• Opeth - Pale Communion (2014) - Honouring obscure seventies' progressive rock - 72% (26/08/14)

    Opeth - Pale Communion (2014)

    "Pale Communion" is a slightly heavier and more accessible follow-up to the mellow "Heritage" release where the Swedish quintet continues to explore psychedelic progressive rock sounds. Those who were expecting a return to the band's heavier doom and death metal ridden material will wait eternally. 

    The album opens promisingly with the experimental jazz-driven "Eternal Rains Will Come" which is also dominated by occult organ sounds. This best song on the record includes a firework of atmospheric and technical progressive rock elements. The song seems to be mostly influenced by progressive rock legend King Crimson. Another often overlooked genre band that is honoured on this album is the Italian electronic and symphonic progressive rock band Goblin in the instrumental song of the same name. As a fan of both King Crimson and Goblin, I really dig Opeth's playful homages but I imagine that fans of the band's early and middle years might need some time to get into this kind of more sophisticated retro music.

    The most accessible song on here is "Cusp Of Eternity" with its slightly oriental sounds. Despite its beautiful mellow melodies and one of the simplest but catchiest choruses in the history of Opeth, this track turns out to be among the heavier pieces on this release which really speaks volumes for what Opeth represents by now.

    After a strong start, the album includes a few too many mellow and ultimately lengthy passages in the second half. Most tracks have their moments in form of atmospheric guitar sounds sending shivers down my spine and the enchanting and mysterious vocals that seem to sound better and more authentic on each new record. These moments of magic are often followed by a few too many instrumental passages that lack direction and tension. I often thought that Opeth wrote many promising songs if they lasted for only four or five minutes instead of stretching them to seven and eight minutes. After a while, some of these tracks like "River" start to grow on patient listeners but there is still a lack of focus and some wasted potential in most of these songs.

    After all, the retro progressive rock release "Pale Communion" still sounds more focused in terms of song writing, diversity and atmosphere than the sometimes directionless and shy predecessor "Heritage". The band's latest output still lacks the intensity and uniqueness of some records from its early and middle years and is definitely not a masterpiece or complete return to form. After all, this release is somewhere in the middle of Opeth's already extensive discography in terms of quality. If you like seventies' progressive rock music, you will admire this release. Potential new fans and those who prefer some heavier stuff should avoid this release and don't simply buy it only because of Opeth's big name on it.

    « Therion - Of Darkness... (1991) - Pitiless extreme metal raids meet bleak doom parts - 62% (26/08/14)Grave Digger - Return of the Reaper (2014) - Back to past boredom - please move on! - 54% (05/09/14) »
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