Opeth - Still Life
Peaceville Records
Progressive Metal
7 songs (1:02:29)
Release year: 1999
Opeth, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Music, transcendental and beautiful as it can be, rarely reaches the sort of heights that we fanzine monkeys desperately propel it to through our wilful scribbling. Alas, for the most part it’s content to amble along next to the metaphysical mountain of perfection rather than scaling it, held back from the elite position that it could attain – being ‘good’ rather than ‘great’. Every so often, however, a band comes along that sneers at such restraint, such false modesty, and ascends the mountain as easily as if some divine hand carried it aloft. Opeth, Sweden’s finest export bar none, is such a band, capable of not just simply lifting you to the peak of aforesaid mountain, but bringing the mountain down to you.

People generally seem to either love or hate Opeth, never in-between; personally speaking, Opeth makes the heart burn with a love that few bands can win. The start of this affair came a few years ago, when whilst browsing through one of the independent record stores that save the English city of Newcastle from utterly deserving annihilation, my eye was drawn to a red album cover… Since that moment, a major landmark on this individual’s voyage towards Metalheadland, Opeth is a benchmark to which other bands are compared. If a Metal band appears capable, it is compared to Enslaved, Napalm Death, Tool, Rush, and Opeth, and if it can hold its own in that gathering of legends then you know it is a worthy contender indeed.

Of all Opeth’s works, Still Life is the moment everything shifted, when the band took the step from My Arms, Your Hearse to Blackwater Park. This is the middle stage in that evolutionary jump, the moment when Opeth’s mixture of 70s acoustic folk and 90s decidedly unacoustic Death Metal became not just the mark of a band experimenting, but became the building blocks of an aural city that would only grow from then on. Still Life, the fourth Opeth full-length, is a concept album, the Homeric tale of a man returning home from a long exile only to find his love pledged to another. Opeth wisely leaves the story bone bare, told through some wonderfully poetic lyrics that are vague enough for your mind to fill in the blanks, but without being too obtuse – showing a level of artistry even at this relatively unimportant level that’s rarely seen in underground, or indeed overground Metal.

It’d be doubly an insult, to Opeth and you, the reader and listener, to try and describe the twists and turns that each song makes throughout this gorgeous listen. Of the seven epics on show, all are musical masterpieces, near-perfect constructs that use melody as an intrinsic part of the songwriting process rather than as a mere foil to the heaviness. Non-proponents of the band would have you believe that Opeth writes songs at random; this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Each note here has been weighed and measured, each section taken into account in the quest to build a flawless whole. After becoming used to the relatively clear productions of later releases, it’s striking just how organic and ‘live’ Still Life sounds. Each sound reverberates in your head; each strum could be played right next to you.

There’s no way that the sheer wonder of the warring melodies, the majestic surges of Åkerfeldt’s powerful growl and emotional singing voice, the blast and groove of the two Martins (Lopez on drums and Mendez on bass) can be adequately summed up in mere words on a screen. Even if it could, such words could only be applicable to the person that wrote it – you all know how much Opeth as a band means to you, to what extent Still Life touches your soul. That’s what makes Opeth such a wonderful band – not only can we all agree that it is wonderful, but each of us sees it in a different way.

Certain elements of the Metal scene dislike the fanatical devotion that Opeth fans have to their idol, the legendary status that the band has attained despite ‘only’ being in existence since 1990. Well, they’re wrong; a band capable of such wonderful music deserves all the plaudits it receives, deserves every single exclamation of wonder, every heartfelt ‘this is amazing!’ that passes from the lips of those it touches. Still Life is a masterpiece, from a masterly band that has not to date released a poor album, and deserves an honoured place in the collection of anyone interested in music. It’s as simple as that.

Killing Songs :
Each and every moment is incredible
Goat quoted 97 / 100
Other albums by Opeth that we have reviewed:
Opeth - Sorceress reviewed by Goat and quoted 65 / 100
Opeth - Pale Communion reviewed by Goat and quoted 95 / 100
Opeth - Heritage reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 95 / 100
Opeth - Orchid reviewed by James and quoted 79 / 100
Opeth - Watershed reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 94 / 100
To see all 14 reviews click here
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