by Martin Popoff
Like the best bands, Opeth make you want to create something of value, and Lamentations lifts the veil, laying a blueprint – or at least unlocking the juices of the mind – with respect to how one grapples with the muse. And yet the alpha and omega is revealed: One can watch the documentary first, and then see the results second, in the Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2003 concert. The results are more like the post-results, though, almost a smug demonstration of how the results – the ill-birthed Deliverance and Damnation albums – can actually be delivered without an army of machines and human hands at the helm. Which is what the documentary brings graphically to light, the fact that these two records saw a mountain of meticulous work along with studio strife and a rescuing by Fredrik Nordstrom and Steven Wilson. You see the band creating, thinking real hard, in the studio, emulating the old ways, which, unfortunately for the band’s health, included recording in a “classic prog” studio, a process which almost killed the band. The curtain is definitely pulled away, perhaps the fan-fly on the wall seeing too much of what goes into an Opeth album (parts, many parts). There’s funny stuff, too, like how the two Swedish polar bears like it freezing in the studio, and how the South Americans like it “boiling hot.” Turns out the temperature and doing the dishes are the biggest points of contention in the band. The live show starts acoustic and ends hard, Michael doing his laconic bit, and then turning into a death metal demon to close out the math rock pageant. All told, a bit raw and glaringly lit (sorta strobe, sorta not), but a fitting conclusion to the massive, elucidating documentary. Nice digi-style packaging and a classy booklet, both of which reinforce the haunting black and white imagery of the two recent albums, completing the package on an artistic high note.
(740 Broadway 7th Fl. New York, NY 10003)