Watershed review by Opeth

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Jun 3, 2008
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.3 (215 votes)
Opeth: Watershed
3

Sound — 10
Opeth's 9th "observation", Watershed, is finally here, three years after Ghost Reveries, and I had no idea what it would sound like considering the huge difference in style from Deliverance/Damnation to Ghost Reveries. Two songs were released as singles, Lotus Eater and Porcelain Heart. I have to say that I was a bit nervous the first time I heard these songs. The Lotus Eater was unlike any other Opeth song, with Akerfeldt rapidly alternating screams and clean vox and an upbeat keyboard groove coming from out of nowhere. Porcelain Heart seemed to be missing some death growls and was a tad short for Opeth's standard ten minute format. After a few more listens, though, I saw the genius of these songs and realized that Watershed was going to be another masterpiece, which I can now say is true. The arguably "more death metal" new band members, Axenrot on drums and Akesson on guitar, threatened to take away some of the progressive element, but it all worked out well. Axenrot, while noticeably different in style from Martin Lopez (definitely more blastbeats) is extremely capable and knows when to tone it down and when to turn on the jets. Akesson brings the element of shredding to Opeth, but it is tasteful and in moderation and fits very well into the songs. Also, this is the album where keyboardist Per Wiberg really shines. There is a lot of keyboard in this album, but at no point do you think "Ugh, get rid of the friggin keyboard there." Whether it's just backing chords or the times when he plays a melody unaccompanied by other instruments, I'm really digging the keyboard. Mendez also delivers the goods with many well timed bass grooves. Right, so here's a little song by song analysis: 01. Coil - a short acoustic opener with guest vocals by Natalie Lorichs (her only appearance and yes, Akerfeldt also sings on this song). Beautiful song with great singing and a sweet acoustic riff heard a couple of times. 02. Heir Apparent - possibly their heaviest song ever. I'd describe it as Master's Apprentices on steroids. If you aren't headbanging and/or playing air guitar at some point during this song, something is terribly wrong. Gnarly dimented riffage, a creepy acoustic interlude, and a brilliant outro melody make this an Opeth classic. 03. The Lotus Eater - unlike any other Opeth song, for reasons mentioned earlier. The middle part with a mellow yet dark guitar thing followed by some groovin keyboard jamz is very cool, but the best part is after this when the song kicks back up with an out of left field riff and a very interesting vocal melody that eventually fades into some shady characters speaking in different languages. Cool song. 04. Burden - the "ballad" of this album. It took a few listens to get used to this, considering it's softer and at times simpler than the usual Opeth song, but then I saw that this is a masterful song that many would not expect to be the kind of thing Opeth excels at. At first it is carried not by a clever guitar lick but by keyboards and some very good singing. It then escalates into a guitar/keyboard jam with less structure than usual, but it is still awesome. It ends with acoustic guitars playing a cool upbeat folkish thing and then slowly being detuned while still playing, creating an ominous effect. Great song. 05. Porcelain Heart - with no screams and a more definitive direction than typical Opeth songs, it is easy to see why they made a video for this. Don't get me wrong though, this is still a great song with a lot to offer. It really shines in the two soft parts where Akerfeldt is pretty much by himself singing and playing guitar. The second of these soft parts is particularly goosebump inducing. Another great song. 06. Hessian Peel - from the solitary bass note it begins with, you know this is going to be epic. It starts with a happy little melody that seems innocent until a crooked note is thrown in that foreshadows the coming storm. After a good six minutes or so of being soft and pretty with one of my favorite clean vocal performances of the album, it erupts into some mammoth riffs and the rest is history. The longest and definitely one of the top songs of Watershed. 07. Hex Omega - last song. Like Porcelain Heart, it has heavy riffs but no screaming and the best parts are the soft parts. I would describe the clean part as transcendent yet immense, if that makes any sense what'soever. It ends with a slow and glorious riff, and that's the album. Very good way to end it.

Lyrics — 9
Opeth's lyrics are the kind that don't always seem to make sense, but are definitely well thought out poetry, and I'm not looking for life lessons from a death metal band, so this is the way it should be. My favorites here are probably those of Porcelain Heart. More important is the singing. This album really emphasizes Akerfeldt's clean voice, which is present in large doses in all but Heir Apparent. For those unfamiliar, Akerfeldt has an uncannily good voice for someone in a death metal band. On the other side of the spectrum, his screams are great like usual, although there are a good bit less than say, the Deliverance album (I think his vocal cords are slowly dying, so maybe that's for the best) My only miniscule complaint is that after "fields of sorrow" in Coil, "ocean of sorrow" in Burden was a tad repetitive. For that reason (but mostly because some people disregard perfect 10 scores, which this deserves), I'm giving a 9 here.

Overall Impression — 10
Watershed holds it's own and more against any other Opeth album (not that there's any need to compare masterpieces). The point is that this is a thoroughly mind-blowing artistic statement that stands above most metal and music in general. A cool thing about this album is that it is Opeth's first record that is truly diverse in it's sound from song to song. If I had to pick my favorite tracks, I'd say Heir Apparent and Hessian Peel, but they are all top notch. Please buy this. It is worth way more than the $12.98 I paid at Target (that deal ends very soon, so hurry).

48 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I,Voyager
    I like duncang's review, but I think overall it deserves more than an 8... If only comparing it to Opeth's previous efforts, I'd agree, but since it kicks the shytt out of pretty much any other album released in months, it seemed like the overall score was bit too reserved.
    Emo_music_rocks
    Cynoxx : They've done it again. Opeth is really one of the most talented bands around
    dude that's like so true, i listen to their music like every single day..they totally rock
    petrucci_owns86
    ReiDSaN wrote: Sorry to be a foolish metal tourist, but what is a "blastbeat" ?
    Wikipedia magic. Lotus Eater = owned my soul. Awesome album, Opeth pwned at ProgNation.
    Delanoir
    duncang wrote: My thoughts are perfectly clarified. The fact of the matter is that music evokes emotions that cannot be described in words and I think I have done well in putting most of the potential reasons down. It's the same reason that I have never reviewed an album by Tool, because the things their music do to me are not at all possible for me to put into words. It wasn't optional for me to do this review, so if you don't mind, don't tell me that I should have done anything before writing it because I have deadlines to meet.
    Alright, fair enough. I was under the impression that writing this review was of your own choice and whim.
    mrrman
    didnt care for the band at Progreesive Tour 2008, too much yelling...found them annoying but liked the music
    Cynoxx
    They've done it again. Opeth is really one of the most talented bands around. Mikael is incredible in "Burden". It gave me shivers. Brr.
    gm jack
    The big question is why are some of the instruments done as poor quality keyboard patches, rather than getting studio musicians? Also, the keyboards are a bit too up front. I prefer them as they were in Ghost Reveries, where they were used to great effect. Here, they just seem to have been pushed in. That said, it isn't a bad album, but itn't as good as some of their other work.
    uberphreak
    Delanoir wrote: I,Voyager wrote: I like duncang's review, but I think overall it deserves more than an 8... If only comparing it to Opeth's previous efforts, I'd agree, but since it kicks the shytt out of pretty much any other album released in months, it seemed like the overall score was bit too reserved. Agreed. I also disagree with his claims of Porcelain heart and Hessian Peel lacking direction. As well as lacking some vague, "mysterious X factor." Which, as much as I like duncang and value his opinions, is completely a joke of a statement to make about anything. If you can't find any better descriptor than that, you need to clarify your thoughts before writing a review.
    I pretty much agree. It was a good review but the scores were lacking. I like this album more every time I hear it!
    Opethfan1
    one of their best i would say. i love the direction they went with this album. the special edition is amazing i love the DVD and unreleased tracks.
    a7xsoad
    Avedas wrote: Best album ever.
    Oh, nearly. And yes, they did top Blackwater Park Well, I think so. If they didn't with this, they will with the next effort - The 'immature' 'scattered' sound of the album is probably not helped by the departure of Axe and Peter. By the next album, We'll hopefully have this new line-up set in stone, stable, and ready to release Opeth's maturest, AND most diverse album. And that means Blackwater Park + Watershed. Imagine how ****ing amazing that would be. Oh yeah, and Watershed is the best album of 2008 so far. I see this stage of Lindgren's departure as a similar story to the departure of Tarja Turunen from Nightwish. A very different new sound was inevitable, and the new albums were bound to be immature with the bands very likely not 'fully settled in' yet. And this is true of Watershed by Opeth and Dark Passion Play by Nightwish. I feel that Nightwish will next release the best album of their career, and Opeth shall do the same, for the same reasons, hopefully. We shall see... Oh, and DO NOT judge this album on Porcelain Heart (or Hex Omega for that fact). They are the two poor songs of the album, the rest of it is ENTIRELY the opposite end of the spectrum - Way more diverse and infintely progressive. What Porcelain Heart is ever doing inbetween Burden and Hessian Peel (Two AMAZING songs), I will never know.
    Delanoir
    a7xsoad wrote: Avedas wrote: Best album ever. Oh, nearly. And yes, they did top Blackwater Park Well, I think so. If they didn't with this, they will with the next effort - The 'immature' 'scattered' sound of the album is probably not helped by the departure of Axe and Peter. By the next album, We'll hopefully have this new line-up set in stone, stable, and ready to release Opeth's maturest, AND most diverse album. And that means Blackwater Park + Watershed. Imagine how ****ing amazing that would be. Oh yeah, and Watershed is the best album of 2008 so far. I see this stage of Lindgren's departure as a similar story to the departure of Tarja Turunen from Nightwish. A very different new sound was inevitable, and the new albums were bound to be immature with the bands very likely not 'fully settled in' yet. And this is true of Watershed by Opeth and Dark Passion Play by Nightwish. I feel that Nightwish will next release the best album of their career, and Opeth shall do the same, for the same reasons, hopefully. We shall see... Oh, and DO NOT judge this album on Porcelain Heart (or Hex Omega for that fact). They are the two poor songs of the album, the rest of it is ENTIRELY the opposite end of the spectrum - Way more diverse and infintely progressive. What Porcelain Heart is ever doing inbetween Burden and Hessian Peel (Two AMAZING songs), I will never know.
    Don't you mean Peter and Lopez's departure? Axe is the new drummer. And I doubt Peter's leaving had much at all to do with the change in sound. Lopez, yes. But not Lindgren. Mikael said himself that Peter hadn't written much of anything for the band in over 10 years. However, I suppose that on the inverse, the fact that Fredrik actually does come up with usable material, and a very different kind, certainly makes some kind of impact. And I truly enjoy both Porcelain Heart and Hex Omega, they just aren't as breathtaking as songs like Burden or Hessian Peel.
    killatm
    Why is everyone bashing Porcelain Heart. I think its a great song. Burden in the best song on Watershed IMO.
    Nightfyre
    aznrockerdude wrote: I read on Prog Archives that this album isn't as good as the other ones because it's too 'light' for metalheads and too heavy for everyone else. But since it has the least 'death metal' growls of all their albums (apart from Damnation), it may be what some people were waiting for...
    Nothing like sitting in the middle and finding it just right... plenty of heavy and light in one beautiful package. But then, my tastes are all over the board. I agree it's short on the growls, but there aren't really any points where it feels like they could be that they aren't to me. It's strange... I love this album, yet I keep nitpicking at it. I'll try to get my thoughts organized and post my own review. The reason people bash Porcelain Heart is because it's fairly random in it's various segments (love the oboe - English horn duet though) and it meanders a lot with no apparent goal. It's a nice song, and it would be a masterpiece for most bands, but as Opeth goes it's on the weak side.
    KVX10 KING V
    This is exactly the step Opeth needed to take. It brings them back to the Blackwater Park days. The guitar tone is much improved since Ghost Reveries, and the clean/acoustic work is unparalled. I do find there is a lack of growling. The metal is pounding, the drums kick ass, and the solos are some of the best Opeth has put forth. Kudos.
    bass_emagdnim
    ReiDSaN wrote: Sorry to be a foolish metal tourist, but what is a "blastbeat" ?
    A beat which uses a fast succession of a single bass stroke, followed by a single snare stroke (or vice versa). Think of it as a typical early-thrash-metal drum beat (Sepultura's a good example), but sped up. A lot! =P If you require an aural example, try listening to some Nile... (: On an a more Opeth-ish topic... Only heard Porcelain Heart from this one so far, sounds different but promising! But I don't think they're ever going to top Blackwater Park. Am I right...?
    Soul-Monger
    duncang wrote: (A message offering rebuttal to people asking questions.)
    Even though I agree with your views on the album and you make perfect sense through your address to said people in your comment/post, it'd be best if you would lay off addressing future naysayers, since more conflict would likely come your way. You are perfectly entitled to your own opinions, but this page would probably turn into some great debate about just your review. That's never a good thing. Watershed doesn't really do anything for me. It's a great album, but I myself prefer My Arms, Your Hearse , Ghost Reveries , and Damnation . These albums just have some mystical quality about them that Watershed couldn't capture. This album will probably grow on me, but, for now, I'll just have listen to it again.
    aznrockerdude
    I read on Prog Archives that this album isn't as good as the other ones because it's too 'light' for metalheads and too heavy for everyone else. But since it has the least 'death metal' growls of all their albums (apart from Damnation), it may be what some people were waiting for...
    Keyphur
    it is pretty damn epic, that is assured they kicked ass at Prog Nation
    God's Guitarist
    yeh im really digging it...like all their stuff since BWP. its definately not as focused as previous albums, which is a nice change i think because whilst they are definately not formulaic i think they're tricks were becoming a tad ahh predictable or maybe overused IMO - akerfled, saying the music is reflective of his current mind: "a little ****ed up, musicly" which i think sums it up pretty well haha album still has some incredible opeth moments in each song for sure. i read the first review and agree with that mostly.
    skyfire322
    Opeth never ceases to amaze me. I thought that the departure of Lopez and Lindgren would be detrimental to them, but with the additions of Martin Axenrot and Akkeson, I was surprised. Everyone said that Fredrik would overplay the guitar, and no one really heard Axe's drumming (not a very well known drummer). They both exceeded my expectations and as Mendez says in the documentary on the Special Edition DVD "I believe this is the strongest Opeth line up... Ever." The covers are amazing. I cannot stop listening to Bridge of Sighs. Thats one of my favorite songs of all time, and to hear Mikael's voice soar over their beautiful rendition of it, made it that much sweeter.
    Azwethinkwedo
    i love the album, bought it last week. I do agree that it loses a direction in the latter few tracks, but still amazing as ever. Opeth > Every other Prog metal band
    Delanoir
    I,Voyager wrote: I like duncang's review, but I think overall it deserves more than an 8... If only comparing it to Opeth's previous efforts, I'd agree, but since it kicks the shytt out of pretty much any other album released in months, it seemed like the overall score was bit too reserved.
    Agreed. I also disagree with his claims of Porcelain heart and Hessian Peel lacking direction. As well as lacking some vague, "mysterious X factor." Which, as much as I like duncang and value his opinions, is completely a joke of a statement to make about anything. If you can't find any better descriptor than that, you need to clarify your thoughts before writing a review.
    duncang
    Addressing people addressing me: Delanoir: My thoughts are perfectly clarified. The fact of the matter is that music evokes emotions that cannot be described in words and I think I have done well in putting most of the potential reasons down. It's the same reason that I have never reviewed an album by Tool, because the things their music do to me are not at all possible for me to put into words. It wasn't optional for me to do this review, so if you don't mind, don't tell me that I should have done anything before writing it because I have deadlines to meet. korinaflyingv: Unfortunately my opinion has become more and more negative as time has gone on, I now would take back that ANY of this album is 'immaculately crafted'. ever dying: I've listened to the album around 12 or 13 times, and with each listen I have become more disappointed.
    CountCloll
    CountCloll wrote: Enough with this metal band _____
    *these metal bands...sorry XDDD
    Mahoru
    My 3rd favourite Opeth album for the moment. I'll explain everything this week, since I'll also write a review.
    Magero
    Probably should write a review of this as I have some vast conflicting emotions....
    ever dying
    Sorry duncang.. I don't quite agree with you.. But if you feel this way, I would ask you to listen again?
    party_on_wayne
    bass_emagdnim wrote: ReiDSaN wrote: Sorry to be a foolish metal tourist, but what is a "blastbeat" ? A beat which uses a fast succession of a single bass stroke, followed by a single snare stroke (or vice versa). Think of it as a typical early-thrash-metal drum beat (Sepultura's a good example), but sped up. A lot! =P If you require an aural example, try listening to some Nile... (: On an a more Opeth-ish topic... Only heard Porcelain Heart from this one so far, sounds different but promising! But I don't think they're ever going to top Blackwater Park. Am I right...?
    Yeah, Blackwater Park is THE Opeth Album. Ghost of Perdition is equal to Damnation