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Ghost Reveries

Sweden Country of Origin: Sweden

Ghost Reveries
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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: August 29th, 2005
Genre: Death, Melodic, Progressive
1. Ghost Of Perdition
2. The Baying Of The Hounds
3. Beneath The Mire
4. Atonement
5. Reverie/Harlequin Forest
6. Hours Of Wealth
7. The Grand Conjuration
8. Isolation Years


Review by Nathan on May 18, 2021.

Ghost Reveries, smack dab in the middle of Opeth’s discography, is the most Opeth-y Opeth release. Having just explored each end of the Opeth spectrum with the Deliverance/Damnation duo, this followup is arguably the last time the band had decidedly extreme metal leanings - even by Watershed Mikael was kinda scared of doing death growls. At the same time, though, the edges are rounded off to the point where the 70s prog influences seep through every pore, leaving riffs that mostly float like a butterfly but don’t sting like a bee. Combine that with a crisp, Roadrunner-funded guitar tone and some sorta-weird time signatures every now and then and it’s got a little bit of everything that makes Opeth so loved and loathed. Too soft to be death metal, too hard to be prog rock, but just about right for the type of dude who already has Tool’s new album pre-ordered.

At their best, Opeth has made some genuinely great albums, but at worst, they bore the shit out of me, and it’s not uncommon for them to jump back and forth between the two multiple times over the course of a release. Unique they are, but consistent they are not. The distinctive property of Ghost Reveries, ironically enough, is that it is the most consistent Opeth album. Not good nor bad, mind you - consistent. Despite theoretically having one of the most diverse palettes of influences to draw from any Opeth album, the songs on this album all blend together and move along a similar, wandering path. Whether it’s the oh-so-perfectly-tamed melancholy of 'Atonement' or the somewhat jarring (yet not TOO abrasive) opening of 'The Grand Conjuration', every moment on this album exists in this nebulous middle ground that is neither high nor low. The paradox of this album - and Opeth in general, really, if you want to be harsh - is that they can make a bunch of very different riffs and themes all feel the same.

It’s a really confusing position to be in as a reviewer, because as a result of somehow running any possible musical idea through an Opethian filter, everything about Ghost Reveries contradicts everything else. This album feels as though the atmosphere should be dripping from its edges, yet every time I search for something raw or unusual I come up empty. Martin Lopez is undoubtedly an amazingly talented musician, and sure enough, all of his beats are tight, efficient and perfectly placed. Yet, somehow, they never seem to stand out or commit a riff to my memory. Every time I feel on the cusp of something a little bit more resonant and soulful (like the beginning of 'Hours Of Wealth'), the motif changes before it has a chance to really solidify itself. Songs stay on the same plateau from beginning to end, yet the changes in the riffs still feel sudden. Rarely does it ever feel like individual sections build into one another. Each riff is a full musical sentence on its own, which is normally an amazing quality for music to have, but due to the lack of progression between them, the riffs somehow have the potential to simultaneously leave you wanting more and overstay their welcome. This is impressive almost solely because this occupies a space in the musical hemisphere I didn’t even think it was possible to exist in. Even that’s a contradiction because at the end of the day I find the resulting music to be nice-sounding but kinda boring!

Sometimes, I like this, and sometimes I turn it off for something else after less than a minute. I can’t recommend this, though, because my rating on this album will change literally every time I listen to it. Sometimes it works well when I just need some nice sounding metalloid stuff to throw on in the background, sometimes it just sounds absolutely terrible, but one thing that is absolutely certain is I don’t have to spend nearly this much time questioning whether or not Blackwater Park is good, so I usually just listen to that instead.

Rating: 5.2 out of 10

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Review by Benjamin on May 18, 2021.

Opeth are one of the few bands who have not yet put a foot wrong in their muscial career, not so much as a little toe wrong in fact. Over seven albums of incredibly high quality metal, they've truly forged their own path, and seem to have become seriously popular almost in spite of themselves. Of course, the result of such consistent output means that expectations for 2005's Ghost Reveries were almost unreasonably high, and coupled with a high-profile move to Roadrunner, it might not have been surprising if Opeth finally fucked up.

First impressions were promising though. The artwork is as gorgeous as ever, and I think it's important never to underestimate the importance of artwork and image - I wouldn't judge a band on it, but to me, a band that puts care and effort into creating a consistency of approach across everything that bears their name creates a world of their own that the listener can lose themselves in, and in this way the band transcends the music industry and becomes something far greater, something to believe in. I'm thinking here of bands like Maiden, Emperor, and Mastodon, and the extra something that they bring to their bands is what turns me from fan into obsessive.

From the first track, 'Ghost Of Perdition', any fears that the relationship with Roadrunner would result in a compromised watered down Opeth (as if!) are immediately allayed. Over 10 minutes long, the song immediately recalls 'The Leper Affinity', the opening track from Blackwater Park, but with far more prominent keyboards, a feature of this album. The melodies are instantly memorable, the riffing is ferocious, and if anything, this is a more progressive and complex Opeth than ever before.

'The Baying Of The Hounds', another 10 minute track (Not that you'd know it. Opeth have a natural tendency towards the epic, but never, thankfully, towards the repititive and boring.) is so organ-heavy it's almost reminiscent of the Spiritual Beggars, had they ever enjoyed fruitful sex with the entire Swedish death metal scene. A noticeable trend on this album is that Akerfeldt increasingly employs his rich clean vocals over heavy guitar passages, where on previous records the vocals had been segregated much more into clean vox over clean guitars, and growling over distorted guitars. In fact, there's not much growling on the album at all. Perhaps in time this element will be lost from their music altogether, but I'm not sure it matters too much.

Ghost Reveries as a whole is the record (discounting Damnation, which was an experiment in folky prog) where Opeth's often professed prog rock influences really come to the fore, and pervade every aspect of the music. Long discordant guitar runs recall King Crimson's classic 70s concept albums, and some of the melodic keyboard work is not dissimilar to Rush at their finest. The proggy sound definitely suits Opeth, bringing a more opulent and expansive feel to their music. In keeping with this, Arabic-sounding scales are to be found all over the record, on 'Beneath The Mire' and 'Atonement' in particular. It's a wonderful thing when a band breaks out of a trademark sound, however great a sound that might have been, and Opeth manage to do it on Ghost Reveries, without losing too much of the aspects that made them so brilliant in the first place.

The album progresses through various moods (Christ that looks wanky when it's written down) until it reaches the grandest statement of all in 'The Grand Conjuration', possibly the best thing Opeth have ever done. A gradual build-up and release of tension, this song features some staggering guitar work, brutal staccato riffing, and - classic Opeth - a mournful guitar semi-solo towards the end. If this is psychedelic high of the record, then the late-night comedown is 'Isolation Years', the final track on the album, and a fitting ending. A beautifully sad song, sung and played entirely clean, it's the aural equivalent of the storm whipped up by the preceding tracks clearing, but laying a trail of destruction in its wake.

Ghost Reveries has much to recommend it. It's not their best album, Blackwater Park still hangs together as a coherent piece of work rather better. At times, the sheer sense of adventure lends a somewhat scattershot air to proceedings, but even so, there's something to admire in almost every song. Not an album that reveal it's charms all at once, like a cheap hooker, instead it's a classier beast altogether, and one you'll fall in love with over many listens.

One day, Opeth might release a shit album, but this isn't it. It's Opeth growing older and maturing, but magnificently so.

Rating: 8.1 out of 10

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Review by Adam M on November 5, 2019.

Opeth has gone through a weird progression to being a progressive rock band and this album came out before some of their new inventions.  It is also a fine moment in their discography and one of the last times they used heaviness to their advantage.  Instead of the somewhat bland one-dimensional style they utilize now, one can sense a nice use of dynamics to make some heavy portions stick out. 

The song Ghost of Perdition is a great intro to this album because it is one of the very best ones on here and goes through a number of changes to showcase its brilliance.  The rest of the album is very good too and far superior to what they are currently involved with.  Compared to albums like Morningrise and My Arms, Your Hearse, there could still be a greater use of dynamics, even though there are a ton present.  The chilling atmosphere this band creates is once again in fine form and needs to be heard by all. Since this is one of the last recordings in which they use such a heavy style, it is absolutely a mandatory listen for fans of the band.  Opeth would go on to put out one more heavy album and then tone down their sound to remove the death vocals and much of the impact they once had. It’s not that recent albums are bad, they just don’t have the amount of dynamics and force used to make albums like Ghost Reveries so special. 

There is just so much of a great discography to hear before we get to the new progressive rock style of Heritage and onwards.  This is just one example of the excellent early material the band was able to create.  It’s also one of the last times the band has been truly worthwhile and a must listen to the progressive death metal audience.

Rating: 8.1 out of 10

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