Opeth - Still Life
When I first received "Still Life" from a friend of mine, I was speculative about the level of enjoyment I would achieve from listening.

In the past I had heard a lot of negative feedback regarding the band "Opeth". Normally, I acknowledge opinions regarding music but rarely do I take them seriously. However in the case of "Opeth", I'd been assured before even hearing a single track that they were 'mainstream' and 'amateur'.

How wrong I was to even acknowledge such garbage-talk.

It is not often in the modern times of 'NU Metal' and "Rap 'music'" that one is able to encounter a piece of awe-inspiring music, and on the off chance that it does happen, it is usually in the form of some long forgotten classic from the 80s.
So it's always much more exhilarating to find modern music that stretches the boundaries of all types of music, and especially the metal world - but of course I thought such an occurrence would never happen after hearing Spiral Architect.

I was once again delightful to rediscover how naïve I have been.

"Still Life" is the fourth album from Swedish bred band, "Opeth" (meaning city of the moon). Much like a lot of great music, this album requires time and balance. Those who listen to it may not find it satisfactory on the first, second or third time round of listening.
However, in my experience, after persistently and patiently listening to the album while working out at my local gym, I found the first track to fall into my category of "All time greats".
It took me much longer to realise that every single song on this album is a work of genius, but for the time being I will explore the first, longest and my favourite track of the album.

For those that are unaware, the term 'Still Life' is a picture of inanimate objects such as flowers or fruit.
When queried in an interview, Mikael Åkerfeldt, frontman of "Opeth", explained that the term "Still Life" in the context of this album meant "Calm life or Dead life."
This is certainly conveyed in the introduction to this album, which begins with soft, backwards sounding guitars, a mellow bass and a lead guitar finger picking some clean chords. In essence what one finds is our first immediate contrast.
Åkerfeldt explained to an interviewer that the album had a 'simple theme of Good versus Evil', which one might within the exhibition of clean and dirty guitar playing.

The opening guitars set up an atmosphere reminiscent of something calm, but with dark overtones that represent something grim or unpleasant, which is achieved by the minor tonality. A lovely touch.

This introduction reaches a climax that gradually dissipates, almost conjuring up an image of a fade to black. However, without warning a Spanish/Latin acoustic guitar riff enters the foreground, surprising the listener. It is genuinely a beautiful riff because it lies over heavenly, arpegiated guitar chords and slowly builds up as the textures thicken, creating an eerily calm or even tense mood for the listener.
The responder is again given no warning when the entire band kicks in and displays what 'Opeth' is really about. This is where the death-metal aspect of this band really shines as they exercise inspiring recording techniques with all the instruments, particularly the vocals. If one listens to this song with headphones, they will notice a significant amount of panning techniques and works with the balance.

The album "Still Life" is actually a concept album and to begin the collaboration of what conveys itself as being a very dark and depressing story is the song "The Moor".
This song deals with a nameless individual who returns to his hometown after being ostracised for 15 years for questioning his faith in Christianity. The return is compelled by his desire to seek out his past love, Melinda. Sadly he is far from welcomed home after he discovers his return sparks a wide scale manhunt by the town's local council who wish to execute him.

The title of the song "The Moor" refers a broad area of open land, often high but poorly drained, with patches of heath and peat bogs. The mood conveyed by this song matches the atmosphere one might find in a landscape similar to an open area of peril, which is described above.

The melodic lines of the guitars and the double kicking of the bass drum give off an image of a person tearing through a mud-drenched forest type landscape, and I believe by achieving this the band have essentially given a sense of time and place to the listener. Bear in mind, this is something that is rather difficult to achieve in most music. In doing so, the band establishes a link or connection with the listener and thus gives the concept of the album greater authenticity.

"Still Life" manages to convey that "Opeth" have created their own unique sound, which is an aspect I tend to highlight in my reviews. This is because I don't see the point of regurgitating other music and passing it off as one's own. I love hearing influences within the music, but I do not approve of a blatant plagiarism or adapted riffs.

Certain characteristics that define "Opeth's" style can be found in "The Moor". The sudden louds, softs and the almost 'Call and response" style between the acoustic and electric guitars create a sense of uniqueness for this band. Another aspect of their style is the vocal styling of Åkerfeldt. This man has a very special voice that is simply gorgeous when singing clean, and absolutely mental when singing dirty.
I always get great satisfaction from hearing my favourite death metal singers being able to sing clean and melodically, as well as the growling and virtual eating the microphone. This might best be illustrated on Tracks 3 and 5, entitled "Benighted" and "Face of Melinda", which essentially proves that they are not tied down to one genre of metal.

The genius of this band is that they've managed to forge an album where every composition is magnificent, and tremendously close to a great work of literature. If one takes the time to examine the lyrics closely, there is evidence of great precision and care in terms of word choice.

The concept of a man returning to his home to search for his love where he has been banished may not seem so incredulous by today's standard. However if we consider the historical context of this story, one might see the brutality and gore involved in what is actually taking place.

During these times religion was considered the base of society. Everything known to everybody, including gentlemen, nobles and even the king was based on the assumption of gods will. In a religious society, renouncing one's own religion and taking on the status of a heretic was enough to be burnt at the stake.
So what has been done to further enhance the authenticity of this album and what evokes such emotion out of the songs is the word choice and style of the lyrics, which seem to sound like epic or narrative poetry.

There is not much more one can ask for in a modern, metal album.

Dare I call this a masterpiece?

Written by Yoni
Thursday, March 20, 2003
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RevelationZ Comments

Comment by Mads (Anonymous) - Friday, March 21, 2003
Sounds good... I guess I'll have to listen to them sometime soon...

Comment by skid mark (Anonymous) - Friday, March 21, 2003
where are my headphones???

Comment by factorplayer (Anonymous) - Thursday, June 26, 2003
Glad to see some who share my opinion.. I've been digging these guys since '98. Serenity Painted Death is my personal fave on this one. Heavy!

Comment by Mads (Anonymous) - Thursday, September 4, 2003
I just got this album... wow... wow... wow... such a brilliant album... I can't believe the genius of this album...

Comment by Man of seasons (Anonymous) - Tuesday, September 16, 2003
This is so remarkable and uncategorisable that it is beyond a masterpiece.......LIKE NOTHING ELSE ON EARTH....AMAZING

Comment by Mads (Anonymous) - Saturday, September 27, 2003
I'll have to agree that this album keeps on giving... What a progressive album, with some killer vocals (and I'm not the biggest fan of growls) but here it just has to be that way, and a great story line as well...

Comment by an Opeth Fan (Anonymous) - Saturday, October 4, 2003
Beautiful, amazing album. Theres not much i can say that hasnt been said. But i still like BwP a little more.
best to worst (IMO of course)
The Moor
Serenity Painted Death
Godheads Lamet
Face of Melinda
Moonlapse Vertigo
White Cluster

Comment by sliver (Anonymous) - Sunday, November 9, 2003
band sounds awesome, many awesome tracks, hate the singer though :| not a fan of the growling it sounds cheese to me

Comment by Howard (Anonymous) - Monday, December 1, 2003
this band is the complete genius that you could only dream about before actually hearing. they totally overwhelmed me with genius, both the styles of vocals are very nice. i dont not particularly enjoy the newer vocal producing as i did their older things, as in Still Life and Morningrise, my two favorites. The fact they keep each album is such a great mood, never turning the mood upside down, always steady, it shows their dedication and hard-work they put in to each album to show they didnt lose track of though throughout it. their accoustic playing is amoung some of the best ever heard in metal in my opinion, i couldnt really ask for a more moving band that really gets you thinking about their lyrics, and involved in the story lines. - with morningrise there are times ive actually cried. -

Comment by Rayman (Anonymous) - Friday, December 26, 2003
I couldn't disagree with Anders more. The emotional intensity of both the singing, lyrics and the songs themselves is far superior to Deliverance. Blackwater Park, is equally good takes a bit different direction(though all Opeth albums sound a different), esp. with the reduced use of the bass pedals and thus can't really be compared to this.

My complaint with Deliverance would be that they where somehow trying to make a heavy album, more that trying to make a good album(though it is a good album ;))

Comment by ALAN (Anonymous) - Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Opeth are immense, along with tool they are my one of my favourite bands, still life was the 1st album i bought and it made me buy all the others. AMAZING

Comment by Huge Opeth fan (Anonymous) - Thursday, February 5, 2004
I love Opeth, just discovered them and they just sound GREAT! I've bought a couple of albums and even though Still Life is a masterpiece (and so is every Opeth album...) I think Blackwater Park is their best. Hoping for a review soon.

Comment by char grilled soul (Anonymous) - Thursday, March 25, 2004
Yoni - that's a fucking awesome review - I'm listening to Still Life in a whole new way - thanks for your detail.

Comment by Vivek (Anonymous) - Tuesday, April 6, 2004
I just started lsitening to dream theatre a few weeks back.. and was lookin for similar bands. I somehow got hold of this album and I must say I'm hooked! This band is really talented. The only songs that i had heard prior to this album were Patterns in the ivy I, II and i loved em. I must say STILL LIFE is a very COMPLETE album.

Comment by Pat (Anonymous) - Thursday, August 12, 2004
Nothing short of amazing, but the highly stretched out melodies make it hard to get into. The vocals are hard enough to get used to as it is, for some. This was my first Opeth album, a definite 10, but I recommend starting off with Blackwater Park (or Damnation for all you Porcupine Tree fans). In my opinion though, this album has the most atmosphere. I love it.

Comment by hermit (Anonymous) - Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Well I think the review is very clear about this album, it is definetly a masterpiece, and well I also think that is their "own sound" what makes us feel it like a fucking great band... just want to suggest two oder songs of two other albums: "The lepper Affinity" and "Deliverance" this two songs I think are really a masterpiece, the musical structure in both songs, I think nowadays is very difficult to find, anyway, their my favourite bands along with Emperor

Comment by hermit (Anonymous) - Wednesday, October 20, 2004
sorry about my gramma, just keyboard mistakes :P

Comment by Matt (Anonymous) - Wednesday, November 24, 2004
This album IS a masterpiece. Combined with there other albums, It's the most beautiful and brutal sounding music I've ever heard. Opeth are madmen, there solo's and melodi's are wacked! yet pure magic. It's hard to listen to at first. But you can only like there music more as you listen to it. At least that's what I have found. I'm sure anyone will want to change there Opeth reviews to 10's eventualy. And for that I give this album and there others 10's. Perhaphs an infinite sine would be a more acturate score.

Comment by Aldreen Cruz (Anonymous) - Thursday, July 28, 2005
This is my everday music everytime Im going to my work. It gives me a kick to work inspiringly. It sure is definitely a work of a master.

Comment by mini-akerfeldt (Anonymous) - Tuesday, April 10, 2007
still life an amazing album ut people are forgetting the my arms your hearse album which i think is there best album and aparently the best one for recording quoted by front man mikeal

Comment by HaggardGrin (Member) - Tuesday, November 11, 2008
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Comments: 3
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Wow, fantastic review Yoni, I couldn't have put any of it better. Except of course that it deserves a 10/10. This album is probably one of the best I've ever heard. Achingly beautiful breaks (i.e. Benighted, Face of Melinda) from the punishingly sublime heavy riffing...Opeth represent some ethereal, indescribable music genre that I will only refer to as "Opeth". Sometimes, while I listen, I just shake my head and wonder how the fuck Akerfeldt can come up with such masterful composition, to mention nothing of the rest of the band's geniuses. I LOVE THIS BAND.

Posted by HaggardGrin
Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Review by Yoni

Released by
Peaceville - 1999

1. The moor
2. Godhead's lament
3. Benighted
4. Moonlapse Vertigo
5. Face of Melinda
6. Serenity Painted Death
7. White Cluster

Progressive Metal

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Other articles
Damnation - (Hashman)

Live at Voxhall, Aarhus - October 23rd, 2003 - (Anders)

Lamentations - (Yoni)

Ghost Reveries - (Morten)

Watershed - (Tommy)

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