Opeth - Blackwater Park Koch Records - 2001 /images/covers/Opeth.jpg Blackwater Park marks the fifth and latest releases by one of the premier metal bands today, Opeth. Blackwater Park is simply a natural progression from their last album Still Life and it finds the band at a darker and at times softer sound than before. This has to be attributed to the collaboration with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) who not only helped produce the album but also contributes by adding his talents to a few songs. Lyrically, Blackwater Park is not a concept album like the previous two albums. Instead Mikael Akerfeldt has dived into his personal experiences and come up with really dark themes adding to the overall feel of the album. He is once again joined with the Still Life line up of Peter Lindgren (guitars), Martin Lopez (Drums) and Martin Mendez (Bass Guitar). With this solid line up, Opeth has been able to come out with their most accomplished album to date. The album starts off with the 10-minute standout The Leper Affinity. It begins with an organ sound that slowly begins to grow louder and suddenly we are hit with the full force of explosive guitars and harsh vocals. One of the greatest abilities of Opeth has been to draw you in with truly bombastic and majestic riffing and just when you begin to appreciate it, the band quickly heads off into another direction. At about the halfway point of the song, the band heads into an acoustic passage that just molds perfectly with the entire song. Bleak is an intense slithering song where Steven Wilson adds his singing talent and his voice fits right in with the musical passages. This is one of the most exciting parts of the album and it shows that Opeth is not afraid to take their music into different directions. In Harvest the band finds itself in a moving acoustic piece. Simple guitar strumming paired off with gentle leads are the driving force of this song. This song also features some of the most heartfelt lyrics and singing by Mikael. With each album, Mikaels singing continues to improve and I welcome the fact that he uses both voices prominently through out Blackwater Park. The Drapery Falls might be one of the best songs every written by Mikael. The use of a slide-guitar in the first part of the song gives the song a unique haunting sound and it is an element I hope they use more off in future albums. But just when you think this song will be entirely like this, the unrelenting and powerful side of Opeth jumps in. Dirge for November starts off with vocals that are whispering and traumatic and the soothing melody that accompanies is played for just a bit before Opeth heads once again into a crushing pace. The Funeral Portrait is an impressive song filled with intense riffing, leads and powerful drumming. It almost has a groovy rhythm and it is hard for me not to move along with the song. In between this song and the title track is a short instrumental, Patterns in the Ivy, that acts as a breather between them. It is a simple but effective piece. The title track finishes off the album in truly superb fashion. It features a crushing and haunting opening riff, followed by phenomenal guitar work in the first verse. But what was most surprising about this song is the section right after the first verse. During my first listen to the album, this change was completely unexpected. It is a slow soft passage with slow guitar picking and dark slow guitar leads, in all this is a truly haunting part. But once again, this section is passed and the crushing pace is continued. There is no doubt in my mind that Blackwater Park is Opeths finest album to date. With each new listen, something new always seems to pop up (as with all their albums) and I never find myself looking at the time of the song and wondering if I should fast-forward it. This is what I feel makes Opeth truly great and I simply can not understand how is it possible that some people can find their music to be boring and long. But like the saying goes to each their own. Blackwater Park will be available in March in the USA at the same time as in Europe (it is about time!). So all I have to say is, get this album immediately! This is an impressive album that surely will be on the top of plenty of yearly lists, including mine.