First off was I excited about the new album? Well sort of. I wasn't too fussed and just bought it the day it came out because after all it is Opeth, one of my all time favourite bands. I was more excited when Ghost Reveries was released back in 2005 however for a couple of reasons I could not muster the same excitement for Watershed. was it the title? Was I over Opeth? Or was it the extensive line up changes over the past 3 years? The latter was an issue - Peter and Martin were now gone. I was very upset when each of them announced their departure and thought to myself that Opeth will never be the same again, even though at the end of the day Opeth is Mikael Akerfeldt.
Enough time wasting, is the album any good? No, it is brilliant. The album has got me back to loving Opeth, it is just what the long time Opeth fans needed, something original, fresh and exciting. The changes in the lineup were clearly for the better adding new dynamics and new freedoms to the music that Opeth play.
Going through the tracks:
Now, I had my doubts when I heard that the opening track of the album was going to be an acoustic one - I feared that Watershed would have even less growling than that on Ghost Reveries. Nonetheless a stunning piece of music that could be easily be on an Anathema album. A good way to open the album, an original track that may pay slight homage to Damnation but at the same time is fresh and delivers something Opeth fans have not heard before on the bands previous efforts - a female vocalist.
So, are Opeth still writing heavy songs with growling? You better believe it! Absolutely brutal. A vicious assault on the listener. I personally split this track into three: the first part being a clear Wreath / Deliverance influence going on. Then the mid section an extreme case of the break down of Bleak finally finishing up with a beautiful outro, reminding me of Epilogue. This is the most brutal Opeth have been in a while, at least since Deliverance
The Lotus Eater
Now the opening vocal line of this song, took a while to grow on me. I could not stand it at first but I do like it now. A great song where the vocal line does dominate all the melodies throughout. This song could easily have been on Ghost Reveries. Which is not a bad thing, as it sounds similar to Reverie/Harlequin Forest and a sprinkle of Hours of Wealth thrown in for good measure with a very surprising Dream Theater inspired breakdown near the end.
With Burden, I can't really compare it with old Opeth tracks, as it is 100% difference and really utilize Per's skills on the keys for the first time. A fantastic song, with one hell of a keyboard solo and as always, supreme guitar playing. Great vocals, with great lyrics
Now, the first single off the album hmmmm. Not the best Opeth track by any means and in my opinion the weakest on the album - there has to be one, right? I did hear this before the album was released and I think that's where my fears about Watershed manifested from. Not a bad song, but not a classic either. I think the riff with the bend in it really puts me off. But the vocals are fantastic and I love the first vocal line - sublime
Another centrepiece on the album. An epic no doubt. After the intro, the melody that kicks in is what I love Opeth - the ability of their playing to send shivers down my spine. A beautiful piece of music with fantastic vocals throughout. After a build up of musical brilliance, we get to what we all know is coming. A Master's Apprentices style death metal assault on the ears. Reminiscent of A Fair Judgement and By the Pain I See in Others Absolutely brutal. My favourite off the album, without a doubt.
Not the best album closer from Opeth. In fact, probably their weakest. A great song of course but does it hold up to Isolation Years, Weakness, Blackwater Park? No, I don't think so but it does remind me of BWP and does have a grand finale-Esq feel to it right from the get go. An awesome end to an awesome album
I really think that with the new drummer and new guitarist, Opeth now have the freedom to finely tune their music. They were in danger of stepping into super prog territory - i.e perhaps a bit more prog than death instead of finding the right balance. With the new members who are both experienced death metal musicians, when Opeth do write the more extreme ends of their music, they can go all out - be as extreme as they want to, and this is apparent here, with the drumming, the shred solo and the overall heaviness. A change for the better no doubt not forgetting Mikael's beautifully written music. Bring on the next album.