Prog Metal Legend Opeth is playing in Bangalore in a few days. While we restrain ourselves till then, why don’t we take a few moments to go over some of their softer songs?
Opeth is one of those bands that people either love or don’t understand. One the one hand, they are known for churning out some of the most cutting edge rifftastic progressive metal songs, replete with gravel-throated vocals, double-bass-overkill drum solos, gnarly bass grooves and soaring guitars. On the other hand, they have produced some of the most immensely beautiful power ballads, where the real beauty of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s voice shines through, along with a very elegant arrangement of other instruments. Metalheads may look down upon those who like Opeth more for their ballads, making such profound statements as “It takes real BOLLOCKS to enjoy their REAL music. Ballads are for pansies!”
But all such machismo (read as overcompensation) aside, what a lot of people who dislike ballads forget to notice is that Opeth’s softer, more “accessible” music is every bit as intricate as their heavier songs. Despite sounding softer, they may actually be even deeper and darker lyrically than their more brutal sounding counterparts. In fact, many of Opeth’s heavier songs even feature slower and softer bridges and interludes, with clean vocals and acoustic melodies. This is where the unbiased connoisseurs can really appreciate the genius of songwriting that makes Opeth one of the most acclaimed acts; they incorporate their non-metal based influences while still making macabre melodies in their ballads sound as good as their harder and faster numbers, if not better.
Since we can see already that my own opinions are not going win me any friends within the ‘hardcore metalhead’ community, without further ado, I shall go over what I think are some of Opeth’s most beautiful ballads:
Words fail to succinctly express just how splendid this song is. This video skips out the 2+ minute piano intro, which was magnificent, to say the least, but the rest of the song still allows you to get a glimpse of how Opeth can interweave blues, jazz and metallic influences all at once, while still making the ballad sound poignant. The keyboard solos, the lead guitar licks, the deep bass and the choral background… Can you imagine ball-dancing to this song on prom night? It can only lead to better things.
This is a song for the guitar lovers – Layers after layers of acoustic and electric guitars, without drowning the bass for even a single bar. Gibson and PRS guitars may be competing against each other in the real world, but here, one can see how they sound so sublime together, in perfect harmony with each other, without overshadowing individual tones. Nonetheless, there will still be a debate over what sounds better, the acoustic of the electric guitars…
Hours of Wealth:
A very signature Opeth ballad, with a distinct intro, a smooth segue into verse, driven by bass and keyboards, and a guitar with overdrive during the later solo. But all these technicalities aside, Mikael’s lyrics are at the forefront in this song, which would sound good even in mono. A song of a few words, but those bluesy lyrics will continue to haunt your ethereal moments as you listen to it over and over again…
“Never heard me say goodbye
Never shall I speak to anyone again
All days are in darkness
And I’m biding my time
Once I am sure of my task I will rise again”
There is something very seductive about the way this song flows, despite changes in tempo and melodic patterns. The medley of acoustic and electric guitars sounds ever so beautiful, despite switching back and forth into major and minor notes. Also worthy of mention are the subtle but tasteful drums, backing the shifting notes and time signatures. And then the lyrics. Somber. Bleak. Macabre. Call it what you may, there is no denying just how poetic this song really is.
“Credence in my word.
Written in dust, tainted by memories.
I confess my hope, recognize my loneliness.
Your laughter weeps the truth.
Push me into the corner.
Confirming the epitaph of my soul
and displaying the once unknown Karma.”
Other memorable, but often overplayed ballads:
In My Time of Need
Face of Melinda
To Bid You Farewell
And for those who might be doubting whether I like anything even remotely ‘ballsy’ by Opeth, there’s Harlequin Forest:
Kingfisher & Overture India are bringing Opeth down to headline the 2012 edition of Summerstorm on Sunday (Feb 5th)! What songs are you anticipating at the show?