Last last year, OPETH released Deliverance, what was widely described as their finest achievement to date. The news of a “second half” to the album spread fast, and kept fans in high anticipation for the promised follow-up, Damnation.
Now that the brief wait is over and Damnation has been released with a warning to metal-hungry fans of its strictly-acoustic composure. Michael Åkerfeldt‘s unclassifiable brainchild has only delved deeper into its enigmatic nature. There are no distorted guitars to be found anywhere on the disc, no growled vocals, and certainly no ferocity as is found in all of OPETH‘s earlier work. As insane as this might sound, fans of PINK FLOYD and 70s psychedelia are going to have more to enjoy here then the average death metal fan.
The album begins on a very folky note with “Windowpane,” an opening track that sets the tone for the coming seven tracks found here. Strangely, at almost eight minutes, “Windowpane” is Damnation‘s longest cut, a length that would usually be about average for OPETH. “In My Time of Need” and “To Rid the Disease” are the disc’s other highlights, soaring beautifully in and out of powerful acoustic FLOYD-esque crescendo. The SANTANA-like “Ending Credits” is a nice listen, but closing track “Weakness” is downright weird and serves no general purpose rounding out the disc. However, no 13-minute-plus epics are found on this outing, which makes the album a little more accessible, especially after this surprised reviewer heard “In My Time of Need” played inside a local Best Buy last week.
The big question: Does all this adventurous musicianship really work? To answer succinctly, yes and no. The talent the members of OPETH possess is undeniable, nor are their past achievements in the studio. While Damnation is a very well-crafted album, it suffers from a slight lack of depth. Being a strictly acoustic album somewhat limits the reaches of what OPETH usually does, what with the varied shifts in volume found throughout their back catalog.
The bottom line on Damnation is don’t listen to it while driving a long road trip. You’ll fall asleep at the wheel. Otherwise, it’s a very finely-crafted and original addition to OPETH‘s repertoire, but nowhere near their finest work. (Koch Records)