Wim S. : It has been almost four years since Opeth surprised the metal world with the release of 'Heritage'. The grunt had disappeared completely and the riffs and melodies especially referred to classic hard rock, jazz and prog-rock instead of the death metal of yesteryear. And although 'Heritage' was (and still is!) a great album the audience had to get used to that new sound. In recent years, I saw the band play live several times, alternating with and without a grunt. Just a few months ago Åkerfeldt singlehandedly roared the marquee tent out of the ground at the Graspop festival. Would he yet again...? The answer is no. No, you will not hear the grunt again on this new album, 'Pale Communion'. Undoubtedly Åkerfeldt will say that the songs did not ask for it. With this new release Opeth refines the musical direction that the band started with 'Heritage'. Fans from the early days will have to get used to it: Opeth is really not a death metal band anymore.
Now, Opeth is simply the market leader when it comes to progressive rock, especially now it is silent for years around Porcupine Tree. 'Pale Communion' is an album of exceptional quality within that genre. Compared to its predecessor, this album sounds much more organic and song oriented. Where on 'Heritage' the band seemed preoccupied with making statement, on 'Pale Communion' you especially hear a band that enjoys what she does. Opeth have always excelled in a good sound, especially at festivals. That line is now being extended to their studio albums: I have not heard any album this year, on which the guitars, the vocals and the drums sounded as beautiful as on 'Pale Communion'. And my goodness, what a high-level of musicianship you hear on this album! Together with Åkerfeldt guitarist Fredrik Åkkeson plays the most beautiful solos (‘Cusp Of Eternity', 'Moon Above, Sun Below'), inimitable jazzy parts (the fabulous instrumental 'Goblin') but also touching beautiful melodies ('River', 'Faith in Others', perhaps the most beautiful song on the album). The most impressive actually is Martin Axenrot; with its stunning way of playing he keeps everything together and he expertly puts the correct accents where necessary. If I'm honest, at times I miss a real heavy riff, or an old-fashioned blast passage and / or grunt. This variety gave the music of Opeth just that much more value. Now it is all very beautiful and melodic and we can permanently forget the word ‘brutal’ in the book of Opeth. Last point of criticism: the font of the CD booklet ... ..I'm an old dick with perhaps not the best of eyes, but who can read this I wonder?