Opeth’s new musical endeavor “Pale Communion” is a continued evolution from where their last album “ Heritage” left off. This is not a great surprise to me ( or many others most likely). The reaction from the fans will be interesting for sure. Opeth’s sound has always been a mix of death metal, older progressive rock, and acoustic folk passages. “Heritage” left the death metal stylings behind and concentrated more on the progressive side of things. They gained some new fans, pissed off some older ones, while some embraced both sounds. “Pale Communion” will probably have the same reaction. It’s a little heavier in places, more melodic and yet, I still hear the older Opeth shine through in much of it ( other than there are no growling vocals). Front-man/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt is behind most of the writing and musical direction and his love of older, obscure, progressive rock from the 60’s and 70’s is readily apparent. The keyboard and organ sounds have a purposely dated/vintage feel, but work well with the new direction the band has taken. At times I think they tend to overshadow the guitars slightly which was my only minor gripe with the album. This is only in certain places, not overall. However the guitars do indeed shine throughout “Pale Communion”. While not quite the monstrous riffs from previous undertakings, Akerfeldt and co-guitarist Fredrik Akesson let loose with a progressive hard-rock barrage of twist and turns and tasty solos ( especially Akesson who is just a monster player). Some songs such as “Eternal Rains Will Come” , “Cusp Of Eternity” and “Moon Above, Sun Below” could easily fit along-side songs from past albums such as, “Damnation, Ghost Reveries and Watershed.” The instrumental “Goblin” sounds like Opeth fused with Chick Corea's Return to Forever era. I would have never thought that this was Opeth if someone was played it for me I would have thought it was a 70’s fusion band. Regardless, it shows the musical diversity this band is capable of. “River” starts off in a major key with the acoustic guitar and vocals and stays that way until the guitar solo, then shifting to more a minor key and the song picks up in intensity and the electrics dominate the song. Again, another very un-Opeth type sound in the beginning until later on, but they pull it off. “Voice Of Treason” has a slight middle-eastern feel and (I felt ) it was dominated by the keyboards a tad to much. It could have been a much better song with more guitar in the front. The last track “Faith In Others” is slower mid-tempo piece that incorporates a lot of textures from previous Opeth albums. It probably would have felt at home on "Ghost Reveries" as well. So, the big question is; do I miss the heavier sound of their previous efforts? Yeah a little. It’s hard not to sometimes. However, these guys are so good at what they do, that they just own this style as well. It’s rare to see band that can do this. I stated previously some fans are going to be disappointed, and some will love it. For those that can’t deal with this new sound, they will be playing all the older material live anyway. I think we will see a return to the death metal sound down the line, but for now, just enjoy the road their on and travel it with them.
by Craig Harvey
for Movement Magazine