High time for what is quite possibly my favorite album of all time: Opeth's Blackwater Park.
Released in 2001 (and named after an obscure German 70's prog band), this was Opeth's fifth album and their first collaboration with producer Steven Wilson (who later produced Opeth's "twin albums", 2002's Deliverance and 2003's Damnation). Opeth's trademark has always been the combination of heavy-as-a-bastard death metal and beautiful, mellow segments - a result of lead singer, guitarist and main song writer Mikael Åkerfeldt's fascination (fetish, some would say) for death/black metal and 1970's progressive rock. He's also a huge Porcupine Tree fan, so to hire their ringleader Steven Wilson was an obvious choice.
That's just about all I can tell you about this album... Without sounding too pathetic or getting too personal, it's kinda hard for me to talk about Blackwater Park simply because I don't think words could ever explain just how much it means to me, how much I love it, and why I love it. It's an album that just transcends everything. Before I bought it I'd been hearing a lot about Opeth, had read many a glowing review, and I didn't really know much about them or what they sounded like except for one or two tracks that I had stumbled upon. It didn't sound bad or anything, it just didn't speak to me. I thought I'd give the band another shot, so I went and bought Blackwater Park, Deliverance and Damnation. Gave it another listen and... Well, it sounded a little better than before, but still nothing earthshattering. Perhaps the three albums didn't do much for me because it was in the middle of summer. Opeth's music is many things, but "summery" isn't one of them.
Months later I went out for a long walk by myself on a beautiful, crisp afternoon in the fall (I even remember the date: October 15th). It wasn't too cold, not too warm - it was just right. The sun was shining, birds were tweeting and all trees and bushes had turned burning red, orange, yellow and pink. Blackwater Park was rumbling in the old headphones and finally I got it. I got it. The penny finally dropped and at last I understood just what Opeth was about.
The opening track, The Leper Affinity, certainly made me pay attention but by the time Bleak, Harvest and, most importantly, The Drapery Falls came along there was no longer any doubt: this is a fucking masterpiece, and that's final. An impeccable piece of work that's so much more than just music on a piece of plastic. I'm a fan of many bands and many types of music, but I don't recall ever being moved fundamentally , right to the core, the way I was on that day. Yes, I know it's getting pathetic but in all honesty Blackwater Park is the closest I've ever come to a spiritual (hell, religious even!) experience. Sure, many things played a major role, such as the place I was at in my life at the time, the mood I was in on that particular day, and of course the perfect autumn setting (Opeth is music for winter and autumn, no doubt about it). But at the heart of it all was the haunted, gorgeous sounds blaring into my impressionable little ears.
I chose to share Bleak and The Drapery Falls with you, but I could have picked any of the album's eight tracks. It wouldn't have mattered, they're all equally essential. If you download them and have a listen (and I strongly suggest you do) your reaction may very well be: "What the fuck is that idiot talking about? It isn't that good. It's death metal with some mellow shit thrown in. Big fucking deal. And spiritual? Religious?! This must be some bad joke. I bet he's on crack."
And that's perfectly fine. I don't expect anyone to feel as strongly as I do about anything, certainly not about something as subjective as music. But give it a try: Blackwater Park may be an eyeopener for you too. If not, maybe you'll appreciate it just for what it is on a more basic, down to earth level: A fucking excellent album.
Just for the record, your honor: Deliverance and Damnation turned out to be great too. I'll write a piece about them too in the future. In fact - being the Opeth nerd that I am, I'll probably write about all their albums eventually.
(mp3) Opeth - Bleak
(mp3) Opeth - The drapery falls (highly recommended!)
Bleak live in 2006 (amazing how they can pull this shit off without a hitch):
Buy Blackwater Park @ Amazon.com.