OPETH – Watershed

OPETH - Watershed
  • 10/10
    OPETH - Watershed - 10/10


Roadrunner Records
Release date: June 2, 2008

User Review
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It’s been a three year long wait for new material from one of the most unique Metal bands of this time. Sure, Opeth released the critically acclaimed Roundhouse Tapes in November, 2007, but a live album just isn’t “new material,” is it?

Opeth’s new release, Watershed, sees the arrival of a new guitarist and a new drummer. Guitarist Fredrik Åkesson is well-known within the Metal community as he has played in bands such as Arch Enemy, Krux, and Talisman. Drummer Martin Axenrot has performed with bands like Bloodbath, Satanic Slaughter, and Witchery, and according to singer Mikael Åkerfeldt he completed the drumming for this album in just seven days!

Though the typical Opeth elements are apparent on Watershed, they’ve also taken a step in a new direction. Album opener “Coil” is a good example of this. It’s a beautiful acoustic experience featuring a guest performance by female vocalist Nathalie Lorichs. This is the second time Opeth has included other vocalists on a record (the first being Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree on the song “Bleek” from Blackwater Park). The female vocals really bring something new to the table, and it’s a good sign that Opeth dares to experiment more with their music for each new release.

For those who are afraid that Opeth has taken a step away from Death Metal for good; don’t fear because the growling is still here. Songs like “Heir Apparent” and partially “The Lotus Eater” are driven on extremely heavy riffs and growling from frontman Åkerfeldt. Both of these songs stand out on the record as they are varied and really well put together. “Heir Apparent” is the only song on the record that lacks the clean vocals. It’s reminiscent at times of the most extreme songs from Deliverance and Ghost Reveries, but has the occasional acoustic elements. “The Lotus Eater” is, however, a more complex experience. There are of course the extreme parts where Åkerfeldt switches between growling and clean vocals, there are slow parts with melodic guitar solos, and there is the so called “circus” part in the middle of the song that is an organ driven European Folk Music inspired part.

“Burden” is a nice slow song that could easily been taken from 2003’s Progressive Rock album Damnation. The Progressive parts are more obvious on this song and sudden changes in key signature are both surprising and right for the song. “Burden” is by far one of Opeth’s most beautiful songs to date, and in addition to a typical slow and melodic twin guitar solo, it also holds something as rare as an organ solo. “Porcelain Heart” is the only song on the record that is not written solely by Åkerfeldt (guitarist Åkesson participated in the songwriting on this one). It’s a slow song that picks up the pace as it goes, and allows drummer Axenrot to experiment a bit with various rhythms over the slow riffs. This song also has a lot of varied parts and in the middle of the song. Fans are introduced to an acoustic guitar-driven part where the combination of this guitar playing and Åkerfeldt’s vocals are reminiscent of medieval music.

“Hessian Peel” is the longest track on the record. With its eleven and a half minutes it continues Opeth’s journey through different aspects of various musical genres. Album closer “Hex Omega” appears to continue where “Hessian Peel” left off, and is a “typical” Opeth closer with long, slow, and wailing riffs towards the end.

The arrival of the two new musicians is very apparent on the record, and it is clear that Opeth has taken their style into more risky elements … and succeeded. They sound more playful on Watershed than earlier recordings. For instance when the song “Burden” ends with some acoustic guitar playing, someone is detuning the guitar while it’s being played, making it sound awful in the end. “The Lotus Eater” shows more use of disharmony in their music. On one occasion you can hear keyboardist Per Wiberg play something that starts with one tone and as he adds more tones he ends up with an extremely disharmonic chord. On another occasion the lead guitar plays a disharmonic riff that sounds like it deviates even more from what the rest of the band plays because of a really disharmonic keyboard chord that is hard to detect in the background. It’s, however, very nice to listen to as a whole. Opeth proves here that disharmony can be used to enrich the songs on an occasional basis.

They’ve used the surround sound active on this release and you can for instance hear this on the “circus” part in the middle of “The Lotus Eater” where the organ lead is placed in the left channel while the chords are placed in the right. This is opposite of what it would sound like if you played this part yourself, and it’s either done this way to make you envision that the keyboard player is standing in front of you, face towards you, or producers Mikael Åkerfeldt and Jens Bogren just wants to mess with your head (the last one is most likely to be true).

The production on this album is both interesting and great. Not only because of the very active use of surround sound, but also the recording techniques are great. For instance, all of the acoustic guitar parts have the very active sound of fingers. You’ll hear strings squeak as the fingers slide along them for the next position, and it gives an organic and genuine sound. Another example is the outro of “Porcelain Heart” where you can hear a clear change in the guitar sound’s tone color. Good advice for you when you listen to this record is to first listen to the songs then try to hear all the little things that have been done during the mixing, and you might find that this enriches the musical experience for you.

The special edition of this album includes three bonus tracks, a bonus DVD with a 5.1 surround sound mix of the entire album, video content featuring rehearsals, studio footage, and expanded artwork.

Opeth has a unique way of renewing themselves for each album, and Watershed is no disappointment. This album will go down in history as one of Opeth’s best releases and is already a hot candidate for one of the best releases of 2008.


  • Kristian Singh-Nergård

    Kristian is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He is Metal Express Radio's Marketing and Communications Manager, and on occasions also reviewer and photographer. Based out of Oslo, Norway, Kristian is a bass player and owner of the independent record label Pug-Nose Records. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2006.

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