Blackwater Park is an excellent album to start off with if you are thinking of giving Opeth a chance. It demonstrates both their heavy, brutal side and their more melodic and beautiful side very nicely. Not their best, but the easiest to get into.
One year ago, if somebody told me that my soon to be favorite band would be a death metal group from Sweden, I would have chuckled a hearty chuckle and ignored them. In fact, I would have avoided anything having to do with death metal completely. However, thanks to a dear friend of mine who exposed me to a whole new world of music earlier this year, I have discovered a truly amazing and unique band. First, let me describe Opeth for those of you who are unfamiliar. While people refer to them as death metal, i do not feel this is an appropriate label and find it hard myself to find a fitting genre for them. I would call them progressive death metal/folk. Many of the songs include heavy growling vocals that are simply monstrous. The first time I heard Mikael Akerfeldt's voice I was blown away at the sheer power of it. What surprised me even more was when the song I was listening to, "Master's Apprentices," dramatically changed from brutal growling vocals and heavy riffage to melodic guitar strumming and angelic singing. I thought to myself, is this the same song? The same band even?? Yes it was. You will find that most of Opeth's songs range from 6 to 14 minutes, and include many transitions and changes from heavy and brutal to soft and melodic. The contrast in their music is what makes me think they are so unique and special.
Anyway, on with the album review. Blackwater Park contains 8 songs, 7 of which are 6 minutes or longer. I'll give you a brief description and score for each song. Please note that i'll be grading these songs compared to other Opeth songs, so the scores may seem a little low for the praise I give. Compared to other bands, all songs would receive perfect 10's.
The first track "The Leper Affinity" will give you a good look at Opeth's heavy side with chugging guitar riffs and brutal growling vocals. However, after about four minutes, the song turns to acoustic strumming and normal singing. A good heavy song overall, but not one of my favorites. I'd give it a 7.8/10.
Track 2, "Bleak" is one of the songs that really hooked me into Opeth. You have to hear the opening vocals to believe them as Mikael growls out some of the most brooding and frightening lethargic vocals I've heard. However, much like the first, the song also features some nice cleaning singing too done by their producer Steve Wilson. This song gets an 8.3/10 from me.
"Harvest." This song is a bit different from the rest. Clocking in at only 6:01, which is short for Opeth, this song seems to fly by fast. Also, this is the only real song on the album that is completely without growling vocals. You really get a sense for Opeth's ability to put together beautiful acoustic guitar work and melancholy singing to make a great song. This is definitely one of their more mellow and slow songs that may appeal to more people who don't like death vocals. 8.2/10.
"The Drapery Falls" is another excellent song that hooked me into Opeth. Much like "Harvest," the first few minutes contain mostly acoustic strumming with the occasional dreary sounding electric guitar in the background which adds a lot of atmosphere. The vocals are also very nice in this one, i found the chorus particularly catchy. Then, all of a sudden, all hell breaks loose and Mikael whips out the death vocals. A very kickass song. 8.9/10.
"Dirge for November." This is one of the few Opeth tracks I don't really like. It's really slow in the beginning and it sounds like Mikael is holding back tears as he sings. Not a bad song musically, I just don't find it very interesting or captivating like the rest. 5.5/10.
"The Funeral Portait." A great song with a kickass catchy guitar riff. This one is different from most Opeth songs, as the guitar riff is pretty nifty and catchy. After a listen or two, the main riff of this song will probably stick out the most to you. Good song overall with some nice clean singing parts as well for contrast. 8.6/10.
"Patterns in the Ivy." This isn't really a song, more like a little 1 minute instrumental interlude to the next song. 8/10
"Blackwater Park," sometimes one of my favorite songs on the album. This one has been described as pure evil by other fans. Everything is dark and ominous about this song, from the powerful crunching guitar work, to the slow, deep growls. What I also like about this song is that after a few minutes it, it goes into a calm, serene, yet eerie acoustic interlude. The atmosphere is perfect, and this part builds up tension until the heavyness bursts back in with heavy guitar work and Mikael's evil roars. A great way to close the album. 9/10
As you can see, this is a very consistent album that displays all sides of Opeth's music. If you were to buy an Opeth album, I would go with Blackwater Park first. Even though it isn't their best, it's the easiest to get into and will leaving you wanting more and more. Some other points about the band's music that i really like are while all four members are incredibly talented, gifted musicians, it never seems like they are showing off or trying to impress their listeners with pointless wanking. They play music for music's sake and their creativity, and musical genius shines through in every song. Finally, one thing people cannot deny about Opeth is their amazing ability to create great atmosphere in their songs. Most songs evoke a strong sensation of desolation and dread. In conclusion, even if you are not a fan of death metal as i once wasn't, consider giving Opeth a shot! They're an incredibly talented and unique band and may open your eyes to an entire new world of music!