Opeth – Watershed

To be frank, there is one band that should not be missed out by anyone who has only the slightest inch of liking for prog rock and metal: Opeth. This is prog metal to the max: long songs, jolting keyboards, a Hammond organ here and there… And don’t forget the experiments with folk, jazz, psycho, avant-garde, and so on. Ever since the band’s debut in 1995 with the brilliant album Orchid, expectations have kept rocketing sky high. And I must say: they still manage to live up to the expectations.

The latest album from the Swedish death metal hippies, Watershed, dating back to 2008 already, is really an exercise in friction. It includes so many different styles and is again so different from its predecessors that it is really strikingly Opeth. All the elements that we have come to expect from the band are there. No simple stuff.

The start of the album, Coil, is strikingly easy to the ear. And short as well, since it is only three minutes long. It even sprouts a female voice: that of Nathalie Lorichs. I did not expect it to fit, but it does. The song ends in a swelling thunderous sound…

…That flows into Heir Apparent. This song is really old school Opeth. Progressive death metal which is guaranteed to blow you away. It is brutal. Sudden stops, the clean crisp voice of Mikael Åkerfeldt and jumps into deep grunts that sound like they have emerged from the depths of Hell.

And with that we have come to the essence of this album. Although it is really an Opeth album, it could easily be the soundtrack for an experimental horror movie. The creepy sounds here and there, guitars that sometimes seem slightly dissonant… The feeling of the album is creepy. Lotus Eater clearly proves that.

Best song of the album in my opinion: Hessian Peel. Epic, with unexpected twists and turns, doom, death, grunts and riffs that really show you the true meaning of prog.

Is there no downside to this album? Well, yes there is. It is Opeth: pompous, complicated and you have to listen to it at least a dozen times to catch the true drift of this album. But if that doesn’t scare you, you’re in for a real treat.

written by Maarten Merkens

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