Monday, 7 December 2015

Opeth - “Deliverance” & “Damnation” Reissue (Review)

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length (Reissue)
Date Released: 30/10/2015
Label: Music For Nations



It is just excellent music. The playing is superb throughout with all band members firing on all available cylinders (Lopez on drums is fantastic here). The title track “Deliverance” is a particularly face melting blast of death metal with so many twists and turns that it defies prediction. Conversely with “Damnation” Opeth created a unique and melancholic record too.  The songs are great, the time signatures sometimes tricky and the sound, again, perfect for the material. In my opinion they are surely one of the greatest metal bands of all time

“Deliverance” & “Damnation” CD//LP Re-issue track listing:

“Deliverance”

1). Wreath
2). Deliverance
3). A Fair Judgement
4). For Absent Friends
5). Master's Apprentices
6). By the Pain I See in Others

“Damnation”

1). Windowpane
2). In My Time of Need
3). Death Whispered A Lullaby
4). Closure
5). Hope Leaves
6). To Ride the Disease
7). Ending Credits
8). Weakness

The Review:

What can be said about Opeth that has not been said already? Nothing I can think of, that is for sure. Opeth are that most rare of bands: a band that has progressed and morphed throughout their career- but also one that has changed almost beyond recognition. There are elements of early-mid period Opeth in their latter day releases, but the prog beast of today is a very different animal to the death metal outfit of yesteryear. I love both and see no issue with the band wanting to move on from album to album.

The paradigm shift which has occurred for Opeth over the last five years can almost certainly be traced back to these two (and now released as one double) albums. “Deliverance” is the monstrous follow up to “Blackwater Park,” while “Damnation” is a mostly acoustic, and certainly all gentle, selection of compositions.

The re-release is superb in sound and packaging. I have the triple vinyl edition: the sound is sensational. It is crystal clear with all elements simply shining forth from the speakers. The digital version also sounds great. “Deliverance” covers two vinyl discs- with opener “Wreath” spanning the entire of side one! “Damnation” is short in comparison and its melancholic songs cover disc three. It is enjoyable to note that Akerfeldt always intended the albums to be released as one set and that now that time has come. The re-booted Music For Nations label has done a stellar job with this- the cover is simple white, but the inner sleeves faithfully recreate the familiar art work. The vinyl is heavy and good quality.

With hindsight, the curve that Opeth would take in the following years can be clearly seen to begin with these records. The songs are progressive, complex and in places catchy (in a very odd way, being as they take in weird time feels and obtuse riffing). With only “For Absent Friends” coming in at anywhere near a normal song time (2.17) the rest of the record easily exceeds ten minutes per song. Truly, there is genius at work on “Deliverance”. Opeth have produced some truly great and classic albums; “Blackwater Park” and (for me) “Ghost Reveries” being chief amongst them. On re-listening to this I would have to say that “Deliverance” is up there with them. It is just excellent music. The playing is superb throughout with all band members firing on all available cylinders (Lopez on drums is fantastic here). The title track is a particularly face melting blast of death metal with so many twists and turns that it defies prediction. To say that Opeth stand alone is correct. I can think of no other band who have ever been labelled “death metal” with as much variety to their sound.

Yes, Opeth are Swedish and yes, Opeth are death metal, but they bear no relation to Entombed or Dismember beyond using double bass drums and having growled vocals. Of course, “Damnation” was viewed at the time as a sharp left turn by the band and possibly as a kind of bonus/afterthought of “Deliverance” (as in, “we can play acoustic and sing too!”). With the benefit of twelve (!) years of distance, this was well wide of the mark. Opeth were announced to the wider public with the seminal and well promoted “Blackwater Park” record, but they had utilised acoustic motifs and clean vocals prior to that turning point. “Damnation,” although acoustic and impossibly maudlin and wistful at times, is not really comparable to any other band. Despite Akerfeldt's oft-professed love for bands such as Camel, Jethro Tull and so on, “Damnation” really doesn't sound like any of it. Perhaps such a disparate comparison could be equated to Steve Harris' love for Wishbone Ash and how little Iron Maiden sound like them? Opeth created a unique and melancholic record with “Damnation.” The songs are great, the time signatures sometimes tricky and the sound, again, perfect for the material.

It is impossible to know where Opeth will go next with their music, further down the prog rabbit hole is the safe bet, but this is a band that has never played safe and has always sought to stretch the boundaries of what their music is and what is supposed to be. Rest assured, Opeth have always been progressive- in that they have incorporated many different sounds and textures into their music, taking them beyond the realms of death (spot the reference) and into their own space. In being progressive, they have carved their own niche and simply become “Opeth”, again kind of like how Iron Maiden have become “Iron Maiden.” Either way, they are surely one of the greatest metal bands of all time. “Deliverance” & “Damnation” stands testament to that.

“Damnation” & “Deliverance” is available here

Band info: official | facebook

No comments: