Overall Score: 9/10 Vocals: 10/10 Repeat Listen Value: 9/10 Melodies: 9/10 Pros: Stunning vocals | Swirling melodies | Full of hooks Cons: Won't get the mainstream attention it deserves
In the eyes of many, Opeth can do no wrong. Sitting alongside Dream Theater and Mastodon as the kings of the progressive metal genre, they threw their fans an almighty curve-ball with previous album Heritage. Would their eleventh album Pale Communion continue the path started by Heritage or return to more familiar territory?
From the outset with the jazz inspired drumming and subtle, soft tones of the opening Eternal Rains Will Come, it is clear Pale Communion is going to be an album that will leave a lasting impression. The eleven minute epic Moon Above, Sun Below is totally encompassing, allowing the listener to get lost in the music until it changes tack halfway through, before drawing the listener in once again with some masterful vocal hooks.
Later in the album, the brooding “Goblin” is reminiscent of some of recent era Dream Theater work (never a bad thing) while “River” has a dream-like quality to it, almost veering into folk metal territory at times. The closing Faith In Others is another highlight, with Mikael Akerfeldt turning in one of his most enjoyable vocal performances to date on top of some beautiful guitar melodies.
Whilst Heritage was very much a throwback to the days of 60’s and 70’s prog, albeit with Mikael Akerfeldt’s incredibly distinctive tones, Pale Communion bridges the gap between Heritage and some of Opeth’s other material. This expansive yet less heavy side of Opeth has always been there and shown itself in flashes of quality on other albums, with songs on Damnation and Watershed in particular coming to mind. Pale Communion has taken that a step further by marrying aspects of Opeth’s multiple existing styles with some new worthwhile experimentation.
This may not be the return to the “Death Metal” Opeth that some were hoping for, but ultimately that is of little consequence. This is a stunning collection of work that ranks alongside Opeth’s very best of their whole career. On this form they are almost without equals. One of 2014’s most essential albums of any musical style.
Pale Communion is out now on Roadrunner Records. Opeth can be followed on Twitter at @OfficialOpeth.