April 25, 2014

7 Demons Of The Fall -- Appreciating Opeth's progressive death metal decade: 1995-2005
Iron Maiden did it. Black Sabbath didn't do it.

In fact, very few bands have produced a string of seven straight phenomenal, absolutely Grade A+ METAL albums without a clunker, or at least without an album that was merely "great" but not "phenomenal". (Opeth also released Damnation during this time, but that was not a metal album, and it is thus not included in this count.)

With the absolutely dreamy, sensational genre-defining 2-album deathpunch of ORCHID (1995), and MORNINGRISE (1996), Opeth from the very first moment of In Mist She Was Standing enshrined themselves in the hall of fame as one of the very greatest metal, and rock, groups of all time. The genius dripping from these two unbelievably inspired slabs of licorice pizza is captivating. Opeth would go on to produce other sounds (they are progressive, note), but they were never better than they were on these two albums.

Then came the very end-of-the-millennium's finest recorded musical offerings, the twin mind-benders, the astounding MY ARMS YOUR HEARSE (1998), and STILL LIFE (1999). Now incorporating what would become their signature style of their classic progressive death metal years, Opeth had sealed the deal at this point. After Iron Maiden before them, and Black Sabbath even before them, Opeth were now the ultimate expression of heavy music. And not just heavy, of course... melodic, nuanced, intelligent....freaking sublime.

2001 brought one of the most famous institutions of the recorded medium, BLACKWATER PARK. Unanimously praised for sticking perfect 10s in terms of both style & substance -- and again, doing so in their newer style which was more accessible than Orchid and Morningrise -- Opeth's members chiseled in a few of the words that would be on their various gravestones many years from now: "created Blackwater Park". Rightfully to be praised forever by rock critics and fans the world over, this was the band's true watershed.

Reaching deep to, in many ways, actually surpass Blackwater Park, the gentlemen came right back with their heaviest hit, the massive and inescapably beautiful and devastating DELIVERANCE (2002). Truly the ultimate statement by this band at their absolute creative peak, Deliverance represents pure love to any metal fan with a properly trained ear. Life needed to not even continue and we would have died happy...

But it did continue. Being Opeth's final A+ METAL album of this period, GHOST REVERIES shyly did not appear until 2005. But like any ghost worth it's corpse-paint, Ghost Reveries did appear -- and it's effect was lingering and permanent. Having carried us all Under The Weeping Moon (from their debut album) in pure audio ecstasy all these years, there was time for one last transportation: past The Baying Of The Hounds, and through the Harlequin Forest, until the possessing final climax of The Grand Conjuration, we felt enraptured -- as we had been for the entire previous decade -- and we were utterly captured forever by the 7 Demons Of The Fall... the 7 life-definingly glorious metal albums of one of the very greatest bands ever to strike a chord.