Opeth- Orchid (Album Review)
The artwork for "Orchid".
“A Surprisingly Good Album”
I feel that I must preface this review by saying that I’m not much of an Opeth fan. I can handle most of their work in small doses, but usually I find them tedious and overdone. Their second and third albums are alright, but sound generally watered down. Their songs are also extremely overlong and meandering for me. This masterpiece, however, is a BIG exception. It’s got almost everything that that I appreciate in a metal album. Many of the riffs are reminiscent of melancholic melodic death metal. They are actually rather memorable, particularly for Opeth. As opposed to many of their later works, this album conjures images of forests and such things (I’m sure that most understand this). Where “Morningrise” is like walking through a bleak city, “Orchid” is like looking at snowcapped peaks and evergreen woods.
The songs in and of themselves, are quite pretty. Everything just seems to flow together, like pieces of a puzzle. The songwriting is much better here than what can be found on their later releases. The compositions don’t drag on forever, and I hardly feel the need to skip them halfway through (a problem that plagues their later releases). This fact is particularly surprising given that all of the non-interlude songs on the album are 8 minute plus epics. I really have to give these guys credit for being able to craft long songs that don’t get irritating after a while. The song order is decent too, with short interludes between every two songs. It’s not too much to handle at one time.
The amazing song, "Forest of October".
Particularly notable are the vocals; Mikael Akerfeldt sounds great on this album. Both his clean and harsh vocals are quite impressive. I have absolutely no complaints in the vocal department. The guitar work on this album is very memorable, and it’s some of the best from the band’s discography. The guitar solos on this album actually fit the mood quite nicely. They don’t interrupt the flow of the songs like guitar solos seem to do on so many atmospheric albums. As mentioned previously, the riffs are very memorable and melodic. Most of them are quite good, though the full effects of the songs might make them less memorable than they would be in a different setting.
The contrast between soft and heavy guitars is very well done. Instead of becoming boring like most of their later work, all the parts are entertaining and atmospheric. The clean guitars are some of the best I’ve heard in the genre. They are also more inspired than on Opeth’s later works, where the clean guitar portions are generally mind-numbingly boring. “Orchid” really gets the element of flow down. Instead of heavy guitars being interrupted by clean guitars (and vice versa), the parts lead into one another. It’s not like hitting a brick wall with sudden changes of pace; the dynamic shifts fit together like it was all meant to happen. It all just works on this one.
The bass is mostly audible throughout the album, and it does a good job where it is needed. There are a few places on the album where the bass comes in as a sort of lead instrument and I find these parts to be immensely good. I’m glad the band was able to throw in a few little bass treats without ruining the overall feel of the album. The drums are also well done, but not particularly technical. There are some good fills; I particularly enjoy when the clean guitars start up but the drums keep playing in the heavier style. It lends more power to the melodic parts of the songs.
As the individual songs go, “Forest of October” is my favorite. It was the song that got me interested in listening to the album, and giving Opeth another chance. It’s got some of the best clean riffing and I love the heavy intro. It’s quite a beautiful song, showcasing the absolute best the album has to offer. “Under the Weeping Moon” has some of the most beautiful clean parts on the entire album. It’s got a great mood, and it’s also notable as being the shortest of the longer songs on the album (the short songs are just interludes). It has a long middle section that is comprised of a long, clean guitar riff. “In Mist She Was Standing” is one of the more aggressive tunes, and it’s a great one as well. There’s some good bass work to be found in this track. “Silhouette”, while being only an interlude, has some impressive piano work. It’s not what I would consider a highlight, but it shows that the band members are quite capable making different sorts of music. “The Twilight is My Robe” is another more aggressive song; but one of the few that follows a pattern of sorts. It starts with an excellent galloping type riff that’s not unlike what you would hear on an Iron Maiden album. Many of the melodies in this one are quite haunting, especially during the first slow section. Additionally, Mikael puts forth his best harsh vocal performance during this one. His clean vocals are also great on this song in particular. There is more great bass in this song, as well. “Requiem” is a beauty of an acoustic interlude. It’s very well done. “The Apostle in Triumph” is great, as well. However, I like it less than the other long songs. It’s one of the mellower ones, as well.
Overall, this is easily and definitively my favorite Opeth album. I was extremely surprised by the fact that I actually enjoy this release. It’s beautiful and atmospheric. The songs are memorable and, while they are long, they don’t drag on for all eternity. Some listeners may find this release aimless and boring; I can respect this notion. It’s really not all that different from the two releases that came afterwards, except that it feels more inspired… like they put more effort forth or something. I am warming up to “Morningrise” and “My Arms, Your Hearse”, but “Orchid” still remains my absolute favorite from the band. If you’re into death metal and like some progressive elements in your music, then I would recommend this. If you’re an Opeth fan and haven’t heard this, then you definitely should. If you loathe Opeth, then give the song “Forest of October” a shot. Who knows, you may like it. “Orchid” is a great release that is a fresh take on the progressive death metal genre. I would definitely recommend a listen or two!
Best songs: “Forest of October” “In Mist She Was Standing”, “Under The Weeping Moon”, “The Twilight is My Robe”, and “The Apostle in Triumph”.
Negatives: Some of parts do go on for a little too long, but it shouldn’t hinder the listening experience too much.
This review was originally posted by me at: http://theheavyreview.blogspot.com/2012/02/opeth-orchid.html
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