Opeth, Pale Communion

Ryan Reed

By Ryan Reed

on 08.26.14 in Reviews

Pale Communion


Opeth mastermind Mikael Akerfeldt was once the proggy warlord of Swedish death metal. On epic LPs like 2005′s Ghost Reveries and 2008′s Watershed, he perfected a deceptively complicated sleight-of-hand — morphing from Satanic growls and detuned riffage to serene acoustic balladry, all in one song. But is Opeth even a metal band anymore? Akerfedlt has expressed his distaste for modern metal production in various interviews. On 2011′s Heritage, which functioned as a giant fuck-you to his most closed-minded fans, Akerfeldt emphasized his proggiest tendencies, abandoning black-hole distortion in favor of jazz-fusion doodling and brooding instrumental texture.

The band’s finest album in at least a decade drifts even further from their demonic roots.

Pale Communion, the 11th Opeth album and the band’s finest in at least a decade, drifts even further from their demonic roots. “River” is a windows-down, major-key classic-rocker — perfectly suited for the second side of a Boston LP; “Elysian Woes” finds Akerfeldt crooning gloriously about “bearing his scars” over 12-strings and Mellotron; “Goblin” (inspired by the Italian ’70s prog band of the same name) is a wicked fusion-rock jam that sounds like Mahavishnu. But the album’s mightiest peak is also Opeth’s biggest stylistic departure: “Faith in Others,” a mournful closer built on twinkling guitar lines and (how dare they?) orchestrations. With its ballad-like falsetto crooning, it’s clearly the least “metal” song in the band’s catalog — in that light, it’s both a musical and moral victory.

Akerfeldt continues to push his band into the thrilling unknown, whether his fans like it or not.