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SeanButler

Opeth - Heart in Hand [Review]

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Opeth’s first released single ropes in the listener with a deep chuggin’ opening riff. The riff resolves as any classic opeth riff would - on a level of pure genuity. Touches of old tracks subtly outline the structure of the song. This first taste of the song is grounded by a ripping solo from Fredrick. His playing on this particular track should not be overlooked. The immortal’s solo helped  remind the listener that these musicians are the real fuckin’ deal. Whether you like widdly-woo playing or not, listening to the rest of the song would heed a skillful surprise to anyone. Mellowed out Martin Mendez turns this song into a parabola of emotion from the depths to the clouds. The Axe and Svalberg peak the song whilst keeping everyone tight.

 

The “maximum overload” transition, as I feel it, segways beautifully into the true core of the song. Mikael and Fredrick’s fingerpicking immediately calms the listener, sending them somewhere… else. We fade into acoustic bliss as Mikael’s euphonious voice begins reminiscing of the past. It’s clear that Akerfledt is pouring his fully regenerated soul into the soundscape. Clear in each band member’s playing is a true immersion into the music. Mikael’s singing certainly instills that deep feeling into each of his band members. This in turn generates soulful playing from each and every member. Mikael’s lyrical delivery will most likely be a continuing theme throughout the album. Focusing on developing his voice into a staple (as if it isn't already) is another sign of a matured Mikael Akerfeldt. Isn’t this motive clear in recording tracks bilingually?

 

If this track is simply a taste of In Cauda Venenum, it is safe to assume what the album’s impact will be. In Cauda Venenum will be a turning point not just for Opeth, but for an entire genre much the same as Blackwater Park did for the progressive metal scene. It is tough to put each of Opeth’s albums into a genre, but the dark progressiveness in this track is clear. Mikael is ready to leave his vision and mark in the world of progressive music. A genre that is riddled with legends. Luckily for Opeth, if the title “Heart in Hand” is a direct correlation to their expression of sonic emotion, then “In Cauda Venenum” will have much in store for all of us, as Mikael always puts equal effort into each tune. Don’t dismiss this album, I doubt it will be something to snuff at. 

 

It’s quite possible that I have delved too deep into this track. Maybe Opeth’s magic has to do with Mikael pumping out complex tunes in a few days. He could just be a genius artist after all. 

 

Whatever the case may be, keep an eye out for the poison in the tail, you never know what could happen. 

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I disagree with this assessment. It's nice hearing him sing in Swedish, but this track didn't do much for me aside from that. I'm not surprised; I haven't enjoyed anything since Ghost Reveries. It's not just about lacking harsh vocals and  aggression. Something essential strikes me as missing from their music since then. I don't get a sense that these parts were particularly important to them, at least not in the way that a lot of their older riffs/melodies/song structures were; the songs used to feel like a labor of love, and have a sense of discovery about them, like they were born from an urge for development. This stuff just sounds like "another Opeth song". His voice is great, but the magic is gone.

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I just can't get excited by Opeth these days, although I was never a huge fan even in the late 90s, which I consider to be their apex.

In fact, when 'Blackwater Park' first came out, my friends and I thought it was a step down from 'Still Life' and 'My Arms, Your Hearse'. These latter two remain my favourite Opeth albums, yet it's 'BP' that seems to get most of the praise from the peanut gallery.

There's a bit of a carry-on too about Mikael over the last decade or so that's a bit on the nose.

Also, the word you are looking for is "segue", not "segway", which I believe is the corny corporate transportation device. We would also traditionally say, "nothing to sniff at" rather than "snuff at", but perhaps your malapropisms mean you're just a pioneer. 

Interesting first post, too, to just come in and drop a review of a single. Nothing wrong with that; I hope you stay and chat about a range of bands and threads.  

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I completely agree with @FatherAlabaster and @Requiem here. I, too, have sensed a decline in their music since Blackwater Park, at least in comparison with their Candlelight stuff and Still Life, which are some of my most favorite metal albums ever written. To me, there are just too many progressive rock influences which they've been adding in ever larger proportions with each subsequent album since then, that by Ghost Reveries, they really sound like a band which isn't entirely sure what they are anymore. It's not that their later albums are unlistenable - well, I called it quits after Watershed - but there isn't a whole lot that they've done recently which sticks in my mind. I believe there's a time in every band's career when they've exhausted their creative genius, or perhaps their priorities in songwriting just aren't what they used to be for any number of reasons, but when I heard the new single, it was pretty much what I was expecting - bland and forgettable. I find that many bands that talk about "progressing" or "maturing" or "evolving" are really just diluting their original unique sound. There's nothing at all wrong with melody and clean vocals (Opeth was probably the best I've ever heard at juxtaposing acoustic parts and clean singing with their overarching harshness and aggression), but in this case, as well as many other bands I listen to, it begins to come across like a sort of lack of new ideas. Which isn't surprising, when it's a band that's been around for three decades, but no matter how much I like them and their earlier material, I'm not going to call something ingenious or groundbreaking when it sounds like they've just been mentally fumbling around and struggling to come up with anything new for the last 10 years.

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** moved to review section **

I certainly echo the thoughts here of a lot of their post 'Blackwater Park' stuff leaving me cold.  I started to get to grips with their last effort back on holiday last year in a particularly peaceful and soul rehabilitating place in Wales with it's own stream and waterfall in the garden.  Even in this environment that left me more open to new things, I couldn't help but feel that they were trying too hard to be "quirky" with their songwriting.  The sense of time changes just being there for the hell of it as opposed to being part of the whole majesty of progressive rock was just too imposing.  Prog for prog's sake.  Their output of recent years feels like something intrusive is being done to the listener as opposed to something with potential allure is being presented to the listener.  

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I've been following them since Morningrise, and nearly all of their albums have taken multiple listens to really grab me. Morningrise itself took a couple of months; Ghost Reveries took a whopping seven years. I still hold out a bit of hope that I'll warm up to some of the later albums, but it hasn't happened so far. If they keep on churning out non-events like this track, it won't happen at all.

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