by Ben Perry
Artist Name: Opeth
Album Name: Watershed
Release Date: June 3, 2008
Band on Record:
Mikael Akerfeldt: Vocals and guitar.
Fredrik Akesson: Guitar.
Martin Mendez: Bass.
Martin Axenrot: Drums and percussion.
Per Wiberg: Keyboards.
Nathalie Lorichs: Guest female vocals on “Coil.”
Lisa Almberg: English horn and oboe.
Christoffer Wadensten: Flute.
Karin Svensson: Violin.
Andreas Tengberg: Cello.
Track 1: “Coil”
An interesting first cut for this album; going against almost everything you would have expected with clean vocals and baroque-esque acoustic guitar this would have fit perfectly on the Damnation album. Female vocals add something not common to the Opeth repertoire (supplied by the drummer's girlfriend [thanks Travis for clarifying and backing me up, dude!]). Nothing wrong with this tune .
Song Rating: 10 out of 10
Track 2: “Heir Apparent”
The music collides and crashes together in a tidal wave of opposites here as death metal growls breakaway for piano tinkling and folky type guitar breakdowns. The music is superb and keeps everything interesting, but the lack of clean vocals takes away some of the enjoyable level.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10
Track 3: “The Lotus Eater”
The duo vocal style of Mikael Akerfeldt is perfectly used here, contrasting the harshness of death metal and then coming with crystal clear singing hiting the right spot. Not to mention fantastic guitar work that is both melodic and bombastic!
Song Rating: 9 out of 10
Track 4: “Burden”
Like “Coil,” I could see this being on the Damnation album, except some parts are electrified which was not part of that album. The music sounds absolutely fantastic, with some great clean vocals and guitar solos that sound “clean.” Not to mention a classic style keyboard solo in line with the work of Deep Purple. It feels there was an attempt to sound “classic” on this song, and it works!
Song Rating: 9 out of 10
Track 5: “Porcelain Heart”
The soft portion of this song seems to follow a similar scale each time it breaks up the more bombastic portions. This gives the song continuity, while changing the pace, keeping everything interesting and exciting. The tempo changes that come halfway through also give that break and allow Opeth to make these long songs not seem as long as they actually are. It’s a good tune, and the clean vocals throughout are a plus.
Song Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Track 6: “Hessian Peel”
This is the longest song on here, clocking in over eleven and almost a half-minute, “Hessian Peel” starts off slow with acoustic guitars and electric helping in the background in a folky playing style. For those who know the Damnation album, the same type of keyboards that are displayed on that album a lot come in to give the Opeth atmosphere and deliver yet another tune that sounds perfect for that album. That is, until the death metal comes back into the Opeth repertoire and you are just blindsided with crazy good thrash solos and rhythm work on the guitar, not to mention vocals that make my chords hurt. This is Opeth giving the best of both worlds and that is what makes the song, and the album so appealing.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10
Track 7: “Hex Omega”
Like most of the other songs on this album, the light and dark touches Opeth manage to incorporate into their music mesh well here. The softer side that has the singing over the top contains those crazy dark lyrics that seem to always been floating in the mind of Akerfeldt, and those heavy portions keep the doomy feel coming as guitar and keyboard collide.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Watershed is probably the best effort Opeth have put out there. It ranks up their with their first few albums, and with my other favorite Damnation. The reason for why this album is so special in light of the greatness that Opeth have managed in each of their releases is the dynamic shifts each and every song has. Whether the shift comes from the vocals as clean and melodic to growling from the pits of hell or folky acoustic guitar arrangements to crushing death metal riffs. Everything creates the atmosphere Opeth is looking for convey towards the listener, and they succeed in a wonderful fashion.
The album has a dark tinged theme to it, dealing a lot with deception and power (probably in light of some of the lies governments tend to tell the people while they operate in their own interests). However, in an interview with Metal Hammer magazine in June 2008, Mikael also mentions how the birth of his daughter and the uncertainty that brought into his life played a part in the writing of this album.
The songs “Heir Apparent” and “The Lotus Eater” have a strong theme of mistrust to those in power and the lies they tell to achieve what they want to have happen. “Heir Apparent” describes a “levee of deception” that could be criticizing the way the United States dealt with Hurricane Katrina and the levees that broke due to the lack of proper maintenance. Snarling, “And again he rides in/It’s September and he covets the gullible” also could point to the Katrina destruction for this song, as September was when the hurricane struck and managed to cause its death and destruction. The slow rescue response and government lies to cover that up also could play a part in the meaning, as Akerfeldt likes to keep things ambiguous so there is debate to the meaning. One thing is certain, his line of “the swift solution crumbles beneath the mock notes of a masterpiece” could not be truer as almost anything that is put together swiftly will not stand the test of time and prove to be of much use.
“The Lotus Eater” does not seem to deal with one particular instance of mistrust, but does point out that “a whisper from the heart of evil luring them all into despair/Resenting the goods of a savior” a common occurrence in society these days as studies have been published showing how the morals of people are crumbling. The Boston Herald published an editorial on a study done in California showing the youth that were taken as a sample depicted a sever decline in morals where roughly a large majority (I lost the article so cannot quote exact percentages…) have stolen, cheated, and/or felt good while doing it. Also, three-fourths thought they had the same or better morals than their peers. If society continues to deteriorate then the “barren waste” will become “[our] land/[our] crops, they were sown to die.”
With that knowledge of how society is falling apart, there is a fear as Mikael Akerfeldt has a new child to raise in the crumbling world. In “The Lotus Eater” the fear of how “the pride of a mother brought flaws in a mother’s son/And the love from a father was used by a father’s son” is brought out and with everything that is happening will his child become like everyone else? The fear of Akerfeldt is not only shown in the brutality of “The Lotus Eater” music, but in the lightness of “Porcelain Heart” and “Coil” the fear of loss both in the sense of death and abandonment is expressed. “Porcelain Heart” deals with the death of someone as “I lost all I had (that April day)/I turned to my friends (nothing to say)” and when there is comfort needed, there is nothing that can be said to properly help out. Meaning to me the death of a child that means everything to Akerfeldt as the interview pointed out, but in the same instance, “Coil” expresses a fear of abandonment “When you get out of here/When you leave me behind/You’ll find that the years passed us by.” Both of these must be new experiences for someone with a newborn.
Opeth have certainly matured and changed their style a bit on this album. As Akerfeldt said to MTV.com and reported on http://www.blabbermouth.com/blabbermout ... emID=87140 he thought it would be “a bit more energetic” and that is certainly correct. The change in vocals leaning more towards clean in the way Damnation was performed is a definite plus as Akerfeldt has a wonderful voice that truly works the emotions, and coupling that with the growls adds even more effect. In the interview he says that it’s definitely not a boring album, but is very interesting. In that respect I have to completely agree and enjoyed listening to it very much.
Overall Review: 9 out of 10