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Too close to the fire

August 11, 2008


I’m not sure what it is about Sweden, but their music scene doesn’t seem to have too much in the middle ground.  Either it’s more-twee-than-twee pop like Jens Lekman or The Radio Dept. or it’s face-melting metal like Opeth or In Flames.  (OK…I realise this is a gross generalisation and where would you put a stoner-rock band like Dungen in there?)

I like both ends of spectrum for completely different reasons.  And the thing with both of them?  You have to suspend your sense of the ridiculous for a moment.  Twee pop can be so unbelievably wussy and precious that you wonder what they’d do if something really bad happened if they get that upset about a papercut.  Metal can make you wonder how someone can be that into dragons and not have something clinically wrong.

Opeth are easily one of the most ridiculous metal bands ever, sitting as they do at the progressive end – that “progressive” as in “progressive rock” like Yes or Genesis.  They bludgeon you with a double-kicked riff for thirty seconds and then rip into a flamboyant neo-classical acoustic guitar bit with some absurdly portentous lyric over the top.  They’re also easily one of the most awesome bands in the world.   You just have to pay attention to their proficiency in melding together multiple genres, their control of dynamics and emotion, and their sheer power and energy.

The new album Watershed is pretty much what you’d expect after the majestic Ghost Reveries and all those other folky metal albums they’ve done in the last decade.  It’s also one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, hard rock or otherwise.

You couldn’t ask for a better summary than “The Lotus Eater”, which involves driving death metal, a flute line and some wicked Rick Wakemanesque keyboards.

Oh, just listen to the damn thing…

Opeth – “The Lotus Eater”

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