20 year's on, the sonic universe of Opeth's Blackwater Park still sparkles

Out now: Scandinavian prog-metal eclecticists Opeth's flagship statement Blackwater Park reissued

Opeth: Blackwater Park (20th Anniversary)
(Image: © Music For Nations)

Why you can trust Louder Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

If ever a record highlighted new horizons for heavy music, it was Blackwater Park, Opeth’s fifth album

The Swedes had been incorporating increasingly contrasting shades of light and dark into their once none-more-black metal sound, to the point where Blackwater Park sometimes sounded like three or four different bands taking turns on the same record.

Twenty years on, of course, with many others having since followed their lead, it’s easier to get our ears around. So when a demonic doom growl and bass-drum-pummelling thrash blitz brings The Leper Affinity to life, then the stuttering time signatures and intense rhythmic flurries leave you breathless and flailing, only for the black clouds to clear and classical piano to lead us out, we have no problem expecting the unexpected.

Similarly the sweetly elegiac, lilting acoustic folk of Harves can lead into the cascades of symphonic metal that flood across The Drapery Falls either side of anxious singer-songwriter yearnings, before summoning the same demonic vocal apparitions and thrash thunder of the opening track to remind us that these are all corners of the same sonic universe. 

The bonus track’s live rendition of the opening track is preceded by Mikael Akerfeldt’s breezy introduction, as if from an actor proceeding to step into the first of many guises. As ever, we’re suspending our disbelief.

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock