Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner)
by Martin Popoff
It’s almost hard to believe these damn Opeth records don’t take five years to make, given the cathedrals of sound Mikael and his pensive consortium studiously build monk-like. In fact, Ghost Reveries might be the most complicated of a formidable lot, the album marking the best integration of the Damnation and Deliverance polarities (and, of course, it’s closer to Deliverance), Opeth throwing everything tour de forcefully at this record, including all those old school keyboard and synth tones, as within the engulfing oasis mid-“The Baying of the Hounds” and the John Paul Jonesing of “Beneath the Mire.” Catchy bits abound, beginning less than two minutes in with Mikael’s first clean vocal over a little tribal crouch, Akerfelt then offering another clean proggy piece a couple minutes into the following ten-minuter, the guy sounding (and thinking) like Dan Swano. “Atonement” finds the band doing Page-Plant, but with full-on haunt, full-on production pageantry, while “Reverie/Harlequin Forest” offers another desert trek with a full stop for thirst-slaking, the spirit of Van Der Graaf Generator hovering o’er. And on and on, with calculus-theoretical rhythms and (too standard) death growls exploding and taking up impressive space before the next death row contemplation. I mean, all told, this is actually a pretty mellow album, rife with a certain creative mania (I wouldn’t call it joy) at a golden opportunity to prove even further and more emphatically that Opeth can shape-shift mercilessly quickly, stay in the new mode forever or fleetingly, and then ‘ere’s a new pattern to digest. Ultimately, Ghost Reveries is everything writ large, its only shortcoming perhaps being the arbitrary length of songs, and the arguably (but most definitely “sometimes”) arbitrary stacking of parts within them. Still, I can’t see any way not to call the album a 10, the quality is just too high, and the Opeth sound is so entirely its own.