OPETH Bob Dylan meets Satan.
by Nathan Carson

Opeth Wed April 30


It's not easy to describe how wonderful, heavy, and important Opeth is without making them sound weak. Perhaps their greatest achievement is a total mastery of contrast--songs blast forth with whirlwind drum patterns, shredding death metal riffs, and the most aggressive monster vocals a thrasher could ask for. But a moment later, the band is doing a stoned acoustic folk jam with jazz patterns and the requisite golden-throated melancholy. No band should be able to switch gears this fluidly, and be able to retain the energy of extreme metal throughout. But for a decade now, it's exactly this formula that has been roping in a multitude of new fans, many of whom might thumb their nose at the Slayer section in Camelot Music.

Taking the best elements of death, black, and classic metal, and adding their own significant knowledge of progressive rock and folk, Opeth have fused an epic signature style of their own. Death growls of astounding ferocity wrench from singer Mikael Åkerfeldt followed by phrases of tranquil, stoner-rock folk. Acoustic arpeggios melt right back into an inferno of inspired death metal riffs so laden with hooks that they are often the most memorable moments on the albums.

With major progressive rock acts Radiohead and Tool making top 40 dollars, the times are catching up with Opeth. Swedish death metal peaked around '93, but Opeth step head and shoulders above their peers with each record. By the time their fifth album, Blackwater Park, was released, production was being handled by English prog-genius Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree, and their faces were appearing on the covers of metal magazines around the world.

Opeth are taking their place in the heavy metal pantheon through sheer effort and breathtaking quality alongside Iron Maiden and Metallica. The band debuts in Portland to promote their sixth and seventh studio albums simultaneously. Deliverance was true to Opeth form--a volatile mix of post-modern death metal and soaring melodic beauty. The sister album, Damnation, concentrates entirely on the lighter side, with less distortion and no screams to be heard. But don't think for a minute that Opeth won't deliver AND damn live.