Opeth - Pale Communion
20 August 2014

01. Eternal Rains Will Come
02. Cusp Of Eternity
03. Moon Above, Sun Below
04. Elysian Woes
05. Goblin
06. River
07. Voice Of Treason
08. Faith In Others

09. Solitude [Black Sabbath cover] [live] [special edition bonus]
10. Var Kommer Barnen In [Hansson De Wolfe United cover] [live] [special edition bonus]

11. Atonement [live] [Japanese bonus]
12. Demon Of The Fall [live] [Japanese bonus]

Opeth have softened their sound. This is old news, and this is also an old sound. Pale Communion is their sophomore in a retrograde and vintage style of progressive rock, yet it remains poised with their distinctive craftsmanship. The question arises as to whether this record builds upon the band's efforts in Heritage. It does.

Pale Communion has direction and frame. Less a collation of Opethian filtered prog homage, more a record with a sense of purpose and stylistic decision making of its own accord and character. In this respect the Swedes have found their comfort zone in their newly adopted style, something which focuses purely on the progressive rock, an element which has always permeated their sound within prior metal albums.

This effort is driven by percussion and acoustic, two aspects of the instrumentation which stand out clearly across the record in ways unprecedented for Opeth. Axe at the drums is noticeably busy for much of the album's duration, clearly steering its course in a style of progression that is typical for the band. Softer segments of keys intersperse the sound defined by rhythmic precision and progressive guitar noodling, also adding that golden glow to the atmospheric backdrop that is as much a part of their artistry as ever.

This is not to overlook Åkerfeldt, his vocal work receiving its usual pride of place at the fore of delivery in his purely clean style, offering an identifiable and comforting croon to the arrangements. Though emphasised, his delivery is never overstated, but finds a natural accommodating factor into providing much of the record's character. Otherwise, the new and assured direction in this album comes at a price; its vintage feel becomes hardened and less exciting as what was presented in Heritage in such an eager and somewhat heavy handed construction of a track list. This made the preceding sound more varied but largely aimless, whereas Pale Communion turns this notion on its head.

One can hear that this record has a place to be. It proceeds in progressions more neatly and astutely defined, yet the initially impacting waft of sounds from prog of yore that Heritage had seems to be lost. No heady projections of early era Deep Purple, for instance. What we're offered this time is a rather more bare bones approach, yet the bones solidify the direction the band has taken into their own renditions of progressive rock.

The production adds modern veneer to the old style of sound, and is especially suited to the enhancing of the percussive strengths, granting it a weight that is best afforded to recent progressive rock records that aim for stylistic heaviness where appropriate, such as The Void by Beardfish. Pale Communion is produced in such a way that easily acclimatises Opeth's sound into the modern progressive rock scene.

While Opeth have found their reason in rock, Pale Communion is progressive in two ways especially. One, it calls upon stylistic similarities to and compositional borrowings from the genre's founding fathers, and two, it marks a move further down the band's own path into their demetallized direction.

Band profile: Opeth
Album: Pale Communion


Written on 20.08.2014 by
R'Vannith enjoys music, he's hoping you do too.
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deadone - 22.08.2014 at 02:42  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 22.08.2014 at 00:13

You don't even use the word 'plastic' to describe the sound of a band such as Sabaton, for example?

I instantly thought this as a perfect description of Sabaton's sound and music overall:

As for new Opeth, I'm not going to sledge it cause it's not my preferred style. They've moved on. It's a shame for us that liked their old stuff but we still have their old albums to listen to. And in the end, could they have sustained the level of quality of their older albums? Probably not (indeed Deliverance was quite pedestrian and uninspired).
Opethian - 22.08.2014 at 21:15  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 20.08.2014 at 23:27

Written by LeKiwi on 20.08.2014 at 23:21

What this album lacks in flare as found in Heritage, it makes up in refinement. As a whole, however, Heritage is the superior album.

Heritage flair?

That was a total recycle bin of 60s and 70s progrock.

RaVeN - 23.08.2014 at 06:27  
Written by seafood on 20.08.2014 at 13:12

Written by MaiSweettShaadow on 20.08.2014 at 11:06

Mikael´s vocals are awufl, he really lost his voice. He sounds like a drunk teenager singing, Sorry, I´m a Big fan of Opeth but this album is very bad. Even Heritage is better.

Interesting, I thought his vocals on this album were best do date (naturally, considering clear vocals only). Oh, people and their different opinions

His vocals aren't bad on every single song but if you listen to Elysian Woes for instance it's absolutely horrendous! I think his clean vocals on the other songs have been heavily edited to add effects so they sound half decent. But i would like to listen to him perform those songs live... now that would be challenging!
Erik M. - 24.08.2014 at 00:12  
Written by Alex Fenger on 22.08.2014 at 01:15

Is it possible that the reason is because English isn't your first language? No offense, but it could explain why you contradict so many well established norms in rhetoric (in English that is)
Also sorry to bring this further off topic. Pale Communion is mediocrity at it's most mediocre. A bland, boring, stale album that has nothing interesting nor good to offer me. But then again I don't like Opeth....so that was to be expected

It's more a matter of not using certain words in a certain context (like in case of "organic" and "plastic"). I also think my English writing skills are way above average (for a Dutchman, that is). I also speak English quite a lot at work due to the majority of my colleagues being from lots of different countries from all over the world.

And to reply to your last sentence: this album and Heritage are very different from everything that came before them. Their whole discography is brilliant aside from these two albums, for me. They played a very unique style of progressive metal and really had their own sound, after all.
Erik M. - 24.08.2014 at 00:21  
Written by RaVeN on 23.08.2014 at 06:27

His vocals aren't bad on every single song but if you listen to Elysian Woes for instance it's absolutely horrendous! I think his clean vocals on the other songs have been heavily edited to add effects so they sound half decent. But i would like to listen to him perform those songs live... now that would be challenging!

Yeah, his vocals can sound pretty bad sometimes. But the last part of Elysian Woes is one of the best parts of the whole album. Very Watershed-like, which was their last great record for me.
metal2head - 26.08.2014 at 00:42  
Very well written!
copycat - 27.08.2014 at 04:49  
Written by metal2head on 26.08.2014 at 00:42

Very well written!

This album seems more interesting in terms of composition than Heritage
Asunder - 04.09.2014 at 06:24  
Ugh I miss Opeth.
metalody - 07.09.2014 at 14:03  
This album is a masterpiece. Wonderful melodies, great songs. The 7.5 average rating is very unfair and not representative for its quality. Ok, it is not metal, so what? The inspiration flows non-stop in the veins of that guy. Well done, Mikael.

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