July 2018 Power Metal Album of the Month: Michael Romeo – “War of the Worlds, Pt. 1”

PMAOTM Michael Romeo - War of the Worlds, pt. 1

Greetings and salutations, fellow champions of the rock.  July has been an absolutely insane month for new extreme music, so much so that I am still buried under a mountain of albums I need to catch up on.  Normally I’d apologize for the Power Metal Album of the Month for July coming to you a few days late, but all things happen for a reason, and that reason was I needed to pick myself up off the floor after hearing the kinda-sorta* solo debut from Symphony X axeman/chief songwriter Michael Romeo, the unapologetically classic War of the Worlds, Pt. 1.   Continue reading

The Horns Up Top 10: Opeth

Metal Monday to you all, and welcome to another edition of The Horns Up Top 10. This week, we’re going to take a look at Opeth.

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There are a number of reasons to do a Top 10 for a band like Opeth. Right off the top, they’re kick-ass, and we haven’t covered them nearly enough here at Horns Up. Secondly, the band’s entire catalogue is available on Spotify, which isn’t always the case when we’re putting together these Top 10s. (*cough* BEHEMOTH *cough*) Most importantly, we have a band who, almost 25 years into their career, continues to evolve its sound and keep listeners guessing–and what better kind of band to profile than that?

As you might expect from Opeth, this Top 10 list will be a diverse mix–from death growls to clean singing and everywhere in between. So let’s get started with it, shall we?

“Bleak” (from Blackwater Park, 2001)

I don’t think it’d be unfair to argue for Blackwater Park as Opeth’s best album to date. And “Bleak” stands as one of–if not the–best songs on the thing. It perfectly showcases all we’ve come to love about Opeth–the contrast between harshness and tranquility, the ever-intricate composition, and a strong melodic backdrop through it all. AND it’s got a Steven Wilson guest-spot to boot! Tremendous track.

“The Moor” (from Still Life, 1999)

“The Moor” quite literally creeps into your ear-holes, slowly building from near silence into an epic gem of an album opener. While its transitions between heavier and milder aesthetics are fewer and more gradual than in most Opeth tracks, they’re no less powerful when they hit. The highlight among them? The harmonized guitar lick at 7:22, which introduces a few minutes of calm before an incredible final return to the darker side of things.

“Deliverance” (from Deliverance, 2002)

The opening dissonance of “Deliverance” plays like a kind of devilish fire alarm, and it’s just goddamn incredible. Over the next 13-plus minutes, the band keeps finding new ways to suck you in–from the subdued whisper of a “verse,” to the creepy, chanted “bridge” section, to the syncopated “outro.” (I’m using quotation marks for sections, because it’s Opeth and thus conventional designations like these are hardly appropriate.) Suffice it to say, this thing kicks an ass. More than one, in fact.

“When” (from My Arms Your Hearse, 1998)

A pretty, ethereal intro gives way to absolute ferocity on the standout track from one of my favorite Opeth albums. The guitar lick at 2:11, simply put, is EVERYTHING–and it’s the perfect showcase of what the band does best: inserting a choice “clean part” to shake things up and render their heavier passages all the heavier. They do this for nine mesmerizing minutes of awesomeness.

“The Night and the Silent Water” (from Morningrise, 1996)

It’s always good to give early Opeth some recognition on this kind of thing. “The Night and the Silent Water” is doomier and more raw than anything else you’ll see on this list, but it still packs its moments, such as the stunningly pretty acoustic break at 2:50. Even when Mikael Åkerfeldt’s gutteral growls return a couple of minutes later, it’s hard to break from the trance this thing casts on you. Fantastic early epic.

“The Baying of the Hounds” (from Ghost Reveries, 2005)

I didn’t really start to get Opeth (including the heavy vocals) until I picked up Ghost Reveries. And while you could make just as good a case for opener “Ghost of Perdition” being on this list, I simply couldn’t leave “The Baying of the Hounds” off. The opening riff kicks things off with a kind of grooving swagger that never wavers throughout the almost-11-minute run time. And Åkerfeldt’s guitar solo? Pure sex.

“Porcelain Heart” (from Watershed, 2008)

THAT. RIFF. Serious question: has Opeth ever done anything more…purely sinister sounding? I didn’t like Watershed as much as a lot of people did, but there are parts to it that I’ll never really be able to shake off. “Porcelain Heart” is one of them. Creepily brilliant stuff.

“Ending Credits” (from Damnation, 2003)

Damnation was my first Opeth album, as I “got into” the band before I’d really learned to appreciate harsh vocals. And while every song on this thing channels the same “hauntingly pretty” aesthetic quite well, “Ending Credits” has ultimately had the most staying power for me. It’s a quick, three-and-a-half minute instrumental that strikes the right notes and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Just a wonderful track.

“The Grand Conjuration” (from Ghost Reveries, 2005)

As the lead single to Ghost Reveries, “The Grand Conjuration” was my personal introduction to what, I guess, we’ll call “full Opeth.” I don’t think it’s the best song on the album by any stretch, but it’s still a ‘banger–particularly the (bridge?) part that begins at around 5:25–and I have to include it for sentimental reasons at the very least. Plus, seeing them broke into this thing after an otherwise growl-free set on 2012’s Heritage Hunter tour made me actually shit a brick. So there’s that, too.

“Cusp of Eternity” (from Pale Communion, 2014)

Don’t think this one should be a Top 10 song? I don’t care. For me, “Cusp of Eternity” is exactly what I needed from Opeth after what was a relative disappointment in Heritage. It delivers in every way possible, proving that the band’s “prog-minus-death” formula doesn’t have to be boring, and can, in fact, deliver one of their more exciting tracks in years. It’s just what I needed to really get excited about Pale Communion.

The Horns Up Top 10 on Spotify

That’ll do it for this week’s Top 10. Make sure to suggest future bands in the comments section, and check back next week for another list from Corey!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.