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Review by Jeremy on August 1, 2001.
I'll start off by telling that I'm a huge Opeth fan. This was my 4th Opeth acquisition, and I had a summer of living alone to go over this. Since, it's fast become one of my favourites.
Opeth write epic, emotional songs. A lot of old fans were disappointed by their third release, "My Arms, Your Hearse", since its style was quite different from the two that came before. "Still Life" encompasses elements of both, creating a fusion of styles, while incorporating the two newer members of the band more firmly and clearly than on "MAYH".
It begins on a long note, 'The Moor' is 11 1/2 minutes long. Through the course of the song, we hear a variety of distorted and acoustic passages, and a clever blend of metal vox and clean singing. Frontman Mikael Akerfeldt is superb at both. His metal voice has gained a "raspiness" to it that gives the lyrics a sinister edge, and his clean voice is confident - something you can hear.
Musically, this album is crisp. The guitar sounds are distinct, yet with a meaty distortion that's become an Opeth trademark. There's more of a rhythm-lead structure here, though some of the twin-guitar sound is still present. The bass is a bit of a non-event, that is, it doesn't stand out much - and that isn't to say that it's bad. The drumming is tight and varied, with excellent use of the cymbals - not too little, not too much.
The album is a concept album, which (as far as I can tell) follows the protagonist as he returns to his hometown, and finds the people hateful of him. He turns to a woman, Melinda, for sympathy. They leave together, but he finds her sympathy hollow. So he plots revenge, etc. It's a very effective concept to begin with, and the use of heavy and acoustic passages furthers the plot to a large degree. Not only is this album lyrically quite complex, but musically as well. The riffs aren't heavy for heavy's sake, they're heavy for an emotional cause. The passages blend smoothly together, forming a cohesive whole.
My gripe with this album, and it is a small one, is the ending of track 6, ‘Serenity Painted Death’. I thought this was a mastering error at first, since the song cuts out abruptly in the middle of the acoustic outro! Later, I learned that this was intentional, as the band were tired of fading songs out. Intentional or not, I find this very distracting. Note, this is my ONLY gripe.
A very notable point on the album is the entirety of 'Moonlapse Vertigo', which is a fine cross-section of Opeth's style. The ending of ‘The Face of Melinda’, and the solo of ‘White Cluster’, which has a fabulous build-up, are two more.
Bottom Line: Opeth have crafted an exceptional album here. The musical flow matches the pace and mood of the lyrical concept perfectly. This is, in all respects, a very mature album created by musicians who've proven their worth and no longer feel the need to impress. They write music for music's sake, and they write it very, very well. This is the kind of music to sit and listen to intently. This isn't background fluff, it's intelligent and complex. And I love it.
Rating: 10 out of 10 - even the ending of track 6 can't diminish how much I like this album.
Review by Luka on May 15, 2001.
Riding high on the success of "My Arms Your Hearse" and "Morningrise", looking nowhere but high and forward, Opeth finally trip and stumble a bit with "Still Life". Now this is a weak album only by Opeth standards, so expect no less than an amazing album, nonetheless.
It’s got all the charms of the previous records, amazing melodies, clear and death vocals, acoustic interludes, all the Opeth trademarks, but this album is just more lifeless and harder to get into than the others. It doesn’t draw you to listen to it when you see it on the shelf, but once it’s in the player and you’re in the mood, you won’t turn it off.
Interwoven and crawling with melody, both beautiful and sinister, Akerfeldt and Lindgren prove once again that the have no trouble finding amazing riffs and beautifully fusing them to form the long, epic songs. Difficult and beautiful acoustic interludes are found on almost every song, and give you some breathing space. If you get into it and enjoy acoustic parts you’ll love these sections, if not, they’re just boring...
Lots of clear vocals are used, mainly on the choruses, but tons of death growls too, which really annoy me. They say Akefeldt has one of the best death vocals ever, but they all sound pretty much the same to me. I guess I just don’t listen to enough death metal to enjoy them, or get used to them, they just sound harsh and ugly compared to the beautiful and emotional clean vocals. The growls are used mainly on the verses, which are written like the finest poetry, illustrating a tragic tale of love, betrayal, sorrow, and anger. The story reaches a climax on "Serenity Painted Death", where the hero finally has vengeance on all who betrayed and pitied him. It’s a strange and interesting story but vague, so everyone interprets it differently.
Excellent melody and solo on "Moonlapse Vertigo" and a beautiful chorus on "Godhead’s Lament".
Bottom Line: Just don’t make it your first Opeth album. Excellent, but they’ve done better...
Rating: 8.5 out of 10