ALBUM: Opeth – Pale Communion

Release Date: August 25th, 2014
Label: Roadrunner Records


With speculation and indeed apprehension reaching fever pitch after a lengthy delay, ‘Pale Communion’ marks a perhaps definitive turning point for Opeth, even given the stylistic u-turn of 2011’s ‘Heritage’. Relinquishing much of their extreme metal clout saw many bemoan the Swedes’ strident excursion into unabashed progressive oddity. Yet, this eleventh full-length from the peerless quintet is as vividly intricate, resolutely oddball and incisively melodic as anything in the band’s remarkable canon.

Underscoring the record’s brilliancy is an exquisite coherence, a songwriting strength which, whilst uncompromising in scope, retains a thrilling backbone of wondrous vocal histrionics. Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s performance is simply astonishing, his sumptuous croon encapsulating all the heart wrenching beauty of the genre’s best even when singing what are decidedly obscure lyrical ideas, these put across with some of the most towering hard rock melodies of the the frontman’s career.

Opeth‘s penchant for whimsy is as fully indulged as we would expect, however, and the luscious arrangements here collide with a liberal smattering of wide ranging curve-balls, such as the folk country slant of ‘River’, ‘Goblin’‘s sinister instrumental wig-out and ‘Elysian Woes’, which is as delicately sombre as its handle suggests. The curtain falls with ‘Faith In Others’, a low key lament which represents a profound highlight with its moving dramatics, and a summation of the band’s now complete remodeling into a masterfully diverse ensemble.

Although the hints were apparent even as far back as debut record ‘Orchid’, the voyage that Opeth have embarked upon has not only resulted in some of the most absorbing, individual and downright brave music this side of the seventies, but also a admirable preservation of the very foundations that contemporary rock music is built upon. ‘Pale Communion’, whilst being all these things, is most importantly brimming with songs compelling and sincere, and broaching a number of possible futures for these unrivaled pioneers.

Written by Tony Bliss (@TBliss88)

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