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Opeth - Orchid Review

by Progprince

'Extreme' is a very controversial word in metal. Many think it's overused and improperly applied, such as with the recent branding of Dragonforce as 'extreme power metal.' The word is meant to imply that a certain style is taken one step further in terms of aggression and aesthetic, and in recent times has joined the term 'avant-garde' to coin bands who just don't fit comfortably in any set genre or genres.

In 1994, Opeth released their debut album Orchid and became the foremost purveyors of what would come to be known as extreme progressive metal. Not following the well-beaten path of traditional prog metal bands such as Fates Warning and Psychotic Waltz, Opeth exploded on the scene with a majestic style that reinvented what progressive meant. Gone were the saccharine, pretty-boy vocals and face-melting solos and in their place were extended song compositions that took influence from doom, death, and black metal. Many have labelled them as a death metal band because of their heaviness and growls, but the riffing style and frequent use of acoustic guitars planted them firmly in the progressive mold, although there were clearly integrated aspects of the aforementioned genres in terms of vocal and lyric styles and atmosphere. The most prominent aspect of the band's style was the fact that they alternated between unforgiving harsh vocals and sweet clean vocals...from brooding deathstomps to Romantic acoustic interludes. This constant trade-off created a layered effect of dueling emotions.

Orchid is the album that best represented the band's diverse influences and is arguably the rawest. Here the sound is much more organic and less ambitious and they really let loose more often in the form of freak-out speed portions, proto-blastbeats and a more modest production. The feeling this album and all their other albums give is one of slightly adrenalized neo-folk background music, and the fact that we hear what their former death metal band Eruption could've been is sure to disappoint many. However, on this album, Opeth had created a beast that was needed in a scene prone to stagnation, and continued to keep metal as a vanguard for daring originality.

Highlights- "Silhouette"- I really think they should write more songs like this to break the monotony. Great piano interlude.

"The Apostle in Triumph"- The title is so fitting...the song feels very triumphant, almost in a Viking sort of way. Nice acoustic intro. The lyrics- The rustic poetry about nature and spirituality has wonderful imagery. "Into the Frost of Winter"- Very raw and heavy rare rehearsal recording. It almost sounds like a different band.

Lowlights- Well, this is just too low-key to listen to too often and the songs seem to lack focus at times. It's as if the music is 'progregressive', alternating between actually going somewhere and then becoming lost. The disjointed effect is a little neat, though, and I'm thinking this technique is used somewhat purposefully to create a sense of conflict.

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Opeth - Orchid

Label:Candlelight Records (Metal)

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