The Prog Prince

by on August 28, 2014

It’s impossible to discuss Opeth without mentioning Mikael Akerfeldt. As singer, lead guitarist, and compositional cornerstone of Opeth, he plots the band’s musical course. With Pale Communion, he has further refined his blend of blues informed neo-classical play, and his vocals take center stage.

As a whole, Opeth is tighter than ever. They employ dynamics masterfully; ebbing and flowing while constantly maintaining a sense of movement. Drummer Martin Axenrot’s jazzy pockets are deep, and he shines brightest when playing barely above a whisper; which is often.

The opening track “Eternal Rains Will Come” is constantly crescendoing and softening, with the band taking cues from a surprising amount of organ, a recurring theme throughout.

In the glossy “River”, there are hints of The Allman Brothers, with folksy three-part harmony and even a fleeting southern rock guitar flourish surfacing amidst more vintage Opeth vocal and solo trade-offs.

On the note of vintage, Pale Communion draws heavily from groups such as Deep Purple and King Crimson, with the help of mixer Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. Organ plays an exaggerated role, and snippets of twelve-string and wind instruments add classic prog flair. The band even went as far as recording in Rockfield Studios, where Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody.

There are no headbanging opportunities in this album, but there are rich melodies backed by a driving, stylistically diverse ensemble. Most who cross the album’s threshold with open minds will find treasure within its Gothic walls. Those who don’t will be summarily mauled by goblins.

Cover art by Travis Smith.