There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Sweden’s Opeth is really two bands in one: a gang of devastating headbangers and a gaggle of wispy folk-rockers. And the quality of any given Opeth record really depends on how the quartet mixes these two distinct personalities. Its most ferocious effort, 1998’s ghost-story-inspired My Arms, Your Hearse, leaned hard on the band’s hooky marriage of death metal’s punishing thud and black metal’s blizzard chording, going acoustic only on occasion. Less successful to these ears was last year’s much-loved Blackwater Park (named after a much-forgotten ’70s German boogie band), which kept the amp stacks on Standby through a good chunk of the disc. Deliverance, Opeth’s sixth and latest, is a shift back toward the brutish, featuring more hyprextended songs no doubt inspired by the Yes and Camel records vocalist-guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt loves so much. The 13-minute title track, which presumably has nothing to do with James Dickey, lays down some of the speediest and most joy-inducing guitar-and-double-kick-drum interactions in the history of magnetic tape, changing time signatures about once every two minutes with consistently majestic results. The disc-closing “By the Pain I See in Others,” also clocking in at an epic 13 minutes, provides more red-meat rhythmic fun, maintaining a dangerous level of adrenaline even during the brief math-folk interludes. But the problem with Deliverance lies between these two shit-stompers. In their efforts to revisit head-rock’s ’70s glory days via modern-day metal, Akerfeldt & Co. also step on a few of the nails that sealed the prog coffin. The merely two-minute “For Absent Friends” attempts to be Deliverance’s “Planet Caravan,” but it ends up less an acid-folk mindfuck than a slick jazz excursion. And “A Fair Judgement” is just as muso-pro, all earnest vox and fey acoustic strumming. Now, some scene-changing is in order with rock as vicious as Opeth’s, but it’s a shame that it’s becoming such a Jekyll & Hyde act. Here’s hoping that next time out the band decides to stop playing Doctor for a while. —Brent Burton