatonia to Cradle of Filth because people just threw their hand up in the air trying to find similar sounding bands. But now, there are so many bands doing a throwback sound that it’s practically a new genre. Sure it sounds like Opeth in the same way that when I talk people recognize my voice, but they’re now added to the throwback metal/not-metal-anymore bin.

        Note that my arguments are not about the quality of the music. I just think a band of this caliber should be compared to their own oeuvre of work and not their contemporaries. In other words, they might be doing better than the other throwback bands out there, but they are not turning the music world on it’s head with originality.

  • Innit Bartender

    As someone who discovered AMG looking for Heritage reviews and stuck around because I had found THE ONE that summed up my feelings perfectly, I’m just too happy to say that, once again, we are on the same wavelenght. I’m going to listen to it again right now.

  • Eddy Ferreira

    Enjoying the Album thus far, never been a huge Opeth fan, but this is really converting me into one..

  • Dan

    One of the best albums I’ve heard In my 20 + years of listening to rock/metal. With each listen, it makes me hungrier to come back for more. For me this is what a great record does – keeps you wanting more… No matter the genre. 5/5 for me as well. Congrats on the review as you pointed out valid arguments for those who want to listen!

  • Saturn in Scorpio

    fuckin bullshit man.

    knock it off with this staying cool because its opeth so u dont wanna sound anti something that made all the previous awesome beyong measure albums.

    shred the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 6th song and this album will be awesome and leave 1,3,4 and 6 in and give it 10/10 and you’ve just proven ur an insecure fanboy…

    fuckin F.A.C.T!

  • smmarx

    Not only do I love this album, but I love this review and think it encapsulates my feelings, perfectly. I also have to give serious kudos to this comment thread not breaking down into a shitshow which it seems to have done on some other sites that will not be named. Huzzah all around!

  • Huh, I remember making a passionate defense of Heritage and Watershed *somewhere* and I was sure it was on your Heritage review, but I can’t see anything on the wasteland that is that thread, perhaps it was just a drunk dream. Mostly it was about defending the “free-form” style of experimentation that was part of both, they weren’t as linear as previous records and I personally liked them a lot. Now, about PC I cannot say that I’m bored, but I’m just not really excited about it. Nothing to do with arbitrary lines in the sand about what’s “METAL” and what’s not, I’m just not “feeling” it. Whatever “it” is what I think it’s missing.

    Anything to say about the release on HDtrack or we just wait for Metal-fi’s review?

  • Charles Anderson

    I agree with the whole review, except for one thing… I loved Watershed. It was such a left turn, funky, unique, and while it didn’t necessarily “flow” properly, I really found the disjointed sound extremely appealing. I mean it is actually my favorite album in general. Hopefully that does not discredit my opinions in anyone’s eyes. Fuck ’em if it does.
    Anyways, the main thing that I missed on heritage that I find here are the gorgeous acoustic passages that just feel like flowing water. So glad to have his acoustic playing back in full swing. And those emotional moments too. Heritage didn’t have enough emotional oomph behind it. It was a little jammy, and while I love that (I generally really dug Heritage), I missed the other stuff too.
    That being said, I also think that the fucking riff that drops in the middle of famine is one of the heaviest things I have ever heard. like holy tits.

    • Lewis

      Agree with all you said. Watershed is fucking awesome, the best Opeth album ever in my opinion. I loved Heritage too. The disjointed feel is the point! And the jazzy parts are pure bliss. Some things were a little weird though like the key changes in Folklore and the first half or so of Famine. I think Pale Communion rivals Watershed as their best.

  • D3Seeker

    I will accept no down smack of Watershed. Otherwise, I’m not sure I believe you anymore. While there are certainly moments this too drawn out to be believable.

  • brutal_sushi

    YES!!! I have been anxiously waiting for AMG’s review of this album, and of course everything was said perfectly! Here were my initial reactions about Pale Communion:

    The new Opeth has some flourishes of their previous metal releases, mixed in with some insane musicianship, psychedelic soundscapes, bone crushing heaviness (in tone and production), and some of the most mind bending prog rock of this era… This album is fucking amazing…

  • Vinod

    Since everybody and their dog has an opinion on this review, here’s my 2c. This is a very good album. But. Åkerfeldt’s vocals. Lush? Sure. But he ain’t no Daniel Gildenlow. He just doesn’t have the range to pull off an entire album singing in this style. That alone is reason enough for this album not to be a 5/5.

    • bucaneer

      Man, I wish Daniel Gildenlow would stop replacing bandmates, fighting flesh eating bacteria, raising kids or whatever his latest excuse is and release some new music already.

    • This kinda doesn’t make sense. 1) The production is lush. 2) Åkerfeldt’s vocals are great, and more importantly they’re the voice of Opeth and work.

      As for the comparison: If only Gildenlöw would compose music that was as consistently as entertaining as Åkerfeldt, instead of producing re-hashed 1970s rock songs and occasionally knocking out something really beautiful, then that would really complement his extremely beautiful vocals.

  • Alok Meshram

    I was one of the people who disagreed with Angry Metal Guy’s almost summary rejection of Heritage as a “genuine disappointment”. I enjoyed Heritage (still do) and Angry Metal Guy’s review felt too extreme to me. What he calls “transitional crutches” were actually legit pieces of composition to me.

    Three years down the line it’s sad to see him still missing the point and beginning this review with describing people who didn’t like his opinion as “weird”, “foaming-at-the-mouth”, and “self-righteous”. That starts off this review with an irrelevant, indignant and ironically self-righteous tone.

    Even Ignoring that, however, it’s weird for me to see this album be completely praised by him when there is good presence of the same kind of elements that he calls “transitional crutches” here and “hamfisted shoving of ideas” in his Heritage review. Examples are the beginning of “Eternal Rains Will Come”, sections of “Moon Above, Sun Below”, latter half of “River”, and the last third of “Voice of Treason”.

    The reviewer needs to understand that his point of view can be disagreed with and doing so is completely fine as it can present elements and aspects of the album that he didn’t cover. More importantly, he needs to understand that a passionate/”foaming-at-the-mouth” response is usually a reaction to a one-sided statement (which his review of Heritage was).

  • Sid Jain

    I’m probably in the minority here, but I did not enjoy this album at all. Moon Above, Sun Below is the only song that made me smile and remember the Opeth of old. Having said that, I didn’t like Heritage at first either but after listening to some of the songs live when they came to India, I liked them better, so maybe I just need to get to an Opeth show soon.

    My issue is that the ‘feeling’ that you’re talking about feels very tired in this album. The Opeth I knew was never a punch-you-in-the-face bombastic band, but it had moments of both quiet power and fragile silence. There is a very lethargic air to this album’s sound. Even the crescendo of Moon Above, Sun Below didn’t reach to the heights a younger Opeth might’ve taken it.

  • I just want to say that I am in love with this Album. it has the soul and the beating heart that Heritage was missing.

    And I dare to say, it is for now, the top ranking album of 2014 for me. It has such beauty. I don’t think anything can top it from here to December

    This Pale Comunion borders perfection and oozes emotion in every single beat. Thank you Opeth (and Wilson) for demonstrating that you don’t need to be loud to be heard.

    Seriously I love it. So so much. Now if I could just go and see ’em live somewhere…

  • Liam Drew

    Really this Album is a a triumph in every aspect! I was disappointed with heritage, I felt it to be rather stale. I liked I feel the dark, but that was it.
    This album takes elements of Hertitage and improves on them, it manages to be heavy without being obviously heavy. The use of vilions adds another dimension to the opeth sound on vioce of treason (the best song on the album in my opinion) Yes there are no growles, but if you truly love Opeth, that won´t put you off and so it shouldn´t.

  • Brian Kelly

    both of these last 2 cds are good, they just boil down to the fact that before opeth was 65% heavy and 35% light, & these 2 cds are just the light parts for the whole cd. so that means its good, but it doesnt give the lightness the dynamics it had before. opeth always used to say they were about mixing heavy & light together, and thats what made them unique, along with their inherent catchyness & being the best band in the world.

    now you take out the previously main component and it just feels like we’re missing the best part. i imagine if you hadnt listened to anything before the last two cds, you wouldnt know what your missing, so you wouldnt think about that. but as great as all the previous light parts are, the heavier metal parts were always the best, and probably best of all when combined together, like all the cds except damnation. so i just think that the last 2 cds can be good or great, just not as good or great as they would have been with the normal heavy/light ratio.

    • tomasjacobi

      I don’t see a change in the heavy/light ratio on either Heritage or Pale Communion. The heavy parts are just not death metal like they used to be but more old school hard rock heavy. The only album by Opeth that doesn’t feature the heavy/light dynamic is Damnation.

  • AnnieK13

    My first introduction to Opeth was Heritage…while it was OK, it didn’t do much for me. I had heard about Opeth for years but for some unknown reason I never got round to checking them out.

    Then I decided to try a few earlier releases and ran across Still Life and was completely blown away. Honestly, I like this new album a lot and for me it is my second favorite Opeth album. Yeah it’s different but it is still recognizably Opeth and I still love it.

    One of my favorite albums of the year so far.

    • It’s an extremely good record imo. Well, I mean, I gave it a 5/5. But still, it’s just so fucking good.

  • Josh Necromaniac

    I Loved this band for its unique take on Progressive Death Metal. But I’m not into prog Rock…… So BB Opeth

  • Majid Khalid

    After reading the review and comments from so many people I felt I should give this album a try – since I couldn’t make myself listen to Heritage. Well, no doubt about songwriting and great riffs, the melody and tone, BUT, one of my very reasons to listen to Opeth was angry growling and THE roars i.e. demon of the fall, blackwater park, heir apparent, the baying of the hounds etc.

    I would call myself an ordinary metal listener. I don’t really go into the deep “Science” of it like many others do and have in their comments. The music feeds my feelings and emotions. The growling and roaring Opeth certainly did feed my emotions and that feeling of feeling that power in your limbs when you hear those heavy riffs with growling was at best in old songs, like the ones mentioned above.

    I am sure most people have loved this album for what it is, and they have their reasons. My reason for hearing Opeth seems to have ceased to exist with these two latest albums.

    While listening to these songs I constantly feel the urge to hear those powerful roars from Mikael, but it doesn’t happen and is not meant to happen anymore.

    I feel sorry at the fact that I can’t expect the kind of songs I loved most from Opeth anymore.

    The kind of songs I always loved from Opeth: ghost of perdition, demon of the fall, master’s apprentice, blackwater park, the baying of the hounds, April ethereal, the grand conjuration, bleak, black rose immortal etc.

    I know these songs have their soft parts too but you do get to hear “death metal” a lot in them. How can I ever make Opeth make another song like ghost of perdition? There’s nothing better than this song in the world (for me).

    Thanks.

  • antitayyip

    i used to think that this is a really really good album and i somehow discovered israeli band OMB’s SwineSong…no album can reach it’s top-notch progressive metal position…

    Pale Communion is extremly under standart compare to SwineSong….if i may say Pale is fabriqued deo-spray while SwineSong Gucci Envy for Men:..

  • Eric Freely

    Not sure why I’ve been so stubborn to dismiss this. Huge Opeth fan, and yet I denied their existence after Heritage, wondering what the hell happened, where is Opeth? What is this? The Mikael Akerfeldt Project?

    I’ve been wanting another MAYH, Still Life, Ghost Reveries, not some midlife crisis transition. I enjoyed Damnation, it flowed amazing after Deliverance, but this?

    I was a fool. Opeth never abandoned their sound, It’s still there, just without his signature growls. Enjoying Pale Communion just as much as I’ve enjoyed all the other works.

  • PEACE_SELLS

    I really enjoyed Heritage but yes Pale Communion feels more like a complete album as compared to a bunch of nice songs.

    Heritage = Permanent Waves
    Pale Communion = Moving Pictures

  • Vlatko Galic

    I own a limited edition LP (80g, 4 sides) and it became my favourite record ever since i bought it. Totaly agree with review in every detail.

  • I am the angry metal guy with this album for sure. It fucking sucks.

  • TRMGFYS

    Sorry, but it is not good at all. We all are entitled to an opinion, and mine is this, it is terrible. I wouldn’t call it a sellout album by any means, but a ripoff…yes. It tries to do 70s prog like all those revered bands from the 70s and falls far short. Listen to 2112, or any earlier Deep Purple record, or Dark Side of the Moon. What do those albums have that this doesn’t? Variety, interesting changes during the songs, and interesting vocals as well. Without the dynamic changes, Blackwater Park would suck, so would Still Life or Advent. That is what is missing here, the dynamic changes that make prog interesting. Again, that is why I can sit through all of Hemispheres and never get bored once, because it is interesting.

    This is boring and it might show MAs weakness; he can’t write good stuff that isn’t heavy metal. I think part of the problem is the fact he has lost his growl. It is gone, the power and the beauty of it, as evidenced by 2015 concerts I have seen of Opeth online. That was a huge part of Opeths MO, brutal vocals, brutal guitar and then, a transition to clean singing and more calm parts. It was displayed on Orchid until Watershed. Now I am not blaming MA for his vocal troubles, but this is part of the problem.

    The other part is not having Peter in the band, and maybe Martin Lopez to a lesser extent. Opeth has already made masterpieces like 2112, in the Advent, My Arms Your Hearse, Still Life, Blackwater Park, and Deliverance. Hell, Damnation is a much better record, and it is soft.

    The issue is the lack of interesting changes, poor songwriting, etc. Not about the death metal growls, though I do miss those a bit as well. Devils Orchard actually tried to do some interesting things, and then…..we have the rest of Heritage and Pale Communion. I don’t mind bands changing what they do, but just like Metallica, Opeth jumped the shark hard from Watershed to Heritage. Unlike say Iron Maiden who still sound similar, but fresh, an updated take on their 80s sound. Opeth sound nothing like they used to.

  • CENTER

    This is one of my favorites from them. I really love this album and listening to it on Sennheiser HD600 really shows how beautifully recorded it is. I was a dummy and got the more expensive “hi-res” version instead of the standard 44.1/16, so I can’t EQ anything of that resolution on my device, but that shows how well it was mixed and mastered. Unfortunately, Sorceress seems like it was a completely different studio and producer. Kinda a shame because Pale Communion is their best recorded album they put out.