Pale Communion review by Opeth

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  • Released: Aug 26, 2014
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.7 (83 votes)
Opeth: Pale Communion
4

Sound — 9
Mikael Åkerfeldt is the only founding member remaining in the band, having been a member since 1990 when he was only 16 years old. Since that time there have been several lineup changes, as well as changes in the sound and direction of the band. The band was initially considered a black metal or death metal band, but over time took on influences from numerous genres of music. "Pale Communion" will only be the third album by the band not to include some death metal growls for vocals. There are 8 tracks on the album, with a run time of a little over 55 minutes. The album was released on the Roadrunner Records label. The lead single from the album was "Cusp of Eternity," which was released in June. The album was mixed by Steven Wilson and produced by Mikael Åkerfeldt

The album opens up with the track "Eternal Rains Will Come," which immediately brings to mind '70s progressive rock with the organ parts in the music. Specifically, the intro kind of calls to mind the album "Tarkus" by the band ELP, but Opeth pretty quickly puts their own stamp on it. The song evolves with a non-traditional song structure and uses harmonized and processed vocals to great effect. The song also has one of my favorite guitar solos I've heard from Opeth for a while - not for technical skill, but just for how suited it was to the track. Next was "Cusp of Eternity," which was also the lead single from the album and is on the heavier side as far as the album is concerned, though still nowhere near even a prog metal sound, but still squarely in the realm of prog rock. There is more in the way of a "wailing" guitar solo on this track. "Moon Above, Sun Below" is another track that sounds like it could have come from a time machine from the '70s, which is a plus to me - I love the progressive music from that era. "Elysian Woes" has acoustic guitar and strings in the intro with very melodic clean singing. "Goblin" is up next, and is essentially a four and a half minute instrumental masterpiece. "River" opens up with an acoustic guitar and harmonized vocals almost in a falsetto range. The song builds up to include more layered instrumentation and melodies and the non-traditional song structure keeps the whole thing interesting. There are passages that sound like foot stomping rock and other passages that sound like acoustic folk music. "Voice of Treason" is a more modern sounding track from the album, though it still doesn't venture into the realm of being "metal," it has a sinister edge to it. The album closes out with the track "Faith in Others," which has a very ELP or possibly Moody Blues type of vibe to it. Personally, I love all of the organ and strings used on the album. Also, Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt did an excellent job of avoiding over-compressing the album.

Lyrics — 9
Mikael Åkerfeldt has been vocalist for Opeth since way back in the early days in 1992. There are no death growls here, or even the whispered clean vocals of some of his earlier releases, but instead more melodic soaring clean vocals. The rest of the band provides harmonized backing vocals, and there is some mild studio processing work done on some of the vocals. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the track "Cusp of Eternity": "Child of Autumn was born/ to a world of deceit and then a land of lies/ vagabonds would takes her away/ the star and its stems are lost in eternal sorrow/ she walks across the country/ she holds her head up high in the rain/ mother was screaming for help/ she turns around to stare at a scene from her memory/ she's hiding a wish in her heart/ thrown through a flood of waves that's come from her dreams/ and someone is waiting to see her name/ calling it to his side, the cusp of eternity."

Overall Impression — 9
Opeth has moved a long way from their metal beginnings, or at least temporarily for this album. I can appreciate that they consider themselves a metal band that isn't required to make every song they release a metal song - or in this case an entire album. I was surprised on first hearing this album as I expected something heavier after Mikael Åkerfeldt had described the sound of this album as heavier and sinister sounding. Despite my incorrect expectations the album won me over. Honestly, I can't pick a favorite track as I enjoyed every song on the album. The instrumental, "Goblin," had a big impact on me when I first heard it, so I'm going to name that one my favorite just to name something. I really enjoyed that the album seemed to reach back to that specific '70s era progressive sound and also mix it with elements of modern progressive music.

73 comments sorted by best / new / date

    twiggy3634
    I can understand the hate that Heritage got, even though I enjoy it, but if you don't like this album then I don't know what to tell you. It's absolutely amazing, 'metal' or not.
    Shredder666
    But it's not br00tal enough! Where are the screams? Since they used to be more metal, IT'S UNACCEPTABLE that they open their minds and expand their horizons. Just kidding.. Metalheads are so closed-minded sometimes. Good for Opeth. Awesome album.
    the_bi99man
    What's more closed-minded? Being turned off when a band completely ditches part of what made them unique and dynamic, or writing off entire albums of beautiful music as "cookie monster bullshit" just because of 15 minutes of growls out of an hour of music? Not saying that you, shredder, are one of those guys, but there's plenty of them. People who are just so damn opposed to growls that they don't even know that Opeth has always been just as melodic and progressive as the latest two albums have been. That's the problem with these albums. There isn't actually anything new. To someone familiar with Opeth's old catalog, the ONLY surprising thing about the latest albums is the lack of growls.
    Second Rate
    Shredder, the problem with Opeth's last few releases is the blatant worship of the 1970s Prog Rock scene. It's derivative, dated, and quite lame. There is no need to listen to a cut rate imitation of something that was already done better 30+ years ago. Being an imitation is not opening your mind and expanding your horizons. It's musical regression.
    Shredder666
    That's one way to look at it, but I thing that any time you do a 180 and step out of your comfort zone, you are growing as a musician. These guys are great players, and they're clearly influenced by 70s prog. If their album comes out as such, how is that regression? Transatlantic (w/ Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse, etc) just released Kaleidoscope which has a profound '70s influence.. yet none of the main composers had their roots in the '70s! It is an incredible and beautiful album. That's like saying playing Classical Baroque music is musical regression. Centuries later, Baroque is one of the most intricate and beautiful kinds of music, in my opinion of course. I understand if you're a huge Opeth fan it's hard to accept the change, but the band is doing what they want.. and it's great music! (again, in my opinion) Just be happy they didn't sell out or something.
    FlyingPirahna
    As someone that hated Heritage for it's poor songwriting, I love this album. Fixes everything I disliked about Heritage.
    jimmy-moto
    I was a big fan of Heritage and I can't get into this album at all! I'm a fan of good music from any genre but it definitely feels like Mikeal is trying to hard to be 70s prog. I hate to say it, but I agree with crazysam...
    florence007
    I was never very big into Opeth, but I'll be honest, they have grown on me a lot. It's a damned good release
    Nuclearcrayon
    It's refreshing to hear music in this day and age that comes across as very melodic but also totally unpredictable. I'm loving "Eternal Rains Will Come" and will certainly check out the rest of the album!
    blackone666
    Pale Communion is AWESOME. The more you listen, the more you like it. For the Hvrr-gvys out there: 1 - This seems like an honest album, aaand for me that's an instant win. 2 - BWP is still in the shells, I mean you can actually buy it, it's still there...you know?
    henrihell
    I would never have heard BWP if not for Heritage. It came out around the time when I really started to dig into the sounds of 60's and 70's prog. Because of all the hate Heritage got, I started to dig in the band's back catalogue and found some good stuff, but it doesn't beat Heritage.
    blackone666
    Yes! I was listening Heritage yesterday and I was like; WOW, why so much hate, this is really great! But, you know, there are those so-called fans that will hate a band if they do not pledge to their desires. "I demand, HVRR, I want DVRR, otherwise you're a poseur and a hipster band"
    Charlatan14
    Yeah, well this proves that Heritage and this are for new fans mostly. It's fine, we get it that Mikael got over doing metal, but why make Opeth a prog band... don't change genres, change the name of the band, do a side-project. That way, the fans who are not keen on a genre change will not get upset, and may perhaps like the side-project. Bands like Coheed and Cambria don't go for drastic genre changes, but nobody accuses them of stagnating, or of not being progressive or creative. Most people not happy with this and Heritage because it's the members of Opeth playing different music, under the guise of the Opeth brand.
    Mahoru
    First, Opeth has ALWAYS been a prog band, which happened to use some death metal elements, as well as elements from other genres. They've never claimed to be purely a metal band (in fact they've laughed at that idea in the past), it was part of the media and the fans that put them under that strict tag. They're totally free to change the formula as much as they want, and if they don't want to use those elements for now they won't use them. This still sounds plenty like the Opeth I've always loved, except without harsh vocals and a slightly different atmosphere, so it doesn't bother me at all. I discovered them when Still Life came out and they've been my favourite band ever since, and Heritage or Pale Communion haven't changed my opinion one bit; in these albums I still hear the daring band that won me over 15 years ago.
    Ristifer29
    "...under the guise of the Opeth brand." Lol. As if you can label Opeth like they're your band. What is so drastic about Opeth doing an album like this? This isn't a drastic genre change. I don't remember hearing an electro-pop song on Pale Communion. Unfortunately, you just have no idea what you're talking about, and pass it off as fact, as if Opeth has to cater to what you think they fit into. It's a good thing bands don't cater to these attitudes, or music would be extremely boring.
    Charlatan14
    I never claimed it as my own brand. All I'm saying is you don't see Coca-Cola changing their recipe. If they did, a lot of people would be upset about it, no? And no, I also didn't hear an electro-pop track on this album, but maybe that's what you 'open-minded' hipsters would have wanted. To label someone as being 'close minded' just because they know what they like, and are disappointed in a favourite band doing a U-turn in musical direction is equally close minded, dudes.
    Mahoru
    Your example pretty much shows the difference between good prog and not prog nowadays. On the one hand you have bands like Dream Theater, who are certainly good at what they do but they found a comfort zone years ago and haven't moved an inch away from it, pretty much like Coca-Cola. In small doses I like them, but that's not progressing, therefore I don't find them interesting anymore, they've become a consumer-friendly product. That's IMO a real U-turn. On the other hand, you have bands like Opeth, Leprous or Pain of Salvation, who aren't afraid to change stuff (but not everything, the core is exactly the same) in their formula to try out new things, even if it pisses someone off. And if those changes don't work be sure they'd be the first to know and solve it, but fortunately it's not the case. THAT is prog, and that's what Opeth has always been doing; they haven't done a U-turn at all just by leaving growls out of the equation and writing a couple songs in a major key. Criticising Opeth for the changes they've done on the last two albums is criticising them for not being the kind of band they've never been, but which for some reason a lot of people thought they were.
    Ristifer29
    First of all, Coca-Cola has changed their recipe before. Secondly, there's nothing like a "hipster" insult to show one's true colours. You said a Opeth had some drastic genre change, as if they hadn't ever dabbled in this kind of music before. Meanwhile, they've always had this influence in their music. It's pretty clear. Lastly, your final point has nothing to do with others being close-minded. You act as if Opeth shouldn't be Opeth anymore because their newer albums are disappointing to you, which is a ridiculous point of view. It's fine for an opinion, but to say it's a "guise" is lame. Who should they be then? This isn't a U-turn. A U-turn would be exactly the opposite: Opeth going in this direction and then going back and recording something like Still Life again. That's a U-turn. You have no idea what you're talking about. And it shows.
    FamousA
    Coca-Cola? That's an apples to oranges argument, bro. You're not an "open-minded hipster" by applauding a band for being creative. If you don't like the album than you don't like it. There's nothing wrong with that. It is, however, wrong to impose upon a band to make their new records sound like their old records. You want their older albums, go buy them. A U-turn would have been Opeth putting out a rap cd or a pop record. That also depends on how you define the opposite of prog metal or prog death metal. I certainly don't think 70s progressive rock is an absolute opposite.
    Pretelethal
    I love this album. I really do. I've read a lot of advice here on the interwebs that suggests the record needs multiple listens and that people didn't really 'get it' until reaching the last track, "Faith in Others". I cannot stress this enough - listen to this album a few times before making a fair judgement, if you'll pardon the pun.
    megamaniac
    Well, Opeth is my favorite band currently so I am a bit biased in that regard, but I love this album. Better than Heritage imo, and I really enjoy Heritage.
    robertito696
    With the shift away from metal I was hoping for something more along the lines of Damnation. This is very warm sounding and lacking in the gloom and darker tones I love Opeth for. Still need to give this a proper listen but I can already tell it's not really to my liking.
    iommi600
    I dig it, but it's hard to believe that this band and that band who put "Morningrise" out are the same, for some reason.
    -Davo
    @Peres.T.Peanut, Have you? Heir Apparent was one of the heaviest songs they've recorded. Damnation, Heritage, and now Pale Communication, are the only albums to not have growls.
    DreamGate
    Cant wait to get my hands on this. But to be honest, I'm kinda disappointed of the no ''whispered clean vocals''. I was hoping for atleast 1 song in the vein of Benighted, Drapery falls or Isolation years. Oh well.
    svelle
    Not my cup of tea. Don't care if it's their new sound I'll just listen to the old ones.
    bdof
    It's just not for me. I'm sure it's really good, but I'm just not interested in the brand of music. Maybe one day
    Redfinton22
    I'm halfway through... sounds like if you really like Heritage you will LOVE this album, and if you didn't like Heritage you will REALLY hate it haha. Clearly they're moving forward. I'm still on the fence about it all. Like, both are truly great albums on their own but neither of them have even come close to giving me the chills like songs like Hessian Peel or November's Dirge continue to. I try my best to just take them as what they are and be grateful that Opeth has enough integrity not to musically repeat themselves for the fans' sakes.
    mustaine42
    For all the people saying that the prog rock direction is not unique for them, please enlighten me as to who else is making music like this? I can't think of any off the top of my head. I love old and new Opeth, so I don't really get why people are so insanely buttmad about them not being heavy anymore.
    Waren
    Did you listen to "The Raven That Refused To Sing" last year? This record has that album's influence all over it.
    legendaryjj10
    You do realize who recorded that album, right? Steven Wilson. Who is a good friend of Michael Akerfeldt and frequent collaborator? Steven Wilson. Who has mixed the last bunch of Opeth albums and even contributed backing vocals? Steven Wilson. Mikhael and Steven have even done a side project together, called Storm Corrosion. So is it unusual that they would share the same tastes and sound similar?
    Waren
    Of course I already knew all that. They have been exchanging influences since 2001's BWP. I was just stating that point which is apparently unknown to the OP.
    Human371
    I definitely enjoy Pale Communion, but it's different than what I feel in love with, which was their versatility. In a way, this shows it off, but if they keep this up they'll be pigeonholing themselves. I think now that they've embraced their prog roots, and that was all well and good, they need to go back and re-embrace their metal roots with the heaviest and darkest music they've done. Then my faith will be completely restored in their diversity and purity.
    Charlatan14
    Who are you and what have you done with Opeth? Can't get into this, as hard as I have tried. Wake me up when the overdrive goes back to distortion, the psychedelic prog goes back to metal and the overdriven organ goes back to dissonant piano. Keep the clean vocals as much as you like Opeth; in the good ol' days, those parts were far more haunting and 'metal' than the growls in certain instances.
    mike.d13
    Ya this album is solid. It's funny how much hate they are getting for not being metal anymore. I have a feeling this is only a phase in the opeth discography. The bonus tracks on Heritage even alluded to something heavier for the future. I for one love Prog-rock and Prog-metal. So opeth is really making me happy with their albums. I can have a Technical/Progessive metal playlist going with them on it. And now I can throw them on with My Prog-rock playlist as well. Props Mikael
    Eccer
    I was kinda sad, felt a little too retroprog first time around, but I like it now. It's actually fantastic at times...
    Dark Canuck
    I listened to this entire album when the stream leaked and absolutely loved it! Buying the album definitely. I haven't really listened to much Opeth before but they've gained themselves a new fan.
    obrin
    Welcome to your new favorite band. You have lot of great music to uncover as you dig into their older albums. Try to keep an open mind, as the death metal vocals can be jarring at first. I got into Opeth when their last album, Heritage, came out and they've opened my ears to a whole new world of music.
    DMRIOT
    Don't like this record sadly. It's an homage to prog. Put Blackwater Park on.
    nino.scholz
    I'm surprised how much I like this. After Heritage I was expecting the worst, but this is flat out GOOD. There's some pretty catchy stuff in there from the first listen really
    RocknRollRay
    theres some interesting vocals on here a few good riffs memorably on the 3rd track. the organ sounded like something out of Swano's Moontower, a bit too much for me. i was expecting it to be a lot darker, which was a big let down for me. it felt like a very short album probably because of the song structures. a bit boring after their last album. in fact i had an urge to listen to heritage after this album was done.
    RocknRollRay
    having lost the mood for metal, i relistened to this album... carefully. this is an amazing album. simple, refreshing, and beautiful. i dont like that last bit in River. They could have left that part out, the drums are top notch.
    vontuff
    I have to say that this album is a peace of art! I actually like it more than the earlier stuff! The music is just beautiful!
    SydBareass
    For me, there's too much organ (insert sex joke here), but other than that, it seems pretty solid. I'm sure Mike will get back to growling and brutality when the music calls for it, but for now, I dig where his head is at.
    TheTriumpH
    It's an okay album, but I really feel like Opeth has discarded all that made them a truly unique band, and have gone the "easy way" here. Now they are just copying bands from the 60s and 70s, instead of coming up with their own ideas.Sure, about 50% of this albums is new, great, creative music, but the other 50% is just stuff i've heard from other bands 1000 times over.I think Mikael has lost his creativity, and sadly has started making copies of the songs he listens to by other bands. It's sad. Opeth was a band with a truly unique sound, and for now, it's become a bland band among a million others. By the older albums, I always got inspiried and awed by the musical ideas, while this album just felt like i've heard it all before.
    hanneman66
    I'm not really familiar with all those prog bands from the 70's, but now because of Opeth, I'm willing to check them out. I think it's great that Opeth made an album that sounded like old school prog because it allows younger fans like me to discover new kinds of music. Unlike you, we haven't heard this kind of stuff 1000 times over.
    Waren
    You are totally right. In the older records they would make really small tributes to the 70's prog bands (song and record titles, or very short sections in long songs) and it was part of the fun and appeal Opeth had. Now Mikael's songwriting is like "ripping-off-and-rearranging-segments" and then they go and record and entire album out of this. Also, Mikael's clean "strong" voice is nowhere as good as he sang before, with a soft-clean voice. Heritage was much better for me because they did not play it safe, like they do here with Pale Communion, or Tame Communion as it sound to me.
    Linkerman
    I completely agree. Now they're simply another prog-rock band among others that do the same exact thing, but better; while before, they were pretty much unique. The only band that ever came close to what Opeth used to do so brilliantly was Ørkenkjøtt .
    Mahoru
    Totally disagree, though Ørkenkjøtt are certainly really good. Saw them live with Leprous some years ago and really enjoyed them.
    DarthTyrannus83
    "The album sounds much more like a '70s progressive rock album than a modern progressive metal album." Yeah, theyve done everything in their power to make people as uninterested in this album as possible.
    travislausch
    So much prog hate in these comments ._. I kinda had a love/hate thing with Opeth until Heritage, then it turned to pure love. Pale Communion is just cementing that. I love 70s prog, so this is just icing on the cake for me.
    Peres.T.Peanut
    "Only the third album by the band to include no death metal growls" Have you heard Watershed?
    ChucklesMginty
    I think they're referring to Damnation, not Watershed.
    blackone666
    I think he is referring to Watershed because he wrote Watershed.
    ChucklesMginty
    Okay let's break this down. Reviewer says this album is only the 3rd to not feature death metal vocals. Meaning this album, Heritage and Damnation. Peres.T. thinks the reviewer means the [i]latest three albums, meaning Cusp of Eternity, Heritage and Watershed and so comments "have you heard Watershed?" (it has death metal vocals.)Mr Winters then thinks Peres is saying Watershed [i]doesn't have death metal vocals. So I then commented to Peres meaning "I think the reviewer is referring to this album, Heritage and Damnation not having death metal vocals, not Watershed." Confusing eh?