Reading through the past editions of Visions ov Hell it’s readily apparent the art of the music video has come a long way from the days of standing still and faux playing to neon-strobed back projection (although in Sabbath’s case, it’s still pretty freaking cool). As the music became more ambitious, so did the videos until we arrive at a place where one could have the argument that not only are music videos a legitimate art form as well as a marketing tool, but that in some cases can elevate and even supersede the actual music. Opeth are certainly no strangers to the concept of evolution, their latest album Sorceress being a sort of culmination in the musical evolution/transformation begun with 2011’s Heritage so it’s fitting today’s entry is their new video for the aptly named “Era”.
At this point you’d be hard pressed to find a metalhead who isn’t aware of Opeth, or who has an opinion of their musical trajectory over the past 20 years. What started as a hybrid between black and death metal in 1995 with Orchid already showed glimmers of the 70s progression the band would become known for, with the elegant and lengthy guitar lines on songs like “Under the Weeping Moon” and the constant shifts to acoustic passages. Listening to those passages you can hear where the band is now in 2017, and likewise on newer tracks like “Cusp of Eternity” on Pale Communion and “Chrysalis” on Sorceress you can clearly hear the band that was back in the 90s and early 00s. The earlier influences aren’t immediately apparent on “Era” — a distant piano hammers out the main melody line. But wait a minute and things start to become clearer. Featuring a great rolling performance from Martin Axenrot on drums and new keyboardist Joakim Svalberg the song lyrically moves between looking for hope in the midsts of despair, and finding the Devil inside yourself. It’s ultimately a hopeful song, at least the way it’s composed, but watching the video gives a different impression.
“It’s slightly on the pretentious side, but hey, works for me!” Mikael Åkerfeldt stated about the cinematic video, directed by Markus Hofko. Pretentious it may be, but it certainly works as a visual companion to the song. A young boy accompanied by a large hooded figure in a mask reminiscent of the ghostly specter from Hayao Miyazaki’s SPIRITED AWAY go on a Dante-esque journey through a nightmarish landscape of fallen idols and crumbling architecture. Birds fly, fish swim, snakes appear…no one’s going to miss the obvious apocalyptic symbolism running rampant here, but it’s nicely juxtaposed with the uplifting chorus from Åkerfeldt and co.
Åkerfeldt’s quote nicely sums up my thoughts on “Era” as a visual companion to the song and a visual representation of the music on Sorceress as a whole. “Slightly pretentious” indeed, but I can’t help but dig it.